A Philly professor's Twitter wish for a "White Genocide" Christmas is attracting scorn, death threats and a smattering of support for his First Amendment rights.
On Christmas Eve, George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of political science at Drexel University, tweeted "All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide."
The tweet wentviral on Breibart, an alt-right news site.
The response to his tweet,Ciccariello-Maher claimed, was"hundreds of death threats" including a "coordinated smear campaign" against him. He said the tweet was meant to be satirical.
"White genocide is a figment of the racist imagination. It should be mocked, and I'm glad to have mocked it,"Ciccariello-Maher, who is white,wrote in a statement posted on ResistancePHL, a local socialist group.
Satirical or not, news sites including Breitbart and Daily Caller reported on the tweets as evidence of racism. They quoted a follow-up tweet on Christmas "To clarify: when the whites were massacred during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed."
The professor's Twitter account has since been made private.
Drexel indicated that Cicciariello-Maher's "inflammatory" tweet would lead to a meeting with school authorities.
"While the University recognizes the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher's comments are utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing, and do not in any way reflect the values of the University," Drexel said in an online statement. "The University is taking this situation very seriously. We contacted Ciccariello-Maher today to arrange a meeting to discuss this matter in detail."
Now waves from the tweet are still being felt, with the university being criticized by Cicciariello-Maher and other academics.
"Drexel University issued a statementon the matter, apparently without understanding either the content or the context of the tweets," he wrote. "This statement ... sends a chilling message and sets a frightening precedent [and] ... encourages harassment as an effective means to impact university policies."
Online petitions have popped up, from both the professor's supporters and critics.
One petition in his support had over 7,000 signatures as of press-time. Another, which called for "Drexel University's meeting withGeorge Ciccariello-Maher to be recorded and published to ensure that Drexel University is taking racism seriously," had more than 12,000.
Citing Breitbart's ties to president-elect Donald Trump's Special Counselor Steve Bannon, Ciccariello-Maher said agents of "white supremacy" are targeting him.
"I am not the first and I won’t be the last to be harassed and threatened by Bannon, Trump, and co.," Ciccariello-Maher said in his statement online. "White supremacy is on the rise, and we must fight it by any means. In that fight, universities will need to choose whether they are on the side of free expression and academic debate, or on the side of the racist mob.”
Despite the First Amendment, Pennsylvania does not have a statute preventing private employers from restricting the speech of its employees.
Drexel did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the status of Ciccariello-Maher's meeting.
On his website Ciccariello-Maher describes himself as a "writer, radical political theorist" who written various studies on the history of Venezuelan revolution and era of Hugo Chavez.