The New York Times and others are credulously repeating false narratives about purported advocacy for genocide on college campuses.

by Ari Paul, FAIR

University presidents are under fire from politicians and the media over what is being framed as their waffling over allowing antisemitic speech on their campuses. But it is a concocted outrage that has nothing to do with safeguarding Jewish students, and the New York Times is going along for the ride.

The uproar concerns an appearance by the presidents of Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania before the House Education committee, in which Rep. Elise Stefanik (R–NY) grilled them about antisemitism on campus and whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” violates university codes of conduct.

the new york times building in nyc

The Times (12/6/23) reported the story under the headline, “College Presidents Under Fire After Dodging Questions About Antisemitism,” with the subhead: “The leaders of Harvard, MIT and Penn appeared to evade questions about whether students should be disciplined if they call for the genocide of Jews.” Reporters Stephanie Saul and Anemona Hartocollis began:

Support for the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT eroded quickly on Wednesday, after they seemed to evade what seemed like a rather simple question during a contentious congressional hearing: Would they discipline students calling for the genocide of Jews?

Specifically, the reporters wrote, the presidents’ “lawyerly replies”—that it depends on the context of the speech—drew criticism from Jewish leaders as well as Democratic bigwigs, thus framing the ire not as partisan positioning against liberal academia, but a categorical defense of Jewish students against uncaring administrators.

But there are two big problems with the Times‘ framing: The calls for genocide were imaginary, and the presidents’ answers were not evasive, they were accurate reflections of the constitutional protections of free speech and the scope of university policies on harassment and bullying.

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