Conspiracy theorist, bestselling author, convicted felon: Dinesh D’Souza has worn many hats in his life. He can now add a presidential pardon to his distinguished resume, after Donald Trump announced that he would wipe D’Souza’s record clean. In a tweet, Trump claimed that D’Souza had been “treated very unfairly by our government!” But there is no doubt that D’Souza actually committed his crime, pleading guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance laws, for which he received community service and a $30,000 slap on the wrist. Trump’s pardon cements D’Souza’s self-proclaimed status as a martyr—he has since claimed that he was persecuted for his conservative political views—and it also reveals the beating heart of conservatism in 2018. Like, after all, knows like. Grifter respects the grift.
It’s easy to forget that D’Souza, who in recent years has become best known for his attacks on Barack Obama’s “anticolonial” agenda and his thesis that Democrats are the real racists, once enjoyed a certain gravitas. He graduated from Dartmouth College. He became the president of The King’s College, a Christian school based in New York City. He wrote books—many books. And they were initially well-received. His 1991 debut, Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex On Campus, preceded our campus free speech wars by about a quarter-century. The Atlantic ran an excerpt. C. Vann Woodward reviewed it, mostly positively, for The New York Review of Books. In Commentary, Joseph Adelson called it “the most complete study we have had of the capture and degradation of higher education by the Left,” and a “wonderful book.”
Even then, however, D’Souza’s academic rigor was gilt, not gold. Illiberal Education misconstrued facts and misrepresented history, as multiple academics complained