Updated at 3:44 PM ET
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) is abruptly pulling out of a scheduled Friday lecture on income equality at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business School, according to the school.
Progressive and labor groups, including Occupy Philadelphia, MoveOn.org, the local AFL-CIO, and AFSCME, were planning a protest for the event. According to Cantor’s office, the Congressman pulled out after discovering that the speech would be open to the public and seeing reports that the university was allowing protestors to gather on the campus itself.
“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,” Cantor spokesman Brad Dayspring said in an e-mailed statement. “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.”
In a statement, the school denied that they had changed their rules as to who could attend the event in advance of the speech.
“The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed,” the university said. “We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the Majority Leader’s office on the staging of his presentation.”
Mike Morrill, executive director of Keystone Progress, which is organizing the protests, told TPM that the demonstration will continue regardless of whether or not Cantor proceeds with the speech.
“If he has in fact cancelled it says he’s willing to meet with the elites but not willing to meet with the 99%,” he said. “As soon as he hears there’s going to be everyday folks outside…he decides to cancel.”
A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, Mark Nicastre, condemned Cantor’s decision to cancel the speech as well.
“Majority Leader Eric Cantor canceled his speech on income inequality after his office learned the speech was open to the public,” he said in a statement. “It shows that Eric Cantor is afraid to face the public with his policies because he knows that Republicans are wrong on the middle class. Republican policies, driven by the Tea Party, have favored corporate special interests over the middle class - from the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it to Republican opposition to investments in middle class families.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.