Jerry Seinfeld's Support for Israel Leads to Walkouts amid His Duke University Commencement Speech

Dozens of people reportedly walked out of the graduation in protest of the comedian's comments on the Israel-Palestine conflict

<p>YouTube</p> Jerry Seinfeld at Duke University


Jerry Seinfeld at Duke University

Dozens of students walked out ahead of Jerry Seinfeld's May 12 commencement address at Duke University.

In a video shared on X (formerly known as Twitter), students can be seen leaving the stadium, some of them carrying Palestinian flags, as the 70-year-old comedian made his way to the podium. The walkout appeared to be in protest of Seinfeld's support of Israel.

The Associated Press reported that 30 of the 7,000 students participated in the action. Additionally, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, several others stood up and moved elsewhere in the venue as counterprotesters reportedly chanted, "Kick them out."

"We’re excited and delighted for the Class of 2024 and their families. We understand the depth of feeling in our community, and as we have all year, we respect the right of everyone at Duke to express their views peacefully, without preventing graduates and their families from celebrating their achievement.” Frank Tramble, vice president for marketing, communications and public affairs at Duke said to PEOPLE in a statement.

PEOPLE has reached out to Seinfeld's rep for comment.

Related: Columbia University Cancels Main Commencement Ceremony After Weeks of Protests

Ahead of the Seinfeld alum's speech a mix of boos and chants of "Jerry!" could be heard from the crowd. The actor's actual speech steered clear of political sentiment, instead focusing on humor and encouraging the students to "find fascination."

“The slightly uncomfortable feeling of awkward humor is okay,” Seinfeld said in part. “It is worth the sacrifice of an occasional discomfort to have some laughs. Don’t lose that. Even if it’s at the cost of occasional hard feelings, it’s okay.”

<p>Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty</p> Jerry Seinfeld on <em>Today</em>

Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty

Jerry Seinfeld on Today

In addition to giving the 2024 commencement speech, the Unfrosted director also received an honorary degree from Duke University. His daughter, Sascha, previously graduated from Duke, while his oldest son, Julian, is a current student at the school.

Related: Jerry Seinfeld's Wife Jessica and All 3 Kids Pop Up to Support Comedian at Unfrosted Premiere

Seinfeld has been speaking out about his support of Israel since the Oct. 7 attack on the country, which sparked the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

At the time, the comedian posted an "I Stand with Israel" image on Instagram alongside a caption that read, "I lived and worked on a Kibbutz in Israel when I was 16 and I have loved our Jewish homeland ever since. My heart is breaking from these attacks and atrocities. But we are also a very strong people in our hearts and minds. We believe in justice, freedom and equality. We survive and flourish no matter what. I will always stand with Israel and the Jewish people."

<p>Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty</p> Jerry Seinfeld on <em>The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon</em>

Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty

Jerry Seinfeld on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

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Shortly after Oct. 7, Seinfeld traveled to Tel Aviv, where he met with the family members of people who were being held hostage by Hamas. In an April interview with GQ, he said that despite focusing on apolitical comedy for most of his career, he doesn't regret speaking out in support of Israel.

"I don’t preach about it. I have my personal feelings about it that I discuss privately," he said. "It’s not part of what I can do comedically, but my feelings are very strong."

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