Johnson calls on Columbia University president to resign during tense news conference

Apr 24, 2024, 9:00 PM

House Speaker Mike Johnson talks to the press after the House passed four foreign aid bills at the ...

House Speaker Mike Johnson talks to the press after the House passed four foreign aid bills at the Capitol in Washington, DC, on April 20. (Drew Angerer/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Drew Angerer/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Originally Published: 24 APR 24 16:56 ET
Updated: 24 APR 24 20:41 ET

(CNN) — House Speaker Mike Johnson called on Columbia University’s president to resign Wednesday during a tense news conference where the crowd repeatedly interrupted the speaker and at times loudly booed him and other GOP lawmakers who were with him as they stood at the microphones.

“We just can’t allow this kind of hatred and antisemitism to flourish on our campuses, and it must be stopped in its tracks. Those who are perpetrating this violence should be arrested. I am here today joining my colleagues, and calling on President Shafik to resign if she cannot immediately bring order to this chaos,” Johnson said Wednesday.

Johnson visited Columbia University on Wednesday to meet with Jewish students and delivered remarks with other Republican lawmakers. When Johnson and the GOP lawmakers walked up to begin speaking, there were loud boos.

During the question-and-answer portion, a coordinated chant of “Mike, you suck” erupted from the crowd. At another point during the remarks, the crowd started chanting loudly, to which Johnson said, “Enjoy your free speech.”

The timing of Johnson’s visit comes as the embattled speaker is facing an onslaught of conservative criticism and as a handful of members, led by Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have threatened to oust him. The pressure Johnson is under has only intensified after he helped steer a foreign aid package through the House that included assistance to Ukraine, which many hardline conservatives vehemently opposed.

Following the tense news conference, Johnson defended his appearance at Columbia in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, saying he chose to get involved in what was unfolding on the school’s campus because the “speaker speaks for the House of Representatives.

“I felt it was very important for that voice to be heard, not just about what happens in Columbia, but about what is happening right now around the country,” he said on “OutFront.” “We have to stand unequivocally for the right and the good and I’m calling on all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to speak out against this, not to endorse it, not to coddle these people, but to say this has to stop.”

When pressed about the heckling, Johnson noted that he was “not surprised that they didn’t welcome our visit because we’re calling out their activities.”

His visit to the campus earned some plaudits from his detractors inside the GOP, with Republicans rallying around the speaker after his remarks were interrupted by protestors.

GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who has been publicly critical of Johnson’s leadership, wrote on X: “I’ve had my strong disagreements on spending / foreign aid – but I applaud @SpeakerJohnson for going to Columbia.”

Johnson said at the news conference he met with Shafik and asked her to take immediate action to address the unrest.

“We met briefly with the president and her top officials right before we came out on the steps here. We encouraged her to take immediate action and stamp this out and our feeling is that they have not acted to restore order on the campus,” he said.

Johnson also said he would call President Joe Biden immediately after departing and demand he take action, not ruling out the need for the National Guard to step in at some point.

“My intention is to call President Biden after we leave here and share with him what we have seen with our own two eyes and demand that he take action. There is executive authority that would be appropriate. If this is not contained quickly, and if these threats and intimidation are not stopped, there is an appropriate time for the National Guard,” he said. “We have to bring order to these campuses.”

Johnson under pressure as he faces ouster threat

Johnson has defended his leadership in the face of the growing threats, saying that he will not resign and warning that a vote to oust him could cause chaos in the House.

In recent days, Johnson appears to be trying to quell his opposition by realigning himself with causes and positions that motivate the GOP base. Johnson stepped in Tuesday to ensure that Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, who just last week asked Johnson to resign in a closed-door conference meeting, would not be fined $500 for sharing a video that included footage of the House floor, something forbidden under the chamber’s rules.

“Upon viewing Rep. Massie’s tweet, our team reached out to the Sergeant at Arms. I do not agree with this assessment and there will be no fine imposed on Rep. Massie,” Johnson posted on X Tuesday.

Johnson has also resisted calls to oust three conservatives from the House Rules Committee after Republican members, including Massie, Roy and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, voted against advancing the supplemental package last week. The committee is typically seen as an important tool for GOP leaders to move ahead with their agenda, but when those members voted against advancing the package, it required Democrats to step in to help get the bill to the floor.

Johnson told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt in an interview Wednesday that removing colleagues from that committee could have longer lasting effects.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Melanie Zanona and Piper Hudspeth Blackburn contributed to this report.

™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


Afghan relatives offer prayers during a burial ceremony near the graves of victims who lost their l...

Niamh Kennedy and Radina Gigova, CNN

At least 300 people killed by flash floods in Afghanistan

At least 300 people have died in flash flooding that has ravaged northern Afghanistan in recent days, the Word Food Programme said Sunday.

16 days ago

The Apple Store at Towson Town Center Mall in Maryland is pictured. Apple Store workers in Towson, ...

Jordan Valinsky, CNN

Apple Store workers in Maryland vote to authorize strike

Apple Store workers in Towson, Maryland made history by voting late May 11 in favor of authorizing a strike.

17 days ago

Smoke from wildfires blankets the city as a couple has a picnic in Edmonton, Alberta, Saturday, May...

Paradise Afshar and Sara Smart, CNN

Canadians evacuate due to wildfires as air quality deteriorates

Thousands across Canada were urged to evacuate from blazing wildfires on Saturday, and the smoke emanating from them could be another danger.

17 days ago

Salvage crew members work on the deck of the cargo ship Dali on Friday, May 10....

Nicole Grether and Gloria Pazmino, CNN

Crews could use explosives to demolish part of Baltimore’s Key Bridge

Crews are expected to execute a plan to use small explosives to break apart a massive chunk of the Baltimore bridge that collapsed.

17 days ago

The sun is rising with a flare over Korla, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China, on May 10....

Brian Fung, CNN

Why tonight’s massive solar storm could disrupt communications and GPS systems

An unusual amount of solar activity due to a solar storm this week could disrupt some of the most important technologies society relies on.

19 days ago

A customer wipes sweat from their face as they work out on a treadmill inside a Planet Fitness Inc....

Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN

Planet Fitness will raise its $10 membership plan for the first time in 26 years

Planet Fitness will raise the price of its “classic” membership from $10 a month to $15 for new members beginning in the summer.

20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Johnson calls on Columbia University president to resign during tense news conference