- Thursday, January 4, 2024

Throughout my life, I’ve seldom thought about who runs Harvard University. And when I say “seldom,” of course, I mean “never.”

But that changed after Claudine Gay, the now-former president of Harvard, appeared before a House of Representatives committee in December and couldn’t say that calling for the mass murder of Jews would violate her school’s code of conduct despite being given repeated chances at the question by Rep. Elise Stefanik, New York Republican. The exchange came amid rising leftist protests by pro-Hamas students in the wake of the terrorist assault on Israel on Oct. 7.

Ms. Gay’s performance was no better than her colleagues who appeared at the hearing with her — the presidents of the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The New York Times later lamented that asking them to condemn calls for genocide amounted to a “prosecutorial trap” they haplessly fell into.

Penn President Liz Magill resigned just four days later after the outrage erupted, including from major school donors. The same was happening to Ms. Gay at Harvard, with billionaire donor Bill Ackman leading the way. But what quickly moved to center stage were charges of plagiarism from Ms. Gay’s academic past — 47 alleged instances of it, according to the Times.

The pressure finally built too high, and Ms. Gay resigned this week.

So, where do you think the media affixed the blame? Why, on conservatives, of course.

The first order of business was to deflate the importance of the plagiarism allegations. CNN reporter Matt Egan said on the air that Ms. Gay wasn’t accused of anything serious like stealing someone’s ideas. She merely stole the words people used to express them, you see.

“She’s been accused of, sort of, more like copying other people’s writings without attribution,” he said, apparently unaware of the definition of plagiarism.

The second thing, even more important, was to frame the entire controversy as a racist plot because Ms. Gay is a Black woman.

“This is an attack on diversity, this is an attack on multiculturalism,” said Mara Gay (no relation), of the Times editorial board, on MSNBC. “I don’t have to say that they’re racist, because you can hear and see the racism in the attacks.”

Unexplained was how the Penn president, who is White, was forced to resign first if the sole motivation was racism.

And this is where the media anger really came into focus — they don’t like the people who were raising most of the plagiarism claims.

It’s a fact that conservative activist Christopher Rufo prominently pursued the case, and the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative publication, broke many of the plagiarism allegations through the work of reporter Aaron Sibarium. But the media should be asking only if the plagiarism really happened, not fretting over who discovered it.

You can always count on unemployed journalist John Harwood (formerly of CNN, NBC, etc.) to offer up the laziest leftist take on any topic, and he didn’t disappoint in this instance. 

In a post on X, Mr. Harwood shared a New York Magazine piece by Jonathan Chait that acknowledged that Ms. Gay’s resignation was justified, though Mr. Chait found the conservatives involved detestable. 

Mr. Harwood quoted: “[Rufo] attacks targets with high ethical standards, which he himself doesn’t care about at all, forcing them to choose between maintaining their standards and resisting his nakedly political agenda.”

Not clarified is how Mr. Rufo forced Ms. Gay to commit plagiarism nearly four dozen times while she supposedly maintained “high ethical standards.”

But the real kicker was a post on X from The Associated Press that read, “Harvard president’s resignation highlights new conservative weapon against colleges: plagiarism.”

Yes, those dastardly conservatives contriving to hold elite university presidents to their own rules against scholarly theft. Does it need to be stated that you probably can’t use plagiarism as a weapon against someone who is not a plagiarist?  

This is embarrassing, even considering what a leftist mess the venerable AP has become.

In the opening paragraph of its story, the AP acknowledges that plagiarism is “a cardinal sin in academia,” yet somehow still blames conservatives for the fiasco.

Did the “sin” exist or not? That’s the only real question at hand.

Ms. Gay has stepped down as president of Harvard but will remain a full professor at an annual salary of nearly $1 million, according to several reports. And as this column is filed, the third school president at that hearing, MIT’s Sally Kornbluth, is still hanging on to her job.

Plagiarist or not, each deserved to be fired for refusing to say that endorsing genocide does indeed violate school conduct codes.

And I, for one, can’t wait to return to the days when I didn’t have to care about who’s in charge at Harvard

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist, founder and principal of Line Drive Public Affairs LLC, co-host of the “Line Drive Podcast” and author of “Swing Hard in Case You Hit It: My Escape From Addiction and Shot at Redemption on the Trump Campaign.”

Copyright © 2024 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide