The Nebraska Republican Party wants a Jesuit college in Omaha to rescind its invitation asking former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey to speak at its commencement, citing his position in favor of the right to abortion.
The state party’s executive director, Ryan Hamilton, released a statement Thursday saying Creighton University should find a different commencement speaker and “take a stand for their pro-life values.”
The university declined to comment.
“Creighton is a Jesuit institution formally affiliated with the Catholic Church, one of the country’s most consistent and reliable advocates for pro-life causes,” Hamilton said. “Nebraska is a pro-life state and Republicans are a pro-life party.”
He said Kerrey voted against banning late-term abortions while in the Senate, calling him a “pro-abortion advocate.”
Kerrey, who also formerly served as Nebraska’s governor, said he supports Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.
“That doesn’t make you pro-abortion,” he said. “That makes you pro-civil rights.”
Kerrey said he won’t speak at the May 18 commencement if his presence would be a distraction.
“I don’t want this to be about me,” Kerrey said. “It’s about the students.”
Nebraska Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kleeb accused Republicans of demanding protection for freedom of speech on college campuses while pressuring a private university to cancel Kerrey’s speech “because they do not agree with Sen. Kerrey’s words.”
Kleeb also questioned the GOP attack on Kerrey, a Vietnam veteran who lost part of a leg in combat and was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during his service.
“Sen. Kerrey put his life on the line to defend our American values,” Kleeb said.