Education

Conservative group founder Charlie Kirk coming to University of Iowa

UI chapter 'cannot wait' to hear founder of Turning Point USA

Charlie Kirk (via Charlie Kirk Facebook page)
Charlie Kirk (via Charlie Kirk Facebook page)

IOWA CITY — The head of a national conservative group that sparked controversy on the University of Iowa campus last year in the wake of student Mollie Tibbetts’ death is scheduled to speak on the UI campus later this month.

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, has incorporated an Oct. 23 stop to the UI campus into his “Culture War Tour,” according to the group’s website, which promotes a Donald Trump Jr. quote, “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

In announcing the full “Culture War” tour last month — which also includes stops at Colorado State and Ohio State universities — Kirk announced Trump Jr. would be joining him on the tour and on the “front lines of the intellectual battle for freedom.”

It’s unclear whether Trump Jr. will be in Iowa City.

Kirk, 25, founded Turning Point USA in 2012 with the stated mission to “identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets and limited government.”

The group promotes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” with a presence on more than 1,500 campuses. It has chapters across the state of Iowa, including at the UI, Kirkwood Community College, several private colleges like Central and Wartburg, and numerous high schools.

Iowa State University, which has promoted a Turning Point chapter previously, no longer lists the organization among its recognized student groups. Student leaders at Cornell College last year rejected the group, citing its “alt-right” reputation.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in 2018 documented Turning Point’s links to white supremacists, and critics argue it promotes racist and sexist ideology via speakers and a “professor watch list” that calls out faculty members advancing “leftist propaganda.”

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After UI student Tibbetts’ high-profile killing last year in Brooklyn, Iowa, national Turning Point leaders used the suspect’s immigration status as a talking point for its political agenda — prompting leaders of the UI Turning Point chapter to resign.

UI Turning Point representatives also rejected a push for the campus to host an immigration rally on the heels of the suspect Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s arrest in Tibbetts’ death.

“We find it in poor taste to exploit the death of a Hawkeye to suit a political agenda,” UI Turning Point leaders wrote to the national organization.

Although current leadership for the UI chapter of Turning Point USA couldn’t be reached for comment Friday, a Facebook page for the group has been promoting Kirk’s upcoming stop in Iowa City for weeks.

“Cannot wait to host our fearless founder @charliekirk1776 on October 23!,” a post stated.

Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

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