Harvard president clarifies position on antisemitism after testimony backlash: 'Calls for violence...are vile'

'Those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account,' Harvard president says

Billionaire Harvard alum excoriates university presidents over antisemitism hearing: 'Must resign in disgrace'

Billionaire and Harvard graduate Bill Ackman demands that the presidents of three prestigious universities should resign after they refused to say that calling for the genocide of Jews on their campuses breached their rules and led to harassment.

Harvard President Dr. Claudine Gay issued a statement Wednesday clarifying the university had a staunch position against calls for violence against the Jewish community, after she seemed to equivocate on the issue while testifying before Congress a day earlier.

"There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account," Gay said in a statement posted to Harvard's X account

Gay and the presidents of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Pennsylvania testified on Capitol Hill Tuesday about the rampant antisemitism on their campuses following Hamas' October 7 terror attacks on Israel. They came under sharp criticism and even some calls to resign under fierce Republican questioning about the rise of antisemitism, with observers saying their campuses had hardly been bastions of First Amendment freedom before their stated commitment to free speech on Tuesday.

Gay's clean-up effort was panned online, with critics saying it didn't bode well that they came 24 hours after she could have said it plainly during her testimony.


"You should have said this yesterday, live, in-person and on camera.Not today, after your PR firm told you you needed to clean it up.It’s too late now. It’s not credible," former Bush aide Ari Fleischer wrote on X.

"Weird how Claudine Gay was clearly asked to condemn this like 9 times under oath yesterday and wouldn't do it . But now after mass outrage suddenly she issues a statement," Barstool Sports' Dave Portnoy wrote.

During the House hearing titled, "Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism," Gay shared a tense exchange with Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik when she challenged the Ivy League school leader to answer whether a "Harvard student calling for the mass murder of African-Americans is not protected free speech at Harvard, correct?"

Stefanik also asked Gay if she was familiar with the term "intifada," which she described as "the use of the term intifada in the context of the Israeli-Arab conflict is indeed a call for violent armed resistance against the state of Israel, including violence against civilians and the genocide of Jews." Stefanik cited multiple instances of Harvard students chanting, "There is only one solution. Intifada, Revolution," and "globalize the intifada" in the weeks following the October 7 massacre. 

harvard president clarifies position on antisemitism after testimony backlash calls for violenceare vile

Harvard Pres. Claudine Gay testified before Congress over antisemitism on the college campus (Getty Images)

Gay said she considered that type of hateful speech "personally abhorrent" and admitted that speech calling for intifada, and therefore genocide against the Jewish people in Israel and around the world, was "at odds with the values of Harvard." She was not specific when Stefanik asked if those sorts of remarks were against Harvard University's code of conduct. 

"We embrace a commitment to free expression, even [if they] are objectionable, offensive, hateful," Gay said. "It's when that speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies against bullying."

Stefanik continued, asking "Does that speech not cross that barrier? Does that speech not call for the genocide of Jews and the elimination of Israel? When you testify that you understand that is the definition of intifada, is that speech according to the code of conduct or not?" 


"We embrace a commitment to free expression and give a wide berth to free expression, even of views that are objectionable," Gay responded. 

  • harvard president clarifies position on antisemitism after testimony backlash calls for violenceare vile

    Rep. Elise Stefanik and President of Harvard University Dr. Claudine Gay (Getty Images)

  • harvard president clarifies position on antisemitism after testimony backlash calls for violenceare vile

    Dr. Claudine Gay, President of Harvard University, Liz Magill, President of University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pamela Nadell, Professor of History and Jewish Studies at American University, and Dr. Sally Kornbluth, President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testify before the House Education and Workforce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on December 05, 2023 in Washington, DC. The Committee held a hearing to investigate antisemitism on college campuses. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

  • harvard president clarifies position on antisemitism after testimony backlash calls for violenceare vile

    Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, during a House Education and the Workforce Committee hearing in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. Lawmakers on the education committee will grill the leaders of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about their responses to protests that erupted after the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.  (Haiyun Jiang/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Harvard is ranked last when it comes to freedom of speech on college campuses in America, which Stefanik brought up during the hearing. 

"Will admissions offers be rescinded or any disciplinary action be taken against students or applicants who say from the river to the sea or intifada, advocating for the murder of Jews?" she asked. 


"As said, that type of hateful, reckless, offensive speech is personally abhorrent to me," Gay added, but when Stefanik demanded to know what action will be taken specifically against "students who are harassing and calling for the genocide of Jews on Harvard's campus?" Gay deflected, but explained measures were underway and declined to get into specifics. 

"When speech crosses into conduct that violates our policies, including policies against bullying, harassment or intimidation, we take action, and we have robust disciplinary processes that allow to hold individuals accountable," Gay said. 

After she would not say that the calls for the genocide of Jews was a breach of the Ivy League university's code of conduct, the local campus Jewish organization called on the president to "take action" to protect Jewish students.

The Jewish student organization, Harvard Hillel, said that President Gay's "refusal" to "draw a line" on threatening antisemitic speech is "profoundly shocking."

Fox News' Danielle Wallace and Sarah Rumpf-Whitten contributed to this report. 


Kendall Tietz is a Production Assistant with Fox News Digital. 

Authored by Kendall Tietz via FoxNews December 6th 2023