Thomas Jefferson University president Mark Tykocinski is under fire after liking a number of tweets from writer Alex Berenson questioning the Covid-19 vaccines and calling child sex changes "child mutilation."
Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Jefferson University Joseph G. Cacchione issued an email to Jefferson faculty, employees, and students on Sunday, saying that Tykocinski was "careless" in his use of Twitter, and that he "should have known better."
“At his level, he is held to a higher standard and should have known better,” Cacchione wrote, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
One of the nearly 30 tweets in question liked by Tykocinski in the last year was one from Berenson dated December 11, which read, "Two years after their introduction, the mRNAs Covid vaccines have proven to be what we all should have expected Another in a long line of overhyped, rushed, profit-driven Big Pharma flops with weak long-term efficacy and a lousy side effect profile."
Another tweet liked by Tykocinski was one from Donald Trump Jr that read, "Doctors lied and coerced a 13-year-old into an irreversible ‘gender affirming medical procedure.’ Now she is fighting back and suing them. Donate here to support the lawsuit and help stop child mutilation."
According to the Inquirer, of Tykocinski’s 539 likes that existed before the initial story regarding the president’s "like" history on his Twitter account and employee backlash was published, 348 remained by the early afternoon. That number dwindled to 203 by midafternoon.
The email from Cacchione, which included a letter of apology from Tykocinski, was issued just one day after the Inquirer published their initial story.
In the apology, Tykocinski said he does not believe vaccines are harmful, noting that both he and his family members had all been vaccinated against Covid-19.
“I understand that my lack of knowledge of the Twitter platform created questions and unintentionally offended many. Please be assured this will be a learning experience, and I will grow as a person and professional from this misstep.”
Tykocinski told the Inquirer that he had liked the tweets to bookmark them and "learn more about the subject matter or the particular viewpoint." He said he did not endorse the tweets nor the person who published the tweets.
"I regret my lack of understanding of how ‘liking’ a tweet is an implied endorsement," he told The Inquirer. "I also regret how my lack of understanding of the Twitter platform caused some to question my views on these complex issues."
Associate professor of communication and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies at the University of Pennsylvania Jessa Lingel took issue with Tykocinski’s response to the Inquirer when asked if he thought child sex changes were "child mutilation."
Lingel said that Tykocinski’s should have been a simple "no," but he instead told the Inquirer, "This is not my clinical area of expertise. In general, any issue involving children should be referred to clinical experts at children’s hospitals who offer the full complement of services necessary."
Lingel said: “You shouldn’t need specialized understanding in pediatric care to recognize that trans-affirming care is simply part of health care and part of well-being,” she said. “It’s not a radical stance to say that trans-affirming care is not mutilation for children or anybody.”
Jefferson spokesperson Angela D. Showell said the incident will serve "as a teaching moment regarding the understanding, impact, and prudent use of social media."
Tykocinski is a molecular immunologist and academic leader who graduated from Yale and was elevated from provost to president on July 1. He has worked at Jefferson for 16 years and reports to Cacchione, who oversees the entirety of the Jefferson entreprise.
"Academic freedom is dead," Berenson wrote in regards to the article.
"This is absurd. Shame on the CEO and board of trustees of Thomas Jefferson University!" Twitter owner Elon Musk added.
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