FACT CHECK: Plagiarist Prez Claudine Gay Has Done 'More Damage to Harvard's Reputation Than Anyone in the University's History'

December 12, 2023

Claim: Harvard president Claudine Gay, an accused plagiarist widely denounced for her public testimony on Jewish genocide, has done "more damage to the reputation of Harvard University than any individual in [its] nearly 500-year history."

Who said it: Bill Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund manager and Harvard alumnus who has called on Gay to resign, in a letter to the university's governing board of directors.

Context: Gay's comments on Jewish genocide—made last week during her testimony before the House Education Committee—were indeed "abysmal," as Ackman stated in his letter. Asked if "calling for the genocide of Jews" violated Harvard's bullying and harassment policies, Gay replied: "It depends on the context."

Ackman assessed that Gay's humiliating performance on Capitol Hill had resulted in "billions of dollars of cancelled, paused, and withdrawn donations to the university" from Jewish and non-Jewish alumni. Nevertheless, Harvard faculty and the university's governing board have rallied to Gay's defense.

Analysis: It's clear that Gay has damaged Harvard's reputation. It's less clear whether she has done more damage "than any individual" in the history of the university. Our analysts identified more than a dozen notable Harvard alumni and associates who have also caused significant damage to the university's reputation.

Ted Kaczynski (Class of '62)—Also known as "The Unabomber," Kaczynski murdered at least three people and injured dozens more by sending bombs through the mail between 1978 and 1995. The deranged nerd killed himself in June 2023 while serving eight consecutive life terms in federal prison.

Isoroku Yamamoto (Class of '21)—The mastermind of the infamous sneak attack on Pearl Harbor served as Marshall Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II.

Jeffrey Toobin (Class of '86)—The disgraced former CNN legal analyst lost his job at the New Yorker in 2020 after pleasuring himself on a Zoom call with colleagues. Years earlier, Toobin had an affair with his coworker's daughter, got her pregnant, denied being the father, and pressured her to get an abortion.

Jeffrey Skilling (Class of '79)—The former Enron CEO served 12 years in prison for his role in one of the largest corporate fraud scandals in history.

Ted Kennedy (Class of '56)—The beloved Democrat and notorious sex pest killed an innocent woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 when he drunk drove his car into a pond. Kennedy suffered no meaningful consequences as a result and continued to serve in the U.S. Senate until his death in 2009.

Joseph Kennedy (Class of '12)—The Kennedy patriarch was a vulgar anti-Semite and Nazi apologist who repeatedly sought to arrange meetings with Adolf Hitler in the early stages of World War II.

Robert McNamara (Class of '39)—The principle architect of the Vietnam War—one of the most humiliating military defeats the United States has ever suffered—served as secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968.

Elizabeth Warren (Law school professor)—Described as Harvard Law School's "first woman of color" after being hired as a professor in 1995, Warren repeatedly lied about having "American Indian" ancestry in order to advance her career. The results of a DNA test found that she is roughly 0.1 percent Native American.

Jim Cramer (Class of '77)—The over-caffeinated stock market "expert" is notoriously wrong about everything.

Joy Reid (Class of '91)—The fact-challenged MSNBC host suffered no consequences after (most likely) lying about her old blog being infiltrated by hackers who planted old posts disparaging Jews, Muslims, and gays. The hackers were never caught, but Reid was promoted following the abrupt resignation of Chris Matthews, a former visiting fellow at Harvard who was accused of being a misogynist pervert.

Jeffrey Epstein (Donor, friend)—The jet-setting pervert donated more than $9.1 million to Harvard while trafficking minors for sex. Following his 2008 conviction for sex crimes, Epstein continued to be a frequent visitor to the university's campus, where he had his own office and enjoyed "unlimited" access.

Harvey Weinstein (Honoree)—Currently serving a 39-year prison sentence for rape and sexual assault, Weinstein was awarded the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal, described as Harvard's "highest honor in the field of African and African American studies," in 2014. Harvard rescinded the award in 2017.

Vivek Ramaswamy (Class of '07)—Obnoxious little twerp.

Pete Buttigieg (Class of '04)—See above.

Conclusion: Claudine Gay has conducted herself deplorably in recent days, embarrassing herself and Harvard University in the process. Alas, the Ivy League university boasts an extensive collection of deplorable alumni and associates. In this context, Ackman's sweeping claim—that Gay has damaged Harvard's reputation "more ... than any individual"—appears to suffer from recency bias and lacks sufficient evidence to prove its veracity beyond a reasonable doubt.

As far as we know, Gay has not murdered anyone, been convicted of a felony, masturbated in public, lied about her ethnicity, or launched an unprovoked sneak attack on a U.S. Navy installation. Accordingly, we are inclined to conclude there are at least several individuals who have caused more damage to the university's reputation.

Verdict: We rate Ackman's claim Three Clintons.