Two associates of the right-wing organization Turning Point USA followed a queer Arizona State University instructor on campus Wednesday afternoon, with one demanding he answer questions about “How long you’ve been attracted to minors” and “How long you’ve fantasized about minors having sex with adults” while the other filmed the encounter.
The confrontation eventually turned physical, ending with the educator, David Boyles, posting a photo of himself with blood on one side of his face. “One filmed on his phone while the other shouted horrible and incendiary things at me, repeating standard right-wing nonsense about Drag Story Hour and also accusing me personally of pedophilia and hating America,” Boyles wrote in a now-private Instagram message cited by The Arizona Republic.
Campus police are investigating the situation as possible aggravated assault including bias toward LGBTQ+ individuals, a police spokesman told Inside Higher Ed.
Boyles, an Arizona State graduate and writing instructor at the university since 2015, specializes in “popular culture, digital literacy, visual rhetoric and the rhetoric of higher education,” according to his university bio. Turning Point’s Professor Watchlist—a database launched in 2016 that has resulted in academics receiving vitriol and threats for their alleged views—targets Boyles for, among other things, his advocacy of a program in which drag queens read books to children.
“What are you gonna tell me, nothing? What are you gonna do?” the Turning Point “reporter” kept asking Boyles as he remained silent. “David, you can’t run. It’s best if you just talk to me about why you want to push sodomy onto young people.”
This is all shown in a video the advocacy group posted on X to its more than 600,000 followers on Friday, two days after the confrontation.
“Why do you feel like children need to be exposed to drag?” the interviewer asked. “Why is that something that children should be exposed to and why do you feel that drag queens benefit from children being present at drag shows where they shake their genitals and their fake breasts? Also I was taking a look at your Substack and it seems like you really, really hate Americans. Like you just are disgusted with Americans and this country, and it’s funny because you would like to see a different America exist where little boys are sodomized by people like you, right? Hey!”
That exclamation comes right as Boyles runs up to the camera and reaches toward it as the video ends. Andrew Kolvet, a Turning Point spokesman, told Inside Higher Ed Friday that Boyles “lunged” at and “pushed our cameraman and apparently clawed at him, at which point our reporter attempted to get the professor off the cameraman.” Kolvet declined to name the crew members; the police spokesman said officers are working to identify them.
Kolvet said Boyles “attacked” the cameraman and was “pushing, clawing, pushing multiple times” and said the cameraman filed his own report Friday alleging assault. As for how Boyles got bloodied, Kolvet said, “I think he hit his face on the ground when he fell.”
But after Inside Higher Ed interviewed Kolvet, Arizona State released what Adam Wolfe, the police spokesman, said was security footage taken from atop a parking garage on the main Tempe, Ariz., campus. The video shows Boyles reaching for the camera, seemingly trying to grab it or otherwise stop the recording—but the Turning Point interviewer, in all black with a backward baseball cap, almost immediately pushes Boyles face first onto the concrete.
Boyles didn’t respond to requests for comment Friday. The video shows that, after he got up, the Turning Point crew continued following him offscreen with the camera pointed at him—though, if a recording exists of that part of the encounter, the organization hasn’t posted it.
“Harassment or threatening behavior toward ASU employees is dangerous, unsettling and will not be tolerated,” Arizona State spokespeople said in a news release.
Turning Point USA, headquartered in Phoenix, was formerly a campus-focused conservative organization, but it has risen to general prominence on the right alongside the national profile of its founder, Charlie Kirk. At Arizona State, a much higher-ranking employee than an untenured instructor has previously taken issue with Turning Point’s actions.
Who Watches the Watchlisters?
Michael M. Crow, the university’s president, wrote to Kirk in April after he appeared on campus for a controversial conversation with Dennis Prager and Robert Kiyosaki. Prager is a conservative talk show host who founded the PragerU video website, and Kiyosaki wrote Rich Dad Poor Dad and co-authored two books with former president Donald Trump. The event was billed as being about “Health, Wealth and Happiness.”
“I appreciate your acknowledgement, during your remarks, that ASU had lived by its commitment to free speech in proceeding with the event,” Crow wrote.
“The topic of free speech, however, leads me to my concern,” he wrote. “As a result of the coverage of your talk at ASU, it has come to my attention that Turning Point USA operates the Professor Watchlist for the stated purpose ‘to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom’” [italics in original].
“Several of the ASU faculty who expressed their disagreement with your views prior to your appearance at ASU have been added to the website on that basis, where they join other ASU faculty who are listed largely because of their own scholarship with which the Watchlist apparently disagrees,” Crow wrote. “Each posting includes information about how to contact the targeted faculty member directly. I am deeply concerned that, by these postings, the Professor Watchlist is seeking to do one of the very things it claims it is seeking to prevent: infringe free speech.”
Inside Higher Ed requested an interview Friday with Crow, but a university spokesman said he was traveling. He wrote to Kirk that faculty members on the list “are harassed, insulted and otherwise overwhelmed with email and social media engagement,” citing messages his own faculty members had received.
“I would like to request that you remove the ASU faculty members from the Professor Watchlist, as the only basis for their inclusion appears to be that they have expressed views with which you or your colleagues disagree,” Crow wrote. “If you will not do so, please add me to the list, as I will continue to support all of ASU’s faculty members in their right to teach, engage in scholarship and advocate for their views without the kind of intimidation, abuse and antisemitism which is found in the enclosed attachments and which occurs when faculty are placed on your list. If being on the list means believing that viewpoints from across the ideological spectrum are welcome on college campuses, I would be honored to be on it.”
Crow still isn’t on the watch list. Boyles is.
His watch-list page, which includes links to his bio and email address, says he established Drag Queen Story Hour–Arizona—one of the events, with drag queens reading to children, that have become a conservative bugbear. But there’s no evidence presented about a sexual attraction to children, as the so-called TPUSA reporter alleged. The X account for TPUSA Frontlines, the reporting project Kolvet said the two associates work for, claims Boyles deleted writings from his Substack describing a “17 year old’s first SEXUAL experience with an adult.”
Asked whether Boyles was goaded into going for the camera, Kolvet of TPUSA responded, “I would say nothing excuses physical altercation or physical assault on a cameraman.”
“All he had to do was walk away,” Kolvet said of Boyles. As for the watch list, he said it “only includes that which a professor has stated publicly.”
“Maybe you should be concerned about the things that your professors are saying,” he said, addressing Crow. “If what they’re saying is so offensive to so many people, I think you need to take a look in the mirror and ask yourself why you’re employing these people.”
Boyles said on Instagram he was leaving his class about LGBTQ+ youth in pop culture and politics when the confrontation occurred. “Knowing that they were filming in order to post this online and inspire even more harassment against me, I moved to block the camera,” he said.
In the post, Boyles said his wounds are “relatively minor” but that he is still “angry, violated, embarrassed and despairing at the fact that we have come to normalize this kind of harassment and violence.”