The CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is criticizing the presidents of three elite US universities for failing to condemn the increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric on its campuses following the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the ensuing conflict in Gaza.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer's chairman and CEO, took to X, formerly Twitter, to say he was “ashamed to hear recent testimony from three prominent university presidents” after Harvard University president Claudine Gay, the president of the Institute of Massachusetts Technology (MIT) Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) President Liz Magill testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee on Tuesday.
“In my personal opinion, it was one of the most despicable moments in the history of US academia. All three presidents have had countless opportunities to condemn racist, anti-Semitic and hateful rhetoric and have refused to do so, hiding behind pleas for 'context,'” Bourla said. he wrote.
“Memories of my father's parents, Abraham and Rachel Bourla, his brother David and his younger sister Graciela, who died in Auschwitz, came to mind,” he explained. “I was wondering if their deaths would have provided enough 'context' for these presidents to condemn the Nazis' anti-Semitic propaganda.”
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“And because the dehumanization of victims makes it easier to 'set your own context' and justify anything, here is a photo of Graciela Bourla, who was exterminated in the concentration camp at age 17. uncle survived. I still wonder what they looked like,” Bourla added in his post.
The trio of presidents of elite universities faced questioning before the House panel on Tuesday. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who chairs the House Republican Conference, pressed the presidents on whether calls for a “global intifada” are a call for violent armed resistance against the state of Israel and the genocide of Jews, as well as if the rhetoric violates campus codes of conduct.
Each president said such rhetoric would only violate campus rules if the words became conduct, a position they reiterated several times during the hearing in response to questions asked by lawmakers on the issue. congress panel.
Kornbluth said such rhetoric would violate MIT policies: “If targeting individuals, do not make public statements.” She added that such chants “may be anti-Semitic, depending on the context, when they call for the elimination of Jewish people,” and that the campus could investigate such incidents as harassment if they are considered “widespread and serious.”
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Magill said the anti-Semitic chants create a “context-dependent” situation that would constitute bullying and harassment under UPenn rules if it were “targeted,” “pervasive” and “severe.”
Gay said that whether calls for a “global intifada” constitute harassment at Harvard would depend on the “context” and whether it targets specific individuals.
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As the controversy over university presidents' responses continued into Wednesday, Gay tried to clarify your comments on a post on X.
“There are some who have confused the right to free speech with the idea that Harvard will tolerate calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group , are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held accountable,” Gay said in his post on Harvard’s X account.
FOX Business' Michael Dorgan and Nikolas Lanum contributed to this report.