A Response to Claudine Gay

Claudine Gay (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Claudine Gay should have stuck to plagiarism. Her mind-numbing academic prose may have been lifted from her colleagues, but at least it didn’t gaslight the public in a self-serving—dare we say, bad faith—attempt to salvage her career and her reputation at the expense of the truth.

Arguing her case in a New York Times op-ed, the former Harvard president says that "demagogues"—threatened by the rise of a black woman—peddled propaganda and sprung a "well-laid trap," forcing her resignation.

Gay says this isn’t really about her. No, she’s come to warn that the same right-wingers who took her out are going to set their sights on "trusted institutions of all types—from public health agencies to news organizations." She fears they will "continue to fall victim to coordinated attempts to undermine their legitimacy and ruin their leaders’ credibility."

Let’s rewind the tape. After standing idly by as 33 Harvard student groups blamed Israel for Hamas’s terrorist rampage, Gay issued one mealy-mouthed statement after another. Neither Gay nor Harvard has ever responded to how it is handling the cases of several students videotaped accosting a Jewish classmate.

And Gay herself issued an apology for her disastrous congressional testimony, in which she was asked point blank whether Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

"I believe Israel has the right to exist," she responded.

Her elision of Israel’s Jewish identity is a point that came up in several conversations we have had with Harvard students and faculty members. And yet, Gay marvels that her "commitment to fighting anti-Semitism has been questioned."

Regarding her plagiarism, Gay mocks the "obsessive scrutiny" of her peer-reviewed writings, which is the sort of thing most academics dream of.

She claims to have "promptly requested corrections" from the various journals in which her plagiarized pieces were published and argues that her own case was "consistent with how I have seen similar faculty cases handled at Harvard."

In fact, she retained a high-powered defense lawyer, Tom Clare, who threatened to sue the New York Post for "immense" damages if it published a news article detailing the mistakes to which she has now admitted, and the Harvard Corporation retained a secret, "independent" panel of experts to review her work. They have yet to disclose the members of that panel. If that is really how other cases of faculty plagiarism are handled at Harvard, that is a story we would like to publish.

Gay does stumble on to one nugget of wisdom, writing that "truth can become a casualty amid controversy." Gay has shredded it in a failed attempt to cover up a scandal and subsequently to save what little remains of her credibility. She didn’t lose her job because she’s black any more than Penn president Liz Magill lost hers because she’s white. Gay is out because she was a weak leader and a fraudulent scholar.

Gay accuses her detractors of "pursuing self-serving agendas that should be met with more questions and less credulity." As Gay desperately clung to her job these last several weeks, and now dishonestly lashes out at her critics, readers might ask this question: Whose agenda is Claudine Gay really serving—Harvard’s, or her own?