Free speech activists are lending support to a Fresno State professor threatened with possible disciplinary measures after referring to Barbara Bush as an "amazing racist," who is "still fabulous, thanks for checking in." Randa Jarrar on Wednesday tweeted "love to all of you who have sent support," per the Fresno Bee. And there are apparently several. In an opinion piece at the Fresno Bee, a Fresno State lecturer who says he was last year demoted for claiming President Trump "must hang" argues university President Joseph Castro should be standing up to the "fascist threat to academic freedom" rather than investigating the tenured associate English professor currently on a leave of absence. Both the ACLU of Northern California and the National Coalition Against Censorship also say the investigation of the Arab-American should be closed.
Jarrar, who is to return to the university in the fall, "said bluntly what newspaper obituaries disguised when they wrote that Mrs. Bush was 'never shy about expressing her views,' or that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, her 'candor got her into trouble,'" says Los Angeles Times book critic Laila Lalami. Guardian columnist Moustafa Bayoumi says Jarrar has "the right to express that opinion without being threatened with violence or loss of employment." Fresno writer Steven Sanchez adds "the vitriol flung at her is the epitome of white fragility." The AP reports that critics have continued to bash Jarrar for being insensitive after Bush's death. Castro said her words went "beyond free speech," per the Bee. Jarrar—who grew up in Kuwait and Egypt—has also taken flak for implying the phone number of Arizona State University's crisis hotline was her own. (Read more Fresno State stories.)