The writer and English professor who found herself in a whirlwind of controversy when she tweeted that recently deceased First Lady Barbara Bush was “an amazing racist” who “raised a war criminal” won’t be punished by California State University at Fresno, the campus preasident said on Tuesday.
In announcing the conclusion of a campus review of Randa Jarrar’s comments, Fresno State President Joseph Castro said she was using her personal Twitter feed as a private citizen, so she didn’t violate any university policies.
But Castro also emphasized, yet again, that he strongly disagreed with the Muslim American professor’s remarks, which came in the wake of Bush’s death.
“Her comments, although disgraceful, are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” Castro wrote, as reported by the Associated Press. “Our duty as Americans and educators is to promote a free exchange of diverse views, even if we disagree with them.”
The administrator also called her words “insensitive, inappropriate and an embarrassment to the university,” adding: “On campus and whenever we are representing the university, I expect all of us to engage in respectful dialogue.”
The whole controversy began in the wake of Barbara Bush’s death, when Jarrar, who is of Egyptian, Greek, and Palestinian heritage, tweeted: “Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. Fuck outta here with your nice words.” She also went on to call Bush a “witch” who’d met the same end as countless Iraqi civilians killed in American military campaigns.
As a result, a Change.org petition calling for her firing had some 50,000 signatures as of Tuesday night, according to the AP, and Jarrar was widely targeted for her perceived incivility by members of the conservative media, including Breitbart and Fox News. Jarrar was on leave at the time of the incident and responded by saying she couldn’t be fired because she has tenure.
In an interview this week with The Cut, Jarrar said she “absolutely” stood by her comments, and pointed out the racialized—and misogynist—response to her speaking critically about an American political dynasty.
“I felt compelled to speak up because I want people to remember history. I want people to know that our country’s actions don’t just disappear; they have real, negative consequences,” she said in an email to the site. “Women of color routinely have their tone policed, their justified anger painted as hatred, and their criticism of injustice framed as racism toward white people.”
Show me the lie.