Opinions and Legal Insights

Texas A&M Professor Under Investigation For Anti-Trump and Anti-Republican Postings

download-1Texas A&M anthropology professor Filipe Castro has triggered a firestorm of controversy after postings calling President Donald Trump a “fat klansman” and saying that is a “good thing” that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) contracted Covit-19. The Texas A&M Board of Regents issued a statement condemning the statements which is fine.  However, there is also an investigation that raises free speech concerns over a faculty member being able to express political views — even highly offensive views — outside of his teaching responsibilities or role.

The site Campus Reform raised the social media postings and reported that Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Pamela R. Matthews confirmed that the university is “looking into” the matter. It also reported that “a separate but unconfirmed email” said that the Texas A&M Office of Risk, Ethics, and Compliance has opened an investigation into Castro.

Castro posted the comments on Facebook including:

•“We have a moron as president and everyday [sic] he paints the walls of the Oval Office with his own shit, and the republicans- including Lying Ted [Cruz] and [John] Corny Cornyn- clean the walls and the carpet, wipe the drool of [sic] his mouth, and pretend that he is normal.”

• Denouncing White House advisor Stephen Miller, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and calling to “lock them in some institution where we don’t have to be confronted with their vulgarity and their stupidity.”

•Stating with reference to Tesla founder Elon Musk, Castro said “we must build that guillotine” for Tesla founder Elon Musk, who he also called a “parasite” and said “we will come for you, Elon, with a spray for pubic lice.”

•Described Melania Trump as “bought from a catalog.”

•Called President Trump a “fat klansman.”

•Called Trump officials collectively “savages and misfits all physically deformed and resentful of their deformities.”

•Stated “Covid kills the poor. It also kills some stupid, like Herman Cain, but mostly kills the poor.”

•“I always though [sic] that this was going to have a normal end, with trump having a heart attack on top of his daughter and crushing her with his fat, and Kushner having to try to resuscitate her (for the money) from drawing in trump’s vomit of Pepsi and half-chewed chicken nuggets, swallowed in big chucks…”

•He celebrated Gohmert getting Covit-19 as “good news.”
These (and a string of anti-religion postings) have been detailed by critics.
These are highly disturbing and hateful postings.  I admit that some, like the crushing of Trump’s daughter, seem deranged. At best, most of the postings are viral, hateful expressions of Castro’s political and religious beliefs.
As will surprise no one on this blog, I tend to resolve such questions in favor of free speech. Castro’s comments are disgraceful and disgusting. However, if schools are going to regulate such political comments, it is hard to see how and where the line would be drawn.  The subjectivity or bias in such investigations remains a concern in past controversies.  The lack of clarity on the standard would result in a chilling effect on faculty and students being able to express their views on political or social issues.  The question should be whether such disturbing views were expressed in his classes or as part of his work on campus. Otherwise, I still view the comments as protected speech.
Free speech often requires support for those with not just unpopular but obnoxious views. Professor Castro is the price we pay for free speech. The alternative is to regulate political speech by faculty and students outside of a university — a prospect that is far more costly than the ravings of an academic.