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DEBRA J. SAUNDERS: Big Media’s partisan rush to defend ex-Harvard president

WASHINGTON — If The Washington Post treated itself the way it treats conservatives, it would call itself the “liberal Washington Post.”

The newspaper’s Thursday story on the resignation of Harvard President Claudine Gay repeatedly referred to her critics as “conservative,” GOP or Republican, as if that’s all readers need to know.

This controversy blew up during a Dec. 5 House committee hearing, at which Gay, University of Pennsylvania President Elizabeth Magill and MIT President Sally Kornbluth whiffed an opportunity to renounce antisemitic speech on campus. Their lack of indignation and general cluelessness invited criticism from the left and right, as well as calls that they resign or be fired.

Magill resigned in short order. Kornbluth and Gay stayed on. “Then came allegations of plagiarism against Gay,” the Post reported Thursday, “which were publicized by conservative activists.”

There’s a red light blinking: Forget the plagiarism charges. Consider the source.

Gay resigned Tuesday and wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times in which she maintained that the Dec. 5 hearing was “a well-laid trap.”

Be it noted, the title of the hearing was: “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.”

To The Washington Post, holding academia accountable and confronting antisemitism are conservative ideas. I agree. They are. But they used to be liberal ideas. I think they still are.

Los Angeles Times business columnist Michael Hiltzik must disagree. He wrote that Gay was the victim of a “right-wing cabal.” Would a left-wing cabal be better? Apparently, yes.

Hiltzik railed that a conservative activist, “the odious Christopher F. Rufo,” went onto social media platform X to take credit for launching the “Claudine Gay plagiarism story from the Right.”

You’d never guess that 84 House Democrats joined House Republicans to vote in favor of a resolution calling on Gay and Kornbluth to resign, after Magill stepped down from Penn’s presidency.

Hiltzik also slammed Rufo for his critiques of “critical race theory” and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs.

“The antonyms of diversity, equity and inclusion are uniformity, inequality and exclusion,” Hiltzik argued. “In context, this translates into white supremacy.”

Steven McGuire of the pro-academic freedom American Council of Trustees and Alumni, or ACTA, responded, “DEI itself is about dividing people, indoctrinating people and excluding people.” Proponents can be “extremely intolerant of anybody who dares to dissent or propose an alternative point of view.”

As for the white supremacy charge, McGuire noted that people used to reserve the term for the KKK or Neo-Nazis, but now it is used to shame and intimidate people. Academia’s view of racism has moved radically to the left.

Gay is Black. She sees herself as a target, she wrote, because she is “a Black woman selected to lead a storied institution.”

“You’ll see the media and academics talking about a right-wing assault on higher education, but rarely do they want to talk about the decades-long, left-leaning campaign to take over these institutions,” McGuire said.

Conservatives understand the message from academia and Big Media: This is our sandbox. You don’t belong here.

Because ACTA believes in academic freedom, there are those who believe journalists have an obligation to call ACTA a conservative group. That’s how much the definition of conservative has shifted.

Know this: They’d never dream of suggesting I should call the Los Angeles Times the “liberal Los Angeles Times.”

Contact Review-Journal Washington columnist Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@reviewjournal.com. Follow @debrajsaunders on X.

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