Major donor who called out Harvard over antisemitism says university's president was diversity hire

"We are shortly going to realize that the DEI era is the McCarthy era Part II."

Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman claimed on Thursday that Harvard only hired President Claudine Gay because of its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion standards.

The 57-year-old billionaire, who previously announced that he wouldn’t hire students who espoused anti-Israel rhetoric, posted on X, “I learned from someone with first-person knowledge of the Harvard president search that the committee would not consider a candidate who did not meet the DEI office’s criteria.” 

He added, “The same was likely true for other elite universities doing searches at the same time, creating an even more limited universe of DEI-eligible presidential candidates.

“Shrinking the pool of candidates based on required race, gender and/or sexual orientation criteria is not the right approach to identifying the best leaders for our most prestigious universities,” Ackman continued.

“And it is also not good for those awarded the office of president, who find themselves in a role that they likely would not have obtained were it not for a fat finger on the scale.”

Ackman noted that he has “been called brave for my tweets over the last few weeks” calling out antisemitism at universities adding, “The same could be said for those [who] called out [former Sen.] Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare.”

“I don’t think it will be long before we look back on the last few years of free speech suppression and the repeated career-ending accusations of racist for those who questioned the DEI movement. We are shortly going to realize that the DEI era is the McCarthy era Part II. History rhymes, but it does not repeat.”

Earlier in the day Ackman demanded that Gay, University of Pennsylvania president Liz Magill, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology president Sally Kornbluth “resign in disgrace” from their positions after they refused to condemn calls for genocide against Jews on their campuses during a congressional hearing Tuesday.

He wrote on X, “In short, they said: It ‘depends on the context’ and ‘whether the speech turns into conduct,’ that is, actually killing Jews,” quoting the words the presidents had used at the hearing.

He added, “This could be the most extraordinary testimony ever elicited in the Congress, certainly on the topic of genocide, which to remind us all is: ‘the deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim to destroy that nation or group.’”

“The presidents’ answers reflect the profound educational, moral, and ethical failures that pervade certain of our elite educational institutions due in large part to their failed leadership. They must all resign in disgrace. If a CEO of one of our companies gave a similar answer, he or she would be toast within the hour. To think that these are the leaders of Ivy League institutions that are charged with the responsibility to educate our best and brightest.”

Later in the day, Ackman reposted Elon Musk’s response to the thread which read: “Let me help them out here: ‘Calling for the genocide [death] of anyone obviously constitutes harassment.’”

Ackman also shared a post from Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla saying that the president’s testimony “…was one of the most despicable moments in the history of US academia. The memories of my father’s parents, Abraham and Rachel Bourla, his brother David and his little sister Graciela, who all died in Auschwitz, came to mind. I was wondering if their deaths would have provided enough ‘context’ to these presidents to condemn the Nazis’ antisemitic propaganda.”

Following the massive backlash for their comments, all three presidents backtracked on their testimony in statements following the hearing.

Axios reported on Thursday evening that Penn President Magill was asked to resign by the board of the university's Wharton business school.
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