Firebrand pundit Ann Coulter cancels UC Berkeley talk

Ann Coulter speaks at a conference in Washington in 2012.
Ann Coulter speaks at a conference in Washington in 2012.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter on Wednesday (April 26) cancelled a planned appearance at the University of California, Berkeley, saying she had lost the backing of the group that had sponsored her talk.

"It's a sad day for free speech," Coulter told the New York Times.

The right-wing commentator had insisted that she would show up at Berkeley, a famously progressive campus, this Thursday despite the university saying it could not provide a suitable venue because of security threats.

But on Tuesday, the conservative Young America's Foundation, which had sponsored her talk, pulled out of the event.

The Berkeley College Republicans, which had invited Coulter, also expressed reservations.

"Ms Coulter may still choose to speak in some form on campus, but Young America's Foundation will not jeopardise the safety of its staff or students," the group said in a statement. It accused the university of failing to take the necessary steps to ensure safety during the event.

Coulter told the New York Times that she had no choice but to cancel her appearance.

"Everyone who should believe in free speech fought against it or ran away," she was quoted as saying.

The controversy over her talk put the spotlight on the university long heralded as the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s.

University officials have insisted that security could not be ensured during Coulter's visit, citing threats and recent violent protests.

They proposed an alternate date - rejected by Coulter - when fewer students would be on campus.

In February, a planned speech at the university by a right-wing provocateur and former Brietbart editor, Milo Yiannopoulos, had to be cancelled following violent protests.

In the last two months, violence has also erupted on the streets of the city during events that drew opponents and supporters of President Donald Trump.