Harvard Dean Takes Back Chelsea Manning’s Visiting Fellow Invitation

He called it a 'mistake.'

September 15, 2017 4:13 pm
Chelsea Manning
ABC News' 'Nightline' co-anchor Juju Chang sits down with Chelsea Manning for the first exclusive television interview since Manning's prison release. The interview will air on an upcoming special edition of Nightline, 'Declassified: The Chelsea Manning Story.' (Heidi Gutman/ABC via Getty Images)

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government withdrew a visiting fellowship offered to Chelsea Manning, calling it a “mistake.” Manning was one of four visiting fellows announced earlier this week by the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

The university faced backlash from many, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo and others, for announcing Manning as one of the fellows. Manning is a former military intelligence analyst who spent seven years in prison for leaking classified government secrets.

Douglas W. Elmendorf, the school’s dean, wrote a 700-word statement released shortly after midnight Friday, saying that he accepts responsibility for the mistake, the Washington Post reports.

Elmendorf said that he realized many people view a Visiting Fellow title as “honorific,” and the school did not intend to honor Manning “in any way or endorse any of her words or deeds.”

Manning is still welcome to spend a day at the Kennedy School, reports the Post, and she is still invited to speak at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum.

The dean apologized to Manning and to the people he heard complaints from for “not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation,” writes the Post. 

In response, Manning tweeted that the school is suppressing “marginalized voices” and caving to pressure from the CIA.

Pompeo, who earned a law degree from Harvard, withdrew a planned appearance at the Kennedy School and criticized the institution for bringing attention to Manning. He wrote a letter to the event’s organizers, according to the Post, calling Manning an “American traitor.” He said that Harvard’s actions give students the impression that you can be a “fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law.”

Former CIA leader Michael Morell resigned from Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in response to the invitation. He said that the invitation “all but endorsed her decision to break the law,” reports the Post. Pompeo praised Morell’s decision to resign.

Manning, 29, was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 35 years in prison for providing classified documents to WikiLeaks. Former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s prison sentence before leaving office. WikiLeak’s founder, Julian Assange, tweeted about Pompeo’s withdrawal from his Harvard position.

Since leaving prison, Manning, who is transgender, has been a prominent voice for LGBT rights and the “social, technological, and economic ramifications of Artificial Intelligence,” as Harvard’s fellowship announcement noted, and the Post reports.

Other visiting fellows for the 2017-2018 academic year include Sean Spicer and Corey Lewandowski.

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