KU journalism professor placed on leave as school reviews Twitter comments on shootings
Topeka Kansas University today placed journalism professor David Guth on administrative leave over comments he wrote on Twitter regarding the shooting this week at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, top state legislators — Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson — called for Guth's dismissal from KU.
"Any attempt to continue employing this individual as an educational leader is offensive to taxpayers," Wagle said.
In the aftermath of the shootings in Washington on Monday, in which 13 people were killed, Guth tweeted: "The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you."
KU officials strongly criticized the comments and Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced this morning that Guth was placed on paid leave and a review of the situation would be conducted.
"In order to prevent disruptions to the learning environment for students, the School of Journalism and the university, I have directed Provost Jeffrey Vitter to place Associate Professor Guth on indefinite administrative leave pending a review of the entire situation. Professor Guth’s classes will be taught by other faculty members," Gray-Little said.
In an email to the Lawrence Journal-World today, Guth said he had met earlier with university officials and agreed to take administrative leave "in light of the abusive email threats I and others have received."
"It is in the best interests and peace of mind of our students that I remove myself from the situation and let cooler heads prevail," Guth said. "It is unfortunate that my comments have been deliberately distorted. I know what I meant. Unfortunately, this is a topic that generates more heat than light."
Guth, in an interview on Thursday, said, "I did not advocate violence against anybody." He said he was, instead, trying to make gun advocates see shootings like the one at Navy Yard from the point of view of the victims and their families. "I was getting tired of hearing comments in the media and Twitter that, 'Gee, this wouldn't have happened if the office staff at the Navy Yard had been armed," he said.
As for the "May God damn you" comment, Guth said: "I think they are on the wrong side of the angels on this issue. I wasn't cursing them. I was stating that I would like to see God put judgment on them."
Senate Majority Leader Bruce said he was appalled by Guth's tweet.
"Wishing death and damnation upon parents and their children is reprehensible and is not befitting of an employee of such a distinguished university," he said. He said Gray-Little needed to remove Guth from KU's faculty "immediately."
The Kansas State Rifle Association President Patricia Stoneking of Bonner Springs said the state arm of the NRA "will do everything possible to see to the removal of this man. He should be fired immediately."
Stoneking said while the KSRA believes in First Amendment rights of free speech, Guth was inciting violence.
"Is this who you want teaching your children? I certainly do not want him teaching mine," she said.
The Kansas Board of Regents held a hastily called closed session on the comments made by Guth.
After the meeting, Andy Tompkins, president and chief executive officer of the regents, said, "The Board of Regents expresses its disgust and offense at the statement made by David Guth."
The board said KU was keeping it informed on the situation and expressed its appreciation to Gray-Little for responding to the controversy.
According to KU's Code of Faculty Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct, "Freedom of inquiry, expression, and assembly are guaranteed to all faculty members."