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Politicians, media figures and profs claimed racism drove ouster of former Harvard President Claudine Gay

Several politicians, media figures and professors raced to social media and television this week to amplify the message that racism forced former Harvard President Claudine Gay to resign from her position.

Gay, Harvard’s first Black president, resigned after igniting controversy with comments regarding antisemitism on the university’s campus and facing several charges of plagiarism.

The embattled leader sent a letter to the Harvard community Tuesday announcing she was leaving the post but would return to the university’s faculty, adding “racial animus” led to personal attacks and threats against her. 

“My deep sense of connection to Harvard and its people has made it all the more painful to witness the tensions and divisions that have riven our community in recent months, weakening the bonds of trust and reciprocity that should be our sources of strength and support in times of crisis,” Gay wrote in the letter. 


“Amidst all of this, it has been distressing to have doubt cast on my commitments to confronting hate and to upholding scholarly rigor — two bedrock values that are fundamental to who I am — and frightening to be subjected to personal attacks and threats fueled by racial animus,” she added.

Gay, however, was far from the only individual who said racism led to her resignation. Shortly after her announcement became public, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., said her concession stemmed from racism. 

“This isn’t about plagiarism or antisemitism. This is about racism and intimidation. This makes no one safer,” Bowman wrote on X Tuesday. 

“The only winners are fascists who bullied a brilliant & historic Black woman into resignation. 2024 will be a battle for truth, democracy and our shared humanity.”

Some prominent media members also rushed to Gay’s defense and blamed racism for her resignation. 

New York Times Magazine reporter and “1619 Project” founder Nikole Hannah-Jones called it a “glimpse into the future to come.”


“Academic freedom is under attack. Racial justice programs are under attack. Black women will be made to pay. Our so-called allies too often lack any real courage,” Hannah-Jones wrote. 

The New York Times’ Mara Gay appeared on MSNBC and said Gay’s resignation was “an attack on diversity” and “multiculturalism.” 

“I don’t have to say that they’re racist, because you can hear and see the racism in the attacks,” she said.

Rev. Al Sharpton declared the end of her tenure was an “assault on the health, strength and future of diversity, equity and inclusion,” Politico reported.

Additionally, several university professors trumpeted race as being the driving factor behind Gay’s resignation.

“Racist mobs won’t stop until they topple all Black people from positions of power and influence who are not reinforcing the structure of racism,” Boston University professor Ibram X. Kendi posted on X. “What these racist mobs are doing should be obvious to any reporter who cares about truth or justice as opposed to conflicts and clicks.”

Dartmouth assistant professor Roopika Risam wrote on X, “Oh Harvard. FFS. I am just absolutely livid that President Gay is resigning. They were always going to come for the leader who’s a brilliant Black woman.”

“The intimidation is the point,” Duke University adjunct professor Eric Deggans posted on X. “Will the next president at Harvard stand for diversity? Will that person be female? Will that person be Black? If not, they have forced several steps back. And everyone across the school gets the message.”

Gay’s troubles heated up in recent weeks and began reaching a boiling point when she testified before Congress following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. She struggled to answer a question from New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Harvard alum, about antisemitism on campus. 

Calls for her resignation were amplified after dozens of plagiarism allegations in the following weeks. The total number of plagiarism claims against Gay is at nearly 50, or “half of Gay’s published works,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Gay, however, could retain her $900,000 salary from her new faculty position. 



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