White House: University Should ‘Look Into’ Professor Critical Of Trump

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, joined by Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, listens to reporters questions as she speaks to media aboard Air Force One, Monday, July 24, 2017, in Andrews Air Force Base, Md., en route to the 2017 National Scout Jamboree in Glen Jean, W.Va. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster/AP

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders late last week said that University of Nevada, Las Vegas administrators should “look into” a professor who said that “people will die” as a result of President Donald Trump’s election.

Sanders was responding to a secretly recorded video of assistant professor Tessa Winkelmann published Friday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Inside Higher Ed flagged Sanders’ statement on Monday.

In the video, recorded on Thursday, Winkelmann is seen telling students that she told her classes “three semesters ago” that “people will die because of this.” She also says “I don’t know that these events would have inevitably happened whether or not he got elected,” which some have interpreted as a reference to the mass shooting committed in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, four days prior to her comments.

“He’s threatened to declare violence against North Korea and other places, and words, especially if they’re coming from someone who is the President, have consequences. Right when he got elected, I told my classes, three semesters ago, that some of us won’t be affected by this presidency, but others are going to die. Other people will die because of this. And you’ve seen this happen, right. I don’t know that these events would have inevitably happened whether or not he got elected, but he has these kind of rhetorical powers every president has, to encourage or to discourage. So far all he’s done is to encourage violence.”

Reached for comment by the Review-Journal, Sanders said on Friday, “It is sad she is teaching students such divisive, inaccurate and irresponsible rhetoric.” Sanders added that Winkelmann “should be ashamed of herself, and the university should look into it. What a terrible example to set for students.”

Sanders did not respond to TPM’s questions about that statement, including whether it was appropriate to intervene in the university’s affairs.

A university spokesperson told the Review-Journal, referring to Winkelmann’s remarks, that “[w]hile we respect academic freedom in the classroom and the right to free speech, we believe the comments were insensitive, especially given the series of events this week and the healing process that has begun in the community.”

And Winkelmann herself said that she regretted “that my comments caused more pain during this difficult time. Emotions were running high and I wish I would have been more thoughtful in how I directed the conversation.”

Casino magnate and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson purchased the Review-Journal in late 2015, and journalists have since left the paper in droves, citing ethics and transparency concerns surrounding their new boss’s position as one of Las Vegas’ — and American politics’ — most powerful men.

Adelson donated millions to support Trump’s campaign and inauguration, and met with Trump privately before and after Election Day.

Sanders has advocated for the firing of the President’s critics before. When ESPN anchor Jemele Hill called Trump a white supremacist, Sanders said from the White House briefing room podium that the remark was “a fireable offense by ESPN.” Two days later, she stood by that judgment.

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