Republicans staged a walkout from a Senate hearing on Wednesday, protesting what they described as an unfair treatment of conservative commentator Dr. Jordan B. Peterson by their Democratic counterparts.
The incident occurred during a Homeland Security Committee meeting on the rise of artificial intelligence and its impact on liberty, which Peterson was invited to speak on.
According to Republican members of the committee, Peterson, a clinical psychologist and bestselling author, was invited to testify about AI and related threats. However, Democrats refused to allow him to appear virtually, prompting accusations of bias and ideological censorship.
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who was serving as the senior Republican in the absence of ranking member Rand Paul of Kentucky, accused Chairman Gary Peters of Michigan of blocking Dr. Peterson for political reasons. Johnson said that the chairman claimed technical difficulties prevented Peterson's remote participation, but that this was just a pretext.
“For whatever reason, even though we have the technology here, the chairman said he couldn’t make it possible for him to appear remotely. Behind the scenes, over the weekend, there were other reasons supplied,” Johnson remarked. “That was all a ruse. It was a pretext for not allowing Dr. Peterson to testify, and I really cannot guess why. Some kind of ideological reason.”
"This is an action that is beyond unfortunate and something we cannot condone, which is why no Republicans will attend this hearing," Johnson said before exiting the room.
In response, Peters defended his decision and accused Republicans of violating committee rules by submitting Peterson as a witness only two business days before the hearing. Johnson disputed this, saying that witnesses were often added at the last moment and that accommodations could be made.
Peterson said on social media that he had “worked in good faith and in an entirely non-partisan manner” before Democrats pulled his invitation. Peterson asserted that he was rejected from speaking because a Democratic staffer accused him of “promoting child abuse.”
“I was also invited to present virtually and agreed,” Peterson continued, noting that the his invitation was rescinded due to technical issues “is an outright falsehood.”