College Arts Director Ousted After Spat With Rep. Gohmert

The director of art galleries at a Texas university says he was asked to resign after getting into a bit of a spat with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) in which he called the congressman a “fear monger.”

Christian Cutler, who until recently ran the art galleries at the Stephen F. Austin State University, says it all began in early August, when an aide for Gohmert’s office called him up and asked him to judge a high school art show. According to Cutler, the aide said the show would be held in Tyler, about an hour and a half away from the Nagodoches campus.“I said, ‘Great, I would love to do it’,” Cutler told KLTV. But then Cutler saw Gohmert appear on CNN to discuss his theory that Middle Eastern women are having babies in the U.S. and then training them to be terrorists. The appearance quickly devolved into Gohmert shouting at Anderson Cooper.

The “terror babies” fiasco was enough for Cutler to change his mind.

When Gohmert’s office called him back to follow up, he said he had decided against judging the competition.

“I said I really don’t want to associate myself with Congressman Gohmert and I felt he was a sensationalist and from recent information via the Web and television I felt like he was a fear monger,” Cutler said.

Ten days later, on Sept. 20, he got a letter from Gohmert — with the college president, Baker Pattillo, CC’d. Gohmert wrote that he “disagrees” with Cutler’s view that Gohmert is a fear monger, “but will defend to the death your right to be misinformed.”

The letter also contained a surprise for Cutler: The art show in question was a Congressional regional high school art show and it wasn’t being held in Tyler — it was supposed to be hosted at the university, per an agreement between Gohmert and the school. Gohmert said he was re-locating the art show to a different venue.

“If I had that knowledge I certainly would have accepted the offer,” Cutler said. He said he tried to apologize to the school’s provost. But on Sept. 28, he was called into the dean’s office and told to resign. (Resigning, instead of being fired, allowed Cutler to get letters of recommendation from his colleagues at the school.)

Gohmert says he wasn’t trying to get Cutler fired.

“I did not ask nor desire that the Director of Art Galleries be dismissed and am not aware of all of the reasons for his dismissal,” he said in a statement. “I did not know he would be fired, did not seek it, and do not know all of the reasons for it. If the things he is misrepresenting now are any indication of past performance, then his actions in this incident may have been the least of his employment problems.”

Neither Cutler nor university officials returned requests for comment.

Late update: Cutler tells TPM that he’s now focused on trying to find a new job, armed with “glowing” recommendation letters from his dean and department chair.

He also balked at Gohmert’s suggestion that he had other “employment problems,” saying he received “outstanding” performance reviews in the three years he worked for SFA.

“I was in excellent standing with the university,” he said. “They handled this extremely poorly.”