(CNSNews.com) - During a two-hour speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, President Trump hailed the young conservative activist who was punched in the face at the University of California, Berkeley campus on Feb. 19.
Trump called the attack "disgusting," and he urged Hayden Williams to sue the attacker, the university and "maybe sue the state."
“Ladies and gentlemen, he took a hard punch in the face for all of us. Remember that,” Trump said. “And we can never allow that to happen.”
Then the president made an announcement:
"Today I'm proud to announce that I will be very soon signing an executive order requiring colleges and universities to support free speech if they want federal research dollars.
(Chants of “USA! USA!” erupted)
"If they want our dollars -- and we give it to them by the billions --- they have got to allow people like Hayden and many other great young people and old people to speak. Free speech. And if they don't, it will be very costly. That will be signed very soon," Trump promised.
Just before making the announcement, the president called Hayden Williams to the podium.
Williams, who works for the conservative Leadership Institute, thanked the president:
"It's great that I'm being recognized, but there are so many conservative students who are facing discrimination and harassment and worse if they dare to speak up on campus. So I’m glad that we could bring this to the forefront. And I’d just like to say, if these Socialist progressives had their way, they would put our Constitution through the paper shredder in a heartbeat.
"So, you know, it’s as important now as ever to work for campus reform, exposing these liberal abuses to the public. It's as important now as ever. And these students do it because they have a love of our nation and freedom, and frankly, our love for you, Mr. President. If you keep defending us," he told Trump, "we’ll keep defending you," Hayden said.
Press reports say UC Berkeley police on Friday arrested 28-year-old Zachary Greenberg in connection with the attack on Williams, who was on the campus to recruit for conservative causes.
The university posted a statement on its website on Saturday, reaffirming its commitment to free speech, and saying that what happened on Feb. 19 "has been willfully distorted and inaccurately reported."
The university noted that in its Feb. 20 response -- one day after the attack -- it stated: "UC Berkeley strongly condemns violence and harassment of any sort, for any reason. That sort of behavior is reprehensible and intolerable. We have, in recent years, spent millions of dollars to ensure that students from across the ideological/political spectrum can safely and successfully promote and discuss their beliefs. Our commitment to freedom of expression and belief is unwavering."
Neither Williams nor his alleged attacker are affiliated with Berkeley.