House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) canceled a planned speech on income equality, set for Friday in Philadelphia, after several liberal groups made clear they would protest at the event.
Cantor had scheduled the speech at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business several months ago, and his office had expected the event to be attended by students and faculty as well as members of the press. But in recent days, a number of groups said they would stage protests, raising the possibility that the room could be filled with protesters.
“The Office of the Majority Leader was informed last night by Capitol Police that the University of Pennsylvania was unable to ensure that the attendance policy previously agreed to could be met,” said Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon. “Wharton is an educational leader in innovation and entrepreneurship, and the Majority Leader appreciated the invitation to speak with the students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the UPENN community.”
Cantor has risen in prominence since ascending to the Majority Leader post, serving as a key voice for conservatives on economic issues and a primary villain for liberals who oppose Republican policies. Cantor has made high-profile comments criticizing the current Occupy Wall Street protests, and the topic of his speech — income equality — appeared to be a ripe target for his critics on the left.
The Daily Pennsylvanian reported Friday morning that “an estimated 500 to 1,000 protesters” would stand outside Wharton’s Huntsman Hall during the event.
A coalition that included several unions as well as MoveOn.org, ProgressNow and other liberal groups said they still planned to demonstrate outside the venue where Cantor had planned to speak.
“We will still be here, wondering why he refuses to meet with us. It appears he doesn’t want to have a conversation with the 99 percent — this says a lot about Cantor’s integrity,” said Mike Morrill, the executive director of Keystone Progress.