Republicans boycott Senate artificial intelligence hearing after Dems halt Jordan Peterson testimony

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Republican senators on Wednesday walked out of a hearing on artificial intelligence because Democrats barred conservative commentator Jordan Peterson from testifying via video livestream.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Gary Peters, Michigan Democrat, said Mr. Peterson was welcome to testify but he needed to appear in person alongside the other witnesses. He said Democrats would welcome Mr. Peterson in person at future hearings.

Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, said that was unacceptable.

“This is an action that is beyond unfortunate and something we will not condone, which is why no Republicans will attend this hearing,” said Mr. Johnson, who was serving as the homeland security committee’s top-ranking Republican in place of the absent Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Mr. Peters said Democrats had organized the artificial intelligence committee hearing over the past month without hearing from their GOP colleagues. Mr. Peters said he wanted Mr. Peterson to follow the same rules as all of the other witnesses who were interviewed in advance of the hearing and then appeared in person at the Capitol.

Mr. Peterson is a Canadian psychologist and author known for his conservative stances on cultural and political issues. He has warned of the dire threat posed by AI, including ingrained bias in the technology, and the potential for AI to be used to manipulate the public.

“All we’re asking is, Senator Johnson, let’s have the same process,” Mr. Peters said. “And I told you or I told ranking member [Mr. Paul] that your witness, we’re going to have more AI hearings, he’s welcome if you want him to be your witness at a future hearing.”

Mr. Johnson said he would accept Mr. Peters’ offer but complained that Democrats wanted to vet his witness. He said he hoped Mr. Peterson would attend a future hearing if he was not too insulted, then the senator gathered his things and prepared to walk out of the committee room.

“Do the work,” Mr. Peters said to Mr. Johnson. “This is an important committee, we have always worked on a consensus basis, you and I have worked on a consensus basis.”

“Right, I never blocked any witnesses. Anyway, enough of this, get on with your hearing,” Mr. Johnson said and then walked out.

Democrats conducted the hearing without Republicans present, soliciting input on artificial intelligence from a Brown University professor and executives from the RAND Corporation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

As the hearing was underway, Mr. Peterson tweeted a clip of himself appearing on podcaster Joe Rogan’s show and tweeted criticism of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Mr. Peterson announced what he said was a new “decentralized international working group aimed at delineating an invitational view of the future.” He also described Mr. Trudeau as delusional regarding his policies on energy and the environment. 

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