Charlie Kirk, founder of the conservative organization Turning Point USA, sat down with The Daily Signal’s Ginny Montalbano on June 15 at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas. He discussed what people misunderstand about President Donald Trump, the inspiration behind Turning Point USA, and his advice for young conservatives finding their way in the movement. Kirk worked on the Trump campaign in 2016.
Ginny Montalbano: I’m here with Charlie Kirk, the founder of Turning Point USA. Charlie, thank you.
Charlie Kirk: Thank you for being here.
Montalbano: I want to start with Turning Point. You founded it back in 2012. What inspired you to create the organization and what is its mission?
Kirk: I started it when I was 18 years old. Prior to that, I wanted to go to The United States Military Academy at West Point. Didn’t get in but it ended up being the best thing that never happened to me. I love this country, I loved it back then and I love it now. I feel that college campuses in our generation play a critical role in that. If we do nothing, we are going to have a country that will soon look quite unrecognizable.
Montalbano: When did you first realize that you were a conservative?
Kirk: Probably sixth or seventh grade. I remember, I’ve always been a contrarian by nature. I remember my teachers absolutely bashing, at the time, President George W. Bush. We had to watch “Inconvenient Truth” and we had to watch all that Al Gore propaganda. I remember asking just very simple questions.
It can’t all be bad, that George W. Bush is doing. I asked my parents, “Are we Republicans or Democrats?” My parents said, “Well, we’re much more Republicans than we are Democrats, we’re on the right.” Then I just kind of fell down the rabbit hole, if you will, and started to study and started to reflect and listen and really realized I was conservative.
Montalbano: Back in March, you interviewed President Trump at the White House Generation Next forum. Daily Signal was there covering it. What was that experience like and what do you think people most misunderstood about President Trump?
Kirk: Wow, that’s a great question. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview a president, let alone a very successful president. He’s going to be the most successful president of our lifetime. He’s already on pace for that, he’s accomplished things that other presidents have only dreamed of. It was just beyond words.
I think … at least [among] people on the left, most misunderstand his motivations. They mis-categorize his motivations. People on the right, I think, that are critical of him, totally underestimate his instincts and his capacity to handle this position. I see that. Like the Never Trump crowd, they try to take cheap shots at his intelligence or his behavior. That’s completely reprehensible.
What I think about President Trump, more than anything, is that he’s a fixer. His whole life has been about building, has been about growing brands, and has been about presenting things in a variety of different ways. America was a broken country when he took it over. In fact, it was a country in crisis. Triage theory will tell you, when you have these different problems in front of you, how do you solve that? You have to solve the big things first.
From his perspective, he saw a decline in American patriotism, he saw a border that was like a sieve, and he saw an economy that in ruin. His first priority was, if I can get the economy roaring again, if I can get people back to work and wages going up, that’s a basis point that can start to help fix other problems around it. You saw, the economy’s never been doing better. We literally have more job openings than jobs.
Then he, of course, doubled and tripled down on his support of the flag and our culture and our history, which has been terrific. More than anything else, it’s been a complete realignment of an American president that puts this country first and doesn’t out this multicultural, globalist philosophy first, which has been transformational in a variety of different ways.
It’s really disrupted the elites in both political parties. Both political parties have catered to the special interest of New York City and Malibu and they forgot about this dark area all across America called “America.” From Ohio, Nebraska, the Dakotas, so on and so forth. He has represented these interests better than anything else.
I’ve never seen an American president get attacked so viciously and so aggressively for keeping his promises. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem, appointing [Neil] Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, withdrawing from TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] , strengthening the border, deregulating the economy. These are things he talked about on the campaign trail every day. He is a keeper of promises, unlike both [George H.W. and George W.] Bushes and [Bill] Clinton and [Barack] Obama that said one thing to get elected and did something completely different when they went in the office.
Montalbano: Speaking of keeping promises, [White House senior adviser for strategic communications] Mercedes Schlapp was reminding me this morning, we recently hit his 500th day in office. We’ve had a lot of major successes. To you, what have been the Trump administration’s biggest victories?
Kirk: I think the courts. I think the left controls the media, they control the educational institutions. The court’s … a vertical that take many generations to take over. The 9th Circuit, for example, is a great example of just a sick and twisted interpretation of the Constitution, if you will. Ninety-nine percent of their decisions that are appealed get overturned.
The left realized that if they could take over the courts, the country would go the direction they want to go, which is horrifying. President Trump has now appointed 1 out of 8 of all circuit court judges in America that have been appointed. Your lists and the work The Heritage [Foundation] does has been very important and he relies on your work a lot.
That’s the first thing. The courts have been fantastic. From Gorsuch down, you see a lot of decisions that were now consequential that were teetering on the brink, going in the right direction thanks to President Trump, President Trump’s court decisions, that’s the first thing.
More than anything else, his biggest accomplishment is the restoration of the idea of American exceptionalism on the global stage. The denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, standing up for American interests at the G-7, pointing out that China’s not our friend, that they are a geopolitical, I don’t want to say enemy but they are a geopolitical adversary, without a doubt. Enemy’s a very fierce word, I’ll reserve that. Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. The deregulation has been amazing. The tax cut has been phenomenal. The VA Choice Act, the right to try, all that is just really important stuff. The big picture matters.
They say he’s not presidential, he’s not this. He’s unbelievably presidential. A United States president should serve the American interests first and foremost. Isn’t that what presidential is all about? With Obama, all I heard is, “We’ve got to cater to the interests of Iran.” With Bush, it was all external. It’s this globalist first, multicultural perspective. Whereas Trump has completely turned that upside down.
Montalbano: Keeping all that in mind, are there any policy areas that you think conservatives should take a harder look at, in the future?
Kirk: Immigration. If we do not get immigration correct, the country will be lost. This is something the president talked about quite forcefully this morning on “Fox & Friends.” He said that I will not sign a moderate immigration bill. The fact that we’re debating whether or not we should have a border wall is incomprehensible to me.
A necessary component of a nation’s state is borders. Otherwise, you don’t have a nation at all. That defining line between U.S. and Mexico is important and must be decisively defended. Illegal immigration is a problem that is not just destabilizing our country and our culture, but it’s also a financial burden on the U.S. taxpayer.
Illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers over $120 billion annually. An illegal immigrant is twice as likely to commit a crime versus a natural born citizen. There’s 56,000 illegal immigrants in federal prisons—56,000, think about it, that’s an amazing number.
It seems like part of the Republican Party is perfectly fine with our current border policy. Which is, just wide open. If we do not get immigration done properly, which puts our American interests first, then we’re going to be in a lot of trouble.
Montalbano: We’re here right now at the Young Women’s Leadership Summit in Dallas, Texas, [put on by Turning Point USA]. There are several hundred girls here?
Kirk: More than that. We have 1,200 seats there. We have some girls with day passes that are just coming from the local area with some high schools, bringing some young ladies. It’s so funny. People are like, “Charlie, what’s the exact number of attendees?” Look, we have 1,200 seats, every seat was filled for Jordan Peterson, there were some donors, there were some supporters. Every seat was filled. Right, every seat was filled?
Montalbano: Yes, incredible.
Kirk: That’s not fake news, that’s real news. It’s an amazing attendance. I can say that we had over 4,000 applications. We have 48 states represented and, undoubtedly, the largest conservative gathering of young women in the country.
Montalbano: Speaking of young women, I want to ask you, what do you make of the media coverage of women in the Trump administration: the first lady, Ivanka [Trump], [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders?
Kirk: It’s been horrific. The things they say about these lovely ladies, some of whom I’m honored to call friends, Mercedes Schlapp is fantastic. Ivanka is unbelievable. Melania. The character assassination on Melania Trump is disgusting. It really is.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the first female press secretary in over a decade, gets no recognition for that, by the way. Not to mention, the first female CIA director in American history, Gina Haspel. I haven’t heard that on the major networks, or in the major newspapers. The DHS secretary …
There’s other high-ranking female officials in the Trump administration. This all deserves recognition because the narrative that is created against the president is somehow he’s anti-women or that he’s a misogynist, the evidence completes directly to the opposite.
Montalbano: What are you hoping that these young women take away from this weekend? What are you hoping young conservatives take away from your organization?
Kirk: No. 1 thing is that they’re not alone. They’re told that they’re alone. There is a stigma and there’s a subtext that is written into the leftist narrative that dominates our culture and our media that it’s somehow unacceptable to be a conservative woman. Nothing can be further from the truth. We want all of them to know that they’re not alone, that they can make networking connections.
I’ve already heard unbelievable testimonies from some of these young ladies. “This has changed my life.” “I’m now 100 percent getting into politics.” “I’m going to run for office.” “I’m going to do this.” Some of them say, “I’m still going to go the same direction, I’m going to do business, but now I’m going to much more political in everything I do.”
That’s so cool because we don’t want everybody to go into politics because we’ll have no one in business and culture. I had this one young lady, she said, “I’m getting an internship at Time Warner.” I said, “Wow.”
Well, it’s going to be AT&T now. She said, “I’m going to be in the digital creative side.” Great. She said, “I’m a rock-ribbed conservative. I feel really convinced to fight.” We need people in all those levels that are conservative to balance out the conversation. These are the leaders that are going to determine the future of the country.
Montalbano: My last question for you. You are a public figure. You have a very public organization. How do you handle feedback and criticism, especially with social media?
Kirk: I love social media because it’s so candid and it’s raw. I will say this, I abide by [President Ronald] Reagan’s 11th commandment, especially for those of us on the right. Anyone who hurls insults or accusations, threats or criticisms toward us as an organization, or course they have a right to do so but we do not attack our own. Some people don’t believe that but I think we’re a stronger party and a stronger movement and a stronger organization when we focus our efforts on the left.
The energy you put into the world is the energy that comes back to you. As an organization, we put good energy out. We want to be collaborative, we want to be partners, we want to be linked arm in arm to fight stronger together and not divide against each other. Not have purity tests for the conservative movement. “You’re too libertarian, you’re not conservative enough, you’re not right on this issue. You’re not correct on these 99 issues of conservative dogma, you haven’t been here long enough.” We don’t do any of that.
I think it makes you tougher too, it really does. There are certain people that would rather see others fail than see them succeed on the conservative movement. I’m not one of those people, I wish the best to everyone. But I will say that I’m really really, really pleased by how our staff and activists have been able to continue to withstand a lot of attacks from the left and some attacks from the right. It takes a lot of toughness and a lot of conviction of core principles and ideas. It only makes us fight harder.
Montalbano: Absolutely. You’ve had an incredible event here. Thank you so much.
Kirk: Thanks. You bet.