More than 1,000 Harvard alumni are urging the university to strip the fellowships it’s given to former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and former Trump press secretary Sean Spicer.
Agitation over Spicer and Lewandowski’s position at the school has been brewing for days since Harvard’s Institute of Politics announced them among its roster of additional visiting fellows. And it grew deeper once Chelsea Manning, the infamous whistleblower, had her fellowship rescinded after former deputy director of the CIA, Michael Morell stepped down from his position as senior fellow in protest.
In an online petition launched last week, Harvard graduates Talia Lavin, Paul B. VanKoughnett and Pete D. Davis called upon fellow alumni to demand that the IOP retract fellowships for Spicer and Lewandowski as well.
“Sean Spicer served as the mouthpiece for an administration that runs counter to the values Harvard purports to embody. What can undergraduates learn from a man whose brief tenure in national communications began with an unabashed lie about crowd sizes, continued with an ignorant minimization of the Holocaust, dabbled in unvarnished hostility to the free press, and ended in public ignominy?” the petition reads.
“Corey Lewandowski, who managed a campaign that began with racist provocation and continued with rampant misogyny, was ousted from the Trump orbit after assaulting a female reporter, and has supplemented his notoriety with ignorant fulminations on national newscasts; he has also been accused of threatening his New Jersey neighbors with a baseball bat. What could this man offer that would be worth exchanging for the safety of student journalists and the greater Harvard community? What message does this send to students who embrace the dream of contributing to the free American press?” it continues.
Last week Lavin told The Daily Beast that they were aiming for 500 signatures at which point they would take the petition to Dean Doug J. Elmendorf. They hit 1,000 on Tuesday but have yet to receive a response from the Dean.
Former Congressman Bill Delahunt, who serves as the acting director of IOP, did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast. Neither did Spicer or Lewandowski.
Spicer is not immune to the cultural backlash against Trump and his associates. This past week, the Emmy Awards were criticized for using the former press secretary in a comedic set up for host Stephen Colbert. Spicer encouraged everyone to lighten up.
Some Haravrd alumni who signed the petition also listed their reasoning for demanding that the two former Trump associates be stripped of their titles.
Carlin Chi, who graduated from Harvard’s Radcliffe College in 1991, wrote: “If Harvard is willing to rescind its offer to Chelsea Manning, please don't hesitate to rescind these two offers as well, I firmly believe Spicer and Lewandowski are far more dangerous to our society than Manning ever was.”
Harleen Gambhir, a 2014 graduate and a member of Harvard Law School’s class of 2019, wrote: “An IOP fellowship is an honor and an endorsement-- at the very least, an endorsement that the person hosted for a semester has something to teach students. If the IOP is going to disinvite fellows based on the perceived value of their past actions, then Spicer and Lewandowski ought to be pushed out, too.”
Lavin told The Daily Beast that the timing of Harvard’s dismissal of Manning coupled with their choice to retain Lewandowski and Spicer was insulting and wrong.
“By rescinding the Fellow title from Ms. Manning it admitted such a title conveys an imprimatur of legitimacy and approval; retaining Spicer and Lewandowski's imprimatur is an act of institutional cowardice, more sympathetic to those who perpetuate horrors than those who expose them,” she said in a direct message to The Daily Beast.