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Professor draws ire with controversial Facebook post

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Professor draws ire with controversial Facebook post

Political science professor Jonathan Graubart's Facebook profile picture

Political science professor Jonathan Graubart's Facebook profile picture

Political science professor Jonathan Graubart's Facebook profile picture

Political science professor Jonathan Graubart's Facebook profile picture

by Will Fritz, News Editor

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A San Diego State professor stirred controversy Friday in a public Facebook post about Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

“I find myself annoyed at the groundswell of good wishes for John McCain after his diagnosis of glioblastoma,” political science professor Jonathan Graubart said in the post.

McCain drew support from political leaders on both sides of the aisle as news of his diagnosis spread.

“John McCain has always been a warrior,” Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.

Former President Barack Obama tweeted: “Give it hell, John. Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against.”

Graubart wrote McCain is a “war criminal,” and accused him of championing “horrifying actions.”

“But ultimately what troubles me is the urge to send such well wishes to an utter stranger as it reinforces the notion that some lives are more important than others,” he wrote. “There are lots of people with glioblastoma and who have died from it (sic).”

Graubart said his own mother is among those who have fallen victim to the disease.

Some Facebook users applauded Graubart’s post, and one asked for permission to share it. However, it soon generated backlash from some students.

“It is one thing to disagree with a politician, or anyone, for that matter, based on differences in ideology,” SDSU College Republicans President Brandon Jones said Friday. “But to wish bad health upon them because of those differences is outrageous.”

“If you don’t want to stand behind our troops, feel free to stand in front of them, professor,” Jones said. “I hope next time you try and find some more compassion within yourself.”

McCain served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, and was held as a prisoner of war at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” jail for over five years.

The SDSU College Republicans later issued an official statement condemning Graubart’s post and comparing it to a series of Facebook comments made by an SDSU associate dean referring to the Republican party as an “extremist” organization.

“These statements set a discriminatory atmosphere towards conservatives on our campus,” the statement read. “As an academic authority at SDSU, Dr. Graubart’s sickening lack of respect towards Senator McCain will not be tolerated by our organization and should not be tolerated by university administration.”

Michael Cline, president of the SDSU College Democrats, also criticized the comments. Cline said he feels that although Graubart was exercising his first amendment rights to free speech, the comments were “nasty and inappropriate.”

“As a young Democrat, (I believe) the largest problem in politics is the diversion of debate from policy to personal attacks,” Cline said.

Reports of Graubart’s post, which was later taken down, began appearing on a number of conservative news sites Monday.

SDSU spokeswoman Gina Jacobs released a statement Monday regarding the controversy: “The viewpoints expressed by students, faculty and staff on their personal social media pages do not reflect the views of the university. We respect and appreciate Senator John McCain’s service to our country during both his military and public service careers and we wish him the very best in his battle with cancer.”

Graubart said early Tuesday he’s begun receiving angry emails and even threats as news of his post spread online. Some of the messages he’s received attack his late mother, he said.

“The voicemails have been especially chilly,” he said in an email. “Almost half have warned of violence, one taunting me by pointing out my exact address. Because of the threats, I was advised by SDSU public safety not to show up on campus for a while.”

Graubart said the backlash to the post has been a very difficult experience for him.

“My Facebook post was on my personal page and had nothing to do with my role as a professor,” he said. “Many of (us) write off-the-cuff statements on our own Facebook page, to vent to our small community. I have 90 Facebook friends in total. This one happened to be shared in another student’s post, who had many more Facebook friends. From what I could see, a few students who had previously disliked some public positions I took regarding Israel-Palestine, including my receptivity to BDS decided to rally support against me, alerting sympathetic media to Facebook post.”

Graubart said while his colleagues and department chair have been very supportive, he’s disappointed in the administration’s response to the personal attacks he has received.

There’s one thing Graubart said he would have changed in the post, after receiving an email from someone who said their father had lost his life in the Vietnam war.

“He noted that my reference to the war and use of the term ‘war crime’ reignited old wounds of the pain he and his family suffered,” Graubart said. “I am certainly sorry about that. I had just meant the post to be for a limited circle of Facebook friends and a few others so I was not looking to provoke. If I had known this post would go viral, I would not have used those words.”

This post was updated with a response from Graubart at 7:30 a.m. on July 25.


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11 Responses to “Professor draws ire with controversial Facebook post”

  1. Jonathan Graubart on July 25th, 2017 8:43 am

    I want to make clear that in no way did I or would I wish an illness upon Senator McCain and I find it irresponsible for students to have made that claim. Keep in mind that I have received death threats and many vicious insults, including being called a “hook-nosed f-ing Jew.” On the human level, one should of course wish the best for everyone stricken with diseases, like glioblastoma, including Senator McCain.

    As I tried to articulate — but was perhaps unsuccessful — my primary concern was a more general one: of giving enhanced attention to the tragedies and misfortunes of notables. Reread my quoted part from Arendt on Hans Cohn v. Einstein (the later being the notable who I actually do admire but still agree that it is wrong to value his life over Hans Cohn).

    So in the US context, I have the same view about the late Senator Ted Kennedy who also contracted glioblastoma in 2008. Now I did add the secondary part of personally being all the more troubled by McCain as a political figure — as opposed to his personal life, which I know nothing about. It might have been simpler to leave that part out. My logic for including commentary on McCain’s public record was to bring home the point that whatever tragedies, misfortunes and so forth, befall them our relationship with political figures is how they act as politicians. If I could go back in time to 2008 when Ted Kennedy was diagnosed, I would include criticisms of his political record; though to be sure, I am further apart politically from McCain. Yet I wouldn’t begrudge someone well on the right who maintained that however sad it was for anyone to have glioblastoma, their view of Kennedy’s political record remained quite harsh.

  2. Nina Flores on July 25th, 2017 3:20 pm

    Point in need of correction: I read the original post from Professor Graubart. At no point does he wish Senator McCain bad health, as one of the interviewees suggests. I’m surprised the Daily Aztec doesn’t note this in the article for context. It’s comments like this that distort the story and increase the sensationalism.

  3. Arturo Jimenez on July 25th, 2017 3:41 pm

    As an SDSU alumni I am appalled at the nasty and unjustified response to Professor Graubart’s post. Mr. Jones statement that Professor Graubart wished bad health on Senator McCain is completely false. Nothing in Graubart’s post could be interpreted as such and it suggests that there is a larger sinister agenda behind those that claim to be bothered by the post. It is also disappointing that the administration is not taking the threats against the professor seriously. The professor’s comments were meant to be private (for a select group of friends) and have been taken completely out of context. I am in complete support of Professor Graubart and hope that those trying to intimidate and smear him do not get their way.

  4. Ted on July 25th, 2017 6:12 pm

    Senator McCain causes strong political emotions. Now is not the time, nor is it the circumstances to express political feelings about him.

  5. Estefania on July 25th, 2017 8:40 pm

    “I am a former student of Dr. Graubart and I am deeply troubled that the SDSU administration has not issued a statement in support for him, especially now that he is facing multiple threats. Dr. Graubart is the most caring, inspiring, and courageous professor I had the privilege of meeting while at SDSU. His lecture series speak for themselves, he invites individuals from across the political spectrum, so the claims that he is “biased” are completely unfounded. I cannot comprehend why the media, the students that outed him, and even the author of this article, have continued to distort his original post, even claiming that he wrote things that are not included in the post. The author of this article didn’t even seem to care to include the entire Facebook post and instead, opted for a smaller version of it. Furthermore, the “journalists” have also approached ONLY his critics, and not just any critics, but individuals who clearly want to defame him, challenge his academic integrity, and seek his punishment simply for expressing his opinion, protected by the first amendment. By doing this, it diminishes the credibility of the news since they clearly are not interested in hearing the opinion of those that support Dr. G, or even bother to investigate their sources. Ironically, the so called “bias” is coming from the articles themselves. Given that we are living in a political climate that opposes civil liberties, the university should be fighting back by denouncing the threats to free-speech and the vicious attacks against Dr. G for expressing his opinion in a private forum. I am deeply disappointed that the university has remained quiet especially now that his personal safety is at risk. To many of us, Dr. Graubart has been a mentor, role model, and has helped us achieve our professional/academic goals. Regardless of what you think about McCain, our community should support free-speech in all of its forms, and most importantly, read the actual post which, as I said before, has nothing ill-spirited against McCain. “

  6. Chris on July 26th, 2017 11:26 pm

    the 1st amendment is designed to protect speech that makes you uncomfortable. deal with it.

  7. gary fouse on July 28th, 2017 3:05 pm

    First of all, a response to the “war criminal” charge. John McCain was a Navy pilot in the Vietnam war and was shot down on a bombing raid over Hanoi. He spent several years as a POW before being released. During that time, he was subjected to torture and other forms of abuse. At one point, he refused an early release because he was the son of a Navy admiral. He would not desert his POW comrades.

    I don’t agree with everything McCain has done as a senator, but that does not lesson my respect for him as a war hero. I repeat: War hero-not war criminal.

    As for Graubart, he is beneath contempt. I have encountered him before. Graubart is one of those legions of university professors who attempt to indoctrinate their students against Israel. In March 2014, Graubart hosted a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement at SDSU. I also attended and videotaped the event. The event was held as part of Graubart’s class, which he opened to the public. In his introduction, Graubart whined about the negative response to the appearance from some in the community.

    I don’t know if Graubart has ever served in the military; I doubt that he has. He has, of course, the freedom to say what he wants about McCain. We in the public have the right to respond accordingly. Of course, Graubart already showed in 2014 that he himself cannot take the heat.

  8. Craig on July 30th, 2017 1:31 am

    BDS is simply the continuation of the Arab boycott which began in the 1940’s against Israel. That boycott was born out of the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in the 1930’s. It is no surprise that many Nazi war criminals found refuge in the Muslim nations (Syria, Egypt, Lebanon) that began the boycott movement. The BDS-holes collaborate with enemies of the Jewish state and seek the destruction of Israel. Much of the BDS movement engages in anti-Semitic rhetoric, false statements and lies about the history of Israel. In the past year they have attacked Jewish artists and actors such as Matisyahu and Gal Gadot.

  9. Craig on July 30th, 2017 1:43 am

    It should be noted that Graubert is making false statements about Albert Einstein.

    Albert Einstein was a pro-Israel, Labor Zionist.

    Graubert has exposed himself as an anti-Israel agenda driven fool. His statement shows that he is clueless about Israel’s history and so blinded by his hate for Jerusalem that he is willing to lie to followers. I feel sorry for the BDS crowd that is bamboozled by this sorry excuse for a professor.

  10. Lori on July 30th, 2017 8:56 pm

    I support Dr. Graubart’s freedom of speech first and foremost, however threats to harm individuals are not recognized as free speech as it qualifies as an incitement to commit violence which the Supreme Court does not recognize as protected speech. Therefore threats to harm or otherwise intimidate Dr. Graubart should not be encouraged.

    Dr. Graubart would never wish harm on his worst enemy. He is a peaceful person who was making a broader statement about the magnification of one figure’s tragedy over another. Tragedy does not diminish actions or erase histories. Do I find it surprising that ideologues with rapid fire antennae were quick to jump to conclusions and demonize an analytical viewpoint? No. Not uncommon and surely it will not be the last time such a thing occurs.

  11. oboesausage on August 1st, 2017 4:55 am

    Freedom of speech does not grant you freedom from the consequences.

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