Michael Knowles speech at University of Utah draws protesters

Apr 9, 2024, 11:05 AM | Updated: Apr 12, 2024, 9:06 pm

Conservative speaker Michael Knowles student protests...

Students protest visit from political speaker, Michael Knowles. (Mecha de U. Instagram)

(Mecha de U. Instagram)

Editorial note: This story has been edited from its original version to include additional context and reaction and to refine word choice. 

SALT LAKE CITY — Political commentator and author Michael Knowles spoke at the University of Utah College of Social Work on Monday evening, while protesters gathered outside. 

Who is Michael Knowles?

Michael Knowles is a prominent media personality who hosts his show on The Daily Wire, a conservative media platform. He has faced strong criticism from media groups and hate speech watchers for a March 2023 speech at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s convention, where he said “transgenderism must be eradicated from this country in its entirety.”

On its website, LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD says Knowles used a “hate term” in that speech. The Anti-Defamation League claims the word is a common stand-in for activists who are against transgender people, according to the ADL’s website.

This is especially visible on social media platforms, where anti-trans accounts use ‘transgenderism’ to skirt hate speech and harassment policies that prohibit the targeting of protected classes of people.

The Daily Wire called the accusation that Knowles is calling for the “eradication” of transgender people false, according to its website.

Knowles himself also says that was not his intent. In a speech at the University of Buffalo, Knowles clarified his stance to explain when he suggested eradicating “transgenderism,” he meant it in the same way one would say we might eradicate a deadly disease. 

“When one calls to eradicate cancer,” Knowles said at that time, “one is not suggesting that we ought to murder the cancer patients.” 

A crowd of protestors rallied outside the College of Social Work before Knowles arrived.  One organizing group, Mecha de U of U, posted calls on social media to “rally against transphobia.”

Speech at the University of Utah

Knowles spoke at an event organized by the University of Utah branch of a conservative group called Young America’s for Freedom. In his speech, Knowles focused on gender identity as an issue he said was feeding a “culture war.”

In response to a question, he restated his claim that gender identity is being taught in classrooms and criticized those discussions.


“Obviously it’s dreadful and should be illegal,” said Knowles in response to a questioner, in a video posted on the X account of YAF.

Knowles advocates for the teaching of traditional gender roles in schools.

“Sure, we don’t want to tell a little kid about the birds and the bees,” said Knowles in the same video. “But we necessarily will tell them something about family. Every time you read them a storybook about a mommy and a daddy and a kid, you’re imparting some kind of view of the family.”

The College of Social Work at the University of Utah posted on its Instagram page Monday that it was celebrating “Pride Week +,” with a picture of variations of pride flags adorning the walls. In the photo, people wear shirts that say “U Belong.” It does not explicitly reference Michael Knowles or the event at the University of Utah.


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A post shared by University of Utah Social Work (@usocialwork)

Related: University of Utah students face charges after protesting movie they call “transphobic”

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Michael Knowles speech at University of Utah draws protesters