St. Edward's University, a Catholic university in Austin, did indeed turn down the opportunity to host President Barack Obama — but for logistical reasons, not political ones, according to school officials.
As first reported in the campus newspaper, Hilltop Views, St. Edward's was offered the chance to be one of the schools considered to host Obama's Aug. 9 speech in Austin — which, to be clear, is not the same as a definite offer to be the host. Officials declined, taking the school out of contention. The president ultimately spoke at the University of Texas.
Despite the speculation from bloggers that the reason was — as university spokeswoman Mischelle Diaz puts it — "the Catholic issue," Diaz says it was merely the inability of a small school, in the process of prepping for the beginning of the fall semester, to redirect its limited resources toward putting on such a sizable event with only three to four days of notice.
Obama has wrestled with "the Catholic issue" before, most famously in 2009 at the University of Notre Dame, where he delivered the commencement address amid a flurry of protests over his abortion stance. There were no similar forces afoot at St. Edward's, Diaz says.
"It's not that we weren't honored to be in the pool," Diaz says. "It just wasn't a good time for us right now."
In a statement, she conceded, "As part of our thoughtful consideration, we had to acknowledge that the vast majority of our student body, and many faculty members, would not be present to participate in a presidential visit."
Asked to confirm the university's account of what occurred, White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said, "We're not going to comment on sites we may or may not have looked at."
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