Harvard spurs controversy after revoking Manning’s fellowship
Harvard’s controversial decision first to offer and then to rescind a visiting fellowship to Chelsea Manning has boiled over into an tense, uncompromising debate.
Her detractors believe she betrayed the United States when, as an Army intelligence analyst, she divulged government secrets.
Manning’s legions of admirers are inspired by her strident opposition to government secrecy.
And the Kennedy School is now caught in the middle for apparently bowing to pressure from CIA Director Mike Pompeo and others, but also for what some consider the institution’s double standard in maintaining its association with other controversial figures. To quickly recap: On Wednesday, the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics named Manning a visiting fellow, one of four additions to a lineup that includes Sean Spicer, President Donald Trump’s short-lived White House press secretary, and Corey Lewandowski, who was fired as Trump’s campaign manager several months before the election. As part of the program, visiting fellows appear on Harvard’s campus for speaking engagements and events. Then on Thursday, citing “an obligation to my conscience — and I believe to the country,” the CIA’s former acting director, Michael Morell, a fellow since 2013, resigned in protest.
On Friday, Harvard published a 700-word statement from Kennedy School Dean Douglas W. Elmendorf, who sought to rationalize the meaning of Harvard fellowships before concluding that offering one to Manning was a “mistake,” and he withdrew the invitation.
Morell hailed the decision, saying Elmendorf demonstrated “courage and wisdom.”
Addressing Pompeo and Morell on Twitter, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., wrote: “Thank you for standing up for our troops & intelligence officers.”
Trevor Timm, who heads the Freedom of the Press Foundation, called this connection “unfounded.” Writing Friday in The New York Times, he argued that no evidence has ever come to light linking Manning’s disclosures to compromised safety.
“Mr. Morrell, in his resignation letter, quoted unnamed officials claiming Ms. Manning ‘put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk,’ without citing any specific examples. This is a common charge against her, and an unfounded one: The evidence of ‘damage’ from Ms. Manning’s leaks has been grossly exaggerated.”
He also noted two other Kennedy School fellows and the apparent double standard their participation highlights.
“Other 2017 visiting fellows include Sean Spicer, President Trump’s first press secretary, who was accused of lying to the public on almost a daily basis by reporters, and the former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who was arrested for committing battery against a journalist during the 2016 campaign.”