David McCormick Demands Removal of UPenn President for Comments on Anti-Semitism

David McCormick (Hachette Book Group)
December 7, 2023

Pennsylvania Senate candidate David McCormick on Wednesday called for the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania's president for her comments at a House hearing on campus anti-Semitism.

The Republican candidate responded to an exchange at the Tuesday hearing in which Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.) asked Penn president Liz Magill whether calling for the genocide of Jews violates her school's rules regarding bullying and harassment. Magill would not give an affirmative "yes," instead offering some conditions—such as the speech being "directed and severe or pervasive"—under which a call for genocide would be harassment, adding that it was a "context-dependent decision."

"This is completely unacceptable from the leader of one of America's top universities," McCormick said in a statement. "I today call on Penn's board of trustees to immediately remove President Magill and replace her with a leader who understands that calling for genocide against Jews is wrong and it must be combated."

He added that Magill "lacks the depth, understanding, and awareness of how antisemitism is real and how it must be fought. She has failed the students of Penn, its alumni, and our state."

McCormick ran for Senate in Pennsylvania in the 2022 midterm elections, but he lost in the Republican primary to Dr. Mehmet Oz, who, in turn, lost the general election to his Democratic opponent, Sen. John Fetterman. McCormick announced in September he will seek election to the Senate in 2024, this time to unseat incumbent senator Bob Casey (D.).

Pennsylvania governor Josh Shapiro (D.) also condemned Magill's comments on Wednesday, NBC's Philadelphia affiliate reported. He called them "unacceptable" and "shameful," adding that the university's board of trustees must make a "serious decision" to determine whether the comments represent its and the school's values.

"I think they need to meet, and meet soon, to make that determination," Shapiro said.

Casey also denounced Magill's "offensive" comments in a statement, but he stopped short of calling for her removal.

Hours after McCormick and Casey issued their statements, the university posted a video message to X in which Magill clarified her comments during the hearing.

"In that moment, I was focused on our university's long-standing policies, aligned with the U.S. Constitution, which say that speech alone is not punishable," Magill said. "I was not focused on—but I should've been—the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate."

Magill went on to say that the school's policies, which "have been guided by the Constitution and the law," need to be "clarified and evaluated," given the "signs of hate proliferating across our campus and our world in a way not seen in years." She committed to convening a process to take a "serious and careful look at our policies."

Magill was one of three presidents of elite colleges to testify to Congress Tuesday about anti-Semitism on their campuses. Claudine Gay of Harvard and Sally Kornbluth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology also faced the question of whether calls for Jewish genocide would qualify as bullying or harassment. Gay and Kornbluth did not give clear "yes" or "no" answers but rather gave conditions under which such statements would be harassment.

Gay also clarified her comments on Wednesday, as Harvard posted a statement to X in which she said that some had "confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students."

"Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account," Gay said.