Jerry Seinfeld’s Commencement Address Sparks Walkout by Antisemites at Duke University

Jerry Seinfeld is by no means the most political or controversial actor/comedian out there, but when he took the stage at Duke University’s commencement ceremony, it ultimately caused a chorus of “boos” and pro-Palestinian chants, as well as a walkout by students.

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Seinfeld, who is Jewish, is the parent of two Duke students and an active supporter of the university. He has been vocal in his support for Israel following the Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel on October 7. His wife also funded a pro-Israel protest at UCLA last week. When Seinfeld was announced  as this year’s commencement speaker, some students expressed opposition to his appearance over his support of Israel, and warned that there would be a display of opposition at the commencement ceremony.

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The 70-year-old comedian also made headlines recently for blaming “the extreme left” for ruining comedy.

“Nothing really affects comedy. People always need it. They need it so badly and they don’t get it. Used to be you would go home at the end of the day, most people would go, “Oh, ‘Cheers’ is on. Oh, ‘M.A.S.H.’ Is on. Oh, ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ is on. Oh, ‘All in the Family’ is on. You just expected there’ll be some funny stuff we can watch on TV tonight. Well, guess what? Where is it?” Seinfeld said last month. “This is the result of the extreme left and PC crap and people worrying so much about offending other people. When you write a script and it goes into four or five different hands, committees, groups: ‘Here’s our thought about this joke.’ Well, that’s the end of your comedy,” he said. “They move the gates, like in skiing. Culture, the gates are moving. Your job is to be agile and clever enough that wherever they put the gates, I’m gonna make the gate.”

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Vanity Fair has more.

Seinfeld’s introduction by school president Vincent Price was “drowned out” by chants of “free free Palestine.” The rallying cries appeared to come from both the soon-to-be-graduates seated on Brooks Field as well as folks in the surrounding rows at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Another video shows be-gowned students standing, unfurling Palestinian flags, and leaving the stadium as Seinfeld prepared to speak. According to The Daily Beast, the livestream of the graduation ceremony cut away from the protest as it occurred.

Seinfeld, who also received an honorary doctorate from the school, didn’t allude to the protest in his speech, which focused on general life advice for the graduates. WRAL reports that the still-working standup announced three keys to life: Work hard, pay attention, and fall in love. (All activities, one should note, that seemed to eternally elude his namesake character.) 

“Whatever you’re doing, I don’t care if it’s your job, your hobby, a relationship, getting a reservation at M Sushi, make an effort,” Seinfeld said in his speech, which made no mention of the protesting students. “Just pure, stupid, no-real-idea-what-I’m-doing-here effort. Effort always yields a positive value, even if the outcome of the effort is absolute failure of the desired result. This is a rule of life. Just swing the bat and pray is not a bad approach to a lot of things.”

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According to a report from the New York Times, the graduates who walked out chanted “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest” from the parking lot.

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