Eric Cantor cancels Wharton speech after protests planned

House Majority LeaderEric Cantor has canceled a speech at the University of Pennsylvania out of concern that protesters would fill the seats.

Cantor was scheduled to speak on income inequity at a lecture hosted by the Wharton business school. The Virginia Republican’s office said he called off the speech after learning that protesters planned to rally outside and attendance would not be limited to students and others affiliated with the school.

“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 spokesman Brad Dayspring. “Wharton is a 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.”

Ron Ozio, director of media relations at University of Pennsylvania, said the business school “deeply regrets” that the event was canceled.

“The university community was looking forward to hearing Majority Leader Cantor’s comments on important public issues, and we hope there will be another opportunity for him to speak on campus,” Ozio said in a statement. “The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed. We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the Majority Leader’s office on the staging of his presentation.”


A coalition of groups –including activists affiliated with labor groups,, and Occupy Philadelphia, a branch of the Occupy Wall Street protests -- had planned a protest outside on the Wharton campus.

“We will still be here, wondering why he refuses to meet with us,” said Mike Morrill, executive director for Keystone Progress, one of the groups coordinating the effort. “It appears he doesn’t want to have a conversation with the 99% - this says a lot about Cantor’s integrity.”

Cantor was among the first early critics of the Occupy Wall Street effort, calling the activists camped out in Lower Manhattan “growing mobs.” He later walked back the comment and said he understood the frustration with the sour economy.

Cantor was scheduled to deliver a speech titled “A Fair Shot at the American Dream & Economic Growth.” It comes as Republicans are aiming to counter the president’s jobs bill.