KU professor on leave after tweet directed at NRA
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A University of Kansas journalism professor was placed on indefinite administrative leave Friday for a tweet he wrote about the Navy Yard shootings which said, "blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters."
David W. Guth, an associate professor of journalism, made the comment on Twitter after Monday's shootings in Washington, D.C., in which 13 people died, including the gunman. The tweet didn't attract much attention until Campus Reform.org posted a story Thursday, sparking a social media backlash that's spilled over into some state lawmakers calling for his dismissal.
The university also responded, as Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little issued a statement Friday saying that "in order to prevent disruptions to the learning environment," Guth was placed on indefinite administrative leave pending a review. His classes will be taught by other faculty members.
Guth, who on Thursday told The Associated Press in a phone interview that his tweet "got a conversation going — that was exactly what I wanted to do," agreed Friday that the university's action was appropriate in light of email threats he and others at the university had received.
"It is in the best interests and peace of mind of our students that I remove myself from the situation and let cooler heads prevail," Guth wrote. "I know what I meant. Unfortunately, this is a topic that generates more heat than light."
He may have gotten more than he bargained for, however.
Kansas Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, said Thursday he was "appalled" by the tweet and called for the university to remove from Guth from the faculty.
"Wishing death and damnation upon parents and their children is reprehensible and not befitting an employee of such a distinguished university," Bruce said in an emailed statement.
Rep. Brett Hildabrand, a Shawnee Republican, urged via Twitter that the university to take "appropriate action" against Guth.
Bruce has received $2,500 in campaign contributions from the NRA since 2004, including $750 in 2012, according to the online database maintained by the state Governmental Ethics Commission. Hildabrand received a $500 contribution last year from the Kansas State Rifle Association.
The Kansas Board of Regents, expressing its "disgust and offense," said in a statement Friday it appreciated the immediate response by the chancellor.
Members of Kansas' faculty also distanced themselves from Guth's viewpoint.
"While the First Amendment allows anyone to express an opinion, that privilege is not absolute and must be balanced with the rights of others. That's vital to civil discourse," Ann Brill, dean of the journalism school, said in a statement. "Professor Guth's views do not represent our school and we do not advocate violence against any group or individuals."
The Kansas State Rifle Association has called his statements "outrageous," and president Patricia Stoneking said in a news release her group will "do everything possible" to see to his removal.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam added Friday: "This is hate speech. It is disgusting and deplorable. It has no place in our society."
Guth said Thursday that gun rights advocates had orchestrated a social media campaign against him.
"I respect their First Amendment rights and it would be nice if they would respect mine," Guth said. "And, by the way, I even respect their Second Amendment rights.
"Frankly, my plan is to be the calm in the center of the storm," Guth said.
Associated Press writer John Hanna in Topeka, Kan., contributed to this report.