GWU president apologizes after making ‘insensitive’ racial comment

George Washington University students pass through campus on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The president of George Washington University is apologizing for comments he made this weekend that some students are calling racist and inappropriate.

The six-minute conversation recorded by a G.W. student on her cellphone begins as she stops university President Thomas LeBlanc and asks him a series of questions, starting with the university’s investment in fossil fuels.

It’s unclear if LeBlanc knew he was being recorded as the video never showed his face, and appeared to be held inconspicuously, at times pointed at his stomach, the ground, and at the nearby Charles E. Smith center on campus.

Eventually, after making the point that he won’t stifle anyone’s opinion at the university, LeBlanc made what he later called an insensitive example.

The following is a snippet of the conversation that was recorded.

Student: So, what if the majority of students were to agree?

LeBlanc: Doesn’t matter. What if the majority of students agreed to shoot all the black people here? Do I say, “Oh, well, the majority voted?” No.

Student: No. OK.

LeBlanc: In this country, we have rights. And one of the rights is free speech and academic freedom.

The video, which was posted on Facebook, garnered critical comments, some from those calling for his resignation, though they did not identify if or how they are connected to the university.

On Sunday, Leblanc issued an apology for what he called an “insensitive example.”

“I deeply apologize for using that example. The point I was making — that majority rule should never suppress the human rights of others — was obscured by the example I used,” LeBlanc wrote. “I regret my choice of words and any harm I unintentionally inflicted on a community I value greatly.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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