Archive for Monday, September 23, 2013

Professor getting death threats over NRA tweet, colleagues support his free-speech rights

September 23, 2013


Kansas University journalism professor David W. Guth's message about the NRA on social media last week has prompted anger from gun rights supporters, rebuke from KU officials, an indefinite leave from his job and, now, death threats from some angered by his tweet.

Meanwhile, his journalism school colleagues issued a statement in support of his free-speech rights and the chancellor issued a statement saying that the decision to put Guth on leave was not related to the content of his message on Twitter.

Today Guth said he had received thousands of angry tweets, emails, phone calls and Facebook posts since last week. Among those messages have been death threats, which Guth has shared with the Lawrence Police Department so it can help him monitor the situation, he said. "I'm not taking them too seriously, but I'm not ignoring them."

Last week, Guth posted a message on Twitter in the aftermath of the shootings in the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard that left 13 dead.

"The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you,” Guth tweeted.

The message was met by anger and outrage from gun rights supporters and others who said that Guth was wishing death on the children of NRA members. KU officials condemned Guth's tweet, and by the end of the week he was placed on indefinite administrative leave with pay.

Support from colleagues

Several of Guth's colleagues voiced their support for him in a statement today signed by 13 professors of the KU School of Journalism: "We do not agree with our colleague David Guth’s recent comments, but we support his right to express his ideas, just as we support the rights of others to express their own opinions about his comments."

They added, "Because of the polarized nature and volume of response to Professor Guth’s comments, we support his decision and the decision of the university administration for Professor Guth to transfer his students and classes to other professors at this time."

Guth said that he had "received no indication" that his leave was disciplinary, but rather it was a measure to protect his safety as well as that of students and the public.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement today that the decision to put Guth on leave "was taken in order to avoid further disruption of the learning environment and not because of the nature of the professor’s comments, regardless of how controversial they may be."

To determine when it will be appropriate for Guth to return, a group will be formed to advise the provost, said Timothy Caboni, KU's vice chancellor for public affairs.

The group will not have decision-making authority. Instead, Caboni said it will advise the provost's office based on its assessment of whether or not "the conditions and concerns have changed enough to allow for (Guth's) return in a way that is not disruptive."

The group will be composed of staff members from KU's risk management, student affairs, public safety, facilities and provost's offices, as well as a senior faculty member from a school other than the journalism school.

Duration of leave is uncertain

Caboni said he did not know how long Guth's leave might last. Officials have made arrangements for Guth's classes to be taught by other faculty members for the rest of the semester. Reports surfaced that Guth had agreed to go on a planned sabbatical early, but Caboni refuted them in a statement earlier today.

The controversy around Guth's tweet could spill into other university bodies as well. Faculty Senate President Christopher Steadham said that group has been "actively monitoring the situation."

"We certainly recognize the need to have a swift formal response," he said, but declined to elaborate on what form that response would take while the senate is still gathering information and opinions from faculty members.

Meanwhile Kansas state legislators continued in their condemnation of Guth, some of them calling for his dismissal.

Legislators and others who want Guth fired are focusing on a portion of the tweet that they say calls for violence. But Guth says his tweet is being misinterpreted.

State Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, said the tweet is inexcusable because it "urges people to use guns to perpetrate violence on other people and their children." Smith, whose daughter Kelsey, 18, was a murder victim in 2007, said, "I am aghast at his conduct."

Last week, Guth said he wasn't advocating violence. He said he was trying to make gun advocates see mass shootings from the view of the victims.


estafel 6 months, 2 weeks ago

No law protects me from having my feelings hurt. However, I think Ruth's remarks are telling of someone unfit to administer higher education. Lower set the bar, KU. I think there's another notch are two.


Scott Morgan 6 months, 3 weeks ago


I should have stated, tired of anti-gun talk. My bet is you never grew up in a hunting/fishing/hiking love the outdoors family.

Not a hunter anymore, but have no problem with those who do. You will find hunters and fisherpeople are some of the most kind and helpful individuals you will ever meet. Yes indeed, I have my eye on a gorgeous Browning .22 lever action rifle.

I'm truly sorry you feel so agitated over a tool. Total honesty, am sorry. In days gone by our ancestors used to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Perhaps the anger you feel in regard to guns should be directed towards our liberal interpretation of the horrid phrase brought to us by reformist Jimmy Carter, "are you a danger to yourself or others."

Jimmy by the way is/was a hunter, as Bill Clinton, but it was Jimmy who shut down the American system of dealing with the severe mentally ill.

The horrible shootings in recent history were done by individuals who should have been in an institution. No, not in our time in history, these folks end up in community based mental health programs Mr. Carter put in place.

Oh, the answer most often given by the severe mentally ill to the question, are you a danger to yourself or others, is "of course not."


Scott Morgan 6 months, 3 weeks ago

As with many I tire of gun talk. A couple of facts.

Most if not all guns used for target shooting and hunting have or are being used in the military. From the bird and clay pigeon shooters favorite Remington 870 shotgun (Trench Gun) to the Ruger Ranch Rifle (M1 Carbine) are still big sellers.

From Flintlocks, to the modern Black Guns younger shooters use for target and hunting were all military first. The AK-47 is used mainly for target shooting, and not well I may add. The surge of the M-16 type (Black Rifle) rifle is based on the excellent accuracy and proven winner in long distance target shooting.

Compared to a legal Browning Semi Auto in 30-06 the AK is quite a wimp.

My favorite styles were used in WWI and WW2, with of course restrictions.

Although a Black Gun in .22 Cal. maybe my next purchase.


Armored_One 6 months, 3 weeks ago

My brain hurts after reading all of this.

Have you ever said something, just once, that makes the little guy in the back of your head with the bullhorn start shrieking at you about how totally stupid that was to say?

Has you ever swallowed so much of your pride that you start choking on it and say "Enough is enough!"?

I don't know this Guth fellow anymore than I likely know anyone else posting on here. Even if I did, I doubt I could read his mind and find out what the inner monologue to all of this truly is. I'm reasonably sure that no one else that has ever posted on the LJW forums can say it and be telling the truth.

Oh, and for the record, political lobbyists are NOT an ethnicity or religious group that has been subjected to malicious physical attacks. They have not been sold into physical slavery and no one has tried to ethnically cleanse the world of their taint. Stop saying that they should be afforded the same protections as religions, ethnic groups, so on and so forth.

I'm sick of the talk of guns, truth be told. No one can give me a good reason why an AKC-47 is a hunting rifle, so I give up. The only thing the designers intended that gun to be used to hunt walks on two legs. 30.06 will drop a deer basically every time, unless you are a poor shot. Let's just discuss that gun. What four legged creature does anyone hunt on a regular basis that would require that kind of firepower? If you need 30 shots to kill Bambi, you might want to take up another hobby because you apparently suck at hunting.


In_God_we_trust 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Makes one wonder if this story is made up, in an attempt to generate sympathy for the professor to try to get him out of hot water??? It would have the effect of taking attention off of the professor and converting him into a victim.


Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 6 months, 3 weeks ago

He's suspended for the rest of the semester "for his safety", goes on "sabbatical" for a year, comes back and retires. Problem solved, no law suit and legislators get their wish and don't slash the university's budget. Everybody gets something.


Richard Heckler 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Scott Rothschild & Ben Unglesbee,

" death threats from some angered by his tweet." Has the FBI been contacted regarding these death threats?

If these threats had been made against a high government official the FBI would be at someone's door step inquiring as what the hell is going on. This man is as important as any government official.

Is the FBI in the process of investigating? As a citizen I want the FBI contacted about all death threats connected to this matter and investigated. There is no doubt in my mind about the ability of the FBI being able to track down the source of online threats. If this man were the USA President I'm certain the FBI would know.

Scott Rothschild & Ben Unglesbee what can be known at this time regarding FBI involvement?


HutchSaltHawk 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I had some confidence in the Chancellor until her actions, namely bowing to the wishes of a few legislators and the NRA. Time to go back to North Carolina Bernadette. You have handled this very poorly. You should be supporting your staff. Next you will only allow professors to teach what the legislature wants you to teach. Where are we on evolution?


Brian Conrad 6 months, 3 weeks ago

free speech *FIRE** bomb threat , or any kind of threat is not free speech.. just wish everyone taking up for this guy knew how much of a JERK he is.. he should be fired because of who he is.. then he sit around and tweet his heart out.......

Remember David Guth Associate Professor of Journalism, engaged in unprofessional, threatening, and abusive behavior towards another faculty member in an
*October 8, 2010** incident. His conduct violated acceptable standards for professional ethics, University policies and Article V.2 and Article V.5 of the Faculty Code of Conduct. The University of Kansas censured him for these actions. Professor Guth’s continued pattern of abusive behavior, as evidenced by not only his Twitter post but his enthusiastic support of the post, which urges people to use guns to perpetrate violence on other people and their children, is not excusable. It also shows that Professor Guth is not against violence but sees it as a means to an end as long as it supports his views.


Amy Heeter 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Too much drama. Free speech is still free. KU is wrong. The NRA us wrong here. Some are worried about keeping thier guns, but the fools better be watching thier right to speak freely. Watch what you wish for because you just may get it.


guess_again 6 months, 3 weeks ago

It is amazing how the Haters are now worried about Hate speech. Satirical is example number one.


jafs 6 months, 3 weeks ago

According to a quick search, legally "hate speech" is not protected speech, and is in fact prohibited.


Satirical 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Did everyone else here also wake up this morning and think, "You know what KU needs more of...professors engaging in hate speech so KU's reputation will improve."?

Or was I the only one?


seebarginn 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The best way to make it so retaliation against people like Guth--which is actually retaliation against the university, which so many in the state legislature would like to shut down or turn into a training camp for indoctrination in the gospels according to Koch and Palin--is less likely, is for people to get organized and change the personnel who dominate the state legislature. So long as Kansas is run by reactionary swine, there will be more of this.


Steven Gaudreau 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Im curious what kind of law would have prevented this particular killing spree? The man got through much higher levels of multiple security then any gun law suggested by the anti gun groups. What gun law has anti gun proposed that would have stopped this man? The only law that MAY have prevented these killings would be the total abolishment of guns which is a fantasy.
Anyone not obsessed with attacking each others political views can see this was a mental health issue which was ignored several times up to the attack. If we could put party politics aside and deal with the issue of mental health, maybe something would improve. For know, it's just a bunch of whiney babies blaming and finger pointing.


Centerville 6 months, 3 weeks ago

If it's OK to wish for the murder of children of people you don't even know, because you don't like a club to which they belong, what kind of treatment do you throw at a student who doesn't share your love of goose-stepping? And what gives you any authority to damn people? Delusions of significance?


Roland Gunslinger 6 months, 3 weeks ago

You're comparing apples to oranges.

NRA members are not a protected class.

Jews, minorities, etc are.


Satirical 6 months, 3 weeks ago

So, just so I am clear, those who support no action by KU, would those people also support a KU professor making anti-semitic, racist, bigoted or other hate speech?

To be clear, I am not asking your opinion on what the law does allow, I am asking your opinion on what you think would be appropriate if you were "King or Queen for a day."


Satirical 6 months, 3 weeks ago

It is sad when someone threatens the life, or wishes for the death of a person, or their offspring.

I suppose hate begats hate.


yourworstnightmare 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Did Virgil Peck receive death threats for saying that hispanics should be shot from helicopters?


mags_and_k 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I wish all this outrage, opinions, comments, actions, etc. be directed at the problem of violent crimes perpetrated by guns that cause loss of innocent lives. Going on and on and on, day after day about Prof Guth's words isn't helping a damn thing! It was an opinion, get over it!

If it makes you angry do something productive towards the solution to this sad, growing problem.


Liberty275 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Could some kind and generous soul please tell me where I can find American "hate speech" laws? I believe hate speech is protected speech.


optimist 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Mr. Guth is an idiot, those threatening him are idiots and the rest of us are caught in the middle, captivated by their idiocy. That said, Mr. Guth's behavior was unbecoming someone that holds the position that he does at an institution of higher learning. For that reason I believe he reflects poorly on the University and have no opposition to his dismissal if the University of Kansas, as his employer, decides that his continued presence causes more harm to the University’s reputation than the value he brings to the organization as an instructor. It is a simple business decision. I do not however condone threatening harm or harming someone for saying something stupid. I’m sure we’ve all said or done things we regretted. Saying something stupid doesn’t warrant the death penalty. Get a grip!


Chris Bohling 6 months, 3 weeks ago

IMHO free speech should always be protected assuming you are haranguing a person or group based on something they chose to believe, say, or do rather than something they inherently are. You should be allowed to criticize a person's religious or political views as vehemently as you want; it should only become a hate crime if you attack something inherent to that person like their ethnicity. So in this case I would support the professor's right to free speech.

Of course I know that's not how it actually works but that's how it ought to work.


gl0ck0wn3r 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Ok, I have modified my point of view regarding his suspension. Previously, I had assumed - based on a lack of clarity from the university - that he had been suspended because of the actual tweet. My contention is that anyone who is that bad at communicating shouldn't be teaching strategic communications.

However, based on the university statement, it appears he was placed on leave - at least in part - because of threats. I do not agree with this and I believe the university should have made alternate arrangements to keep both Guth and his students safe.

Unfortunately, neither side has a monopoly on anonymous people who like to send death threats to people with whom they disagree. Although I fundamentally disagree with Mr. Guth's tweet and the argument behind it, I do not believe threatening anyone is an appropriate response.


jafs 6 months, 3 weeks ago

It was a stupid and provocative thing to say.

And, it's very possible that NRA members have lost loved ones in this sort of violent attack.

Also, "pro gun" folks don't want violence, and believe that their ideas, like more armed citizens, will actually decrease it, and associated fatalities.

One can/should disagree with this idea based on logic and reason, but nobody should be wishing others' children die in violent attacks.


bd 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This nutjob is teaching our kids??????


neworleans 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Send him to California; he will fit right in.


tomatogrower 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Why didn't the following people lose their tax payers jobs for their following remarks? These were direct threats of violence against people. All Guth said was that NRA supporters might think differently if there families were the victims.

Virgil Peck - "Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem," he said, according to The Wichita Eagle."

Read more:

"Mike O'Neil - Let his days be few; and let another take his office May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes. May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor. May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children. O’Neal forwarded the prayer with his own message: “At last — I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president! Look it up — it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!”


RibMan 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Guth probably isn't being completely honest in his tweet. Sounds like he's really angry about the 2nd Amendment. The NRA teaches gun safety and responsibility---- members know this. My guess is he isn't a member, just a smear merchant--- which is his right. KU has a problem on their hands and there is no easy answer here. Guth put them in an uncomfortable position.

"The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you."

I'd love to hear his thoughts on Planned Parenthood. Some of their clinics perform illegal abortions. The Constitution protects the right to abortion and the right to bear arms.


rlsd 6 months, 3 weeks ago

That tweet was so vicious and thoughtless, free speech yes, have a brain to put a filter on it, yes. Obviously he do not and I would not want him in my kids classroom showing them this kind of display. May the donations cease until he is gone.....


Bob_Keeshan 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Earlier this year, Sen. Greg Smith criticized the budget he supported for underfunding the Department of Corrections and promised to do all he could to increase funding for Corrections.

Apparently he thinks Margie Phelps, who has rejoiced in the death of Americans, encouraged people to pray for the death of US soldiers, and advocated for the death penalty for gay men and women, doesn't have enough funding. Greg Smith has no concerns about funding for Corrections and their Director of Re-Entry Margie Phelps.

Clearly, this is because Sen. Greg Smith agrees with the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church.


FarleyM 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you,” Guth tweeted.

Is a wish to the world for death of children, that instigates thoughts toward that end, free speech? Absent of fire, is screaming "fire" at Liberty Hall free speech?


question4u 6 months, 3 weeks ago

When Republican State Representative Virgil Peck advocated, on the floor of the Kansas House, the use of automatic weapons and helicopters to murder immigrants State Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland said that Peck's speech was inexcusable because it "urges people to use guns to perpetrate violence on other people and their children.'"

Wait, no he didn't.

Smith must have said that when Republican Speaker of the House Mike O'Neal sent an email about Obama, including the first part of a biblical quote that ends "may his children be orphans and his wife a widow."

Wait, no, Smith didn't say it then either.

What's the pattern here?


stevieboy 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This professor thinks he was suspended for his own safety ?...he should be fired..


fmrl 6 months, 3 weeks ago

"This matter is a KU situation that does not need any rhetoric from Topeka,Kansas." Last time I checked KU was not a private college. Guth is a State of Kansas employee entrusted to "teach" its students. Should the State of Kansas be paying someone for this who has displayed hostile, childish, egomaniacal disregard? Colleges are hardly bastions of free speech rights. Just this week SJSU stopped a kid from handing out copies of the Constitution on Constitution Day. I remember as far back as 1975 when KU cancelled a talk by Arthur Jensen because it was not politically correct enough.


Din Rosa 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I always thought that the current KU administrators are decent, likable people, but it had been so dispiriting to rarely see them show backbone, and it had been hard for me to truly respect them. But they now finally have my heartfelt respect. I had guessed that Guth's treatment wasn't as harsh as what was publicly implied, but it still bothered me to see the power of politics over university administrators, or at least power over how KU was (embarrassingly) presenting itself. I'm relieved that they are not so beaten down or so weak after all, and they do in fact have some backbone and will stand up for what is right. Come on people, it was just a careless tweet, and the whole thing was ridiculously blown out of proportion, by people who take pleasure in blowing things out of proportion. Tweets are by design spontaneous things, not carefully thought-out statements (except of course by professional PR folks). When people are passionate and really care about something, they will mess up sometimes, and there is a cost to making such a big fuss about it, and suppressing harmless expressions of passion. I do not believe for a nanosecond that anyone with half a brain honestly believes that this prof. truly advocated violence. All the outrage is just against his political views, and for the joy of making noise. It's been interesting and even a bit fun watching this story unfold, but after a while the noise gets tiresome.


Richard Heckler 6 months, 3 weeks ago

This matter is a KU situation that does not need any rhetoric from Topeka,Kansas. Topeka,Ks has been home to ALEC Right Wing spin for too many years. Let's flush it down the toilet.


Richard Heckler 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The NRA is National Right Wing Association PAC that sponsors violent rhetoric and supports individual military arsenals throughout neighborhoods.

Perhaps this is among the reasons local law enforcement feels a need to become a satellite military operation.


Currahee 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder how the KU professors would have reacted if someone they knew in the NRA stated that they wished death upon kids of those who oppose gun laws. Would they say, "We support their exercise of free speech"? Free speech is free speech, but should it not be used responsibly? If you are in a position to educate- a position of leadership- is it responsible to make such comments? As a professional, Prof. Guth should have known where the line was. He could have made a statement that was not as offending, but he did.Very unprofessional conduct.


jack22 6 months, 3 weeks ago

JayhawkFan, America has a very long history of banning questionable books and assassinating political leaders. Senator Joseph McCarthy condemned books for promoting Communism and those books were pulled from library shelves and burned. And what about Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, John F Kennedy, etc., weren't they assassinated for their beliefs?


kuhoopsfan 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Gee ... just when it looked like the chancellor was starting to do the right thing by beginning the termination process for Mr Guth I read her statement of today that indirectly supports Mr Guth's hate filled tweet by stating that the decision to put the professor on leave has nothing to do with what he said. Then I read that the provost is trying to determine how long Mr Guth should stay away ... reminds me of the Godfather when Vito Corleone says Michael had to leave the country after all those false charges and he now had to figure out how to bring Michael back.

Tenure does not provide complete immunity from the consequences of one's speech. There are many, many examples of words that could replace "NRA" in Mr Guth's tweet that would have resulted in his immediate termination ... muslims, blacks, gays, jews. Many who are defending him now, would have been calling for his termination if he had called for the damnation of muslims after 9/11, or the Benghazi embassy attack.

Look, I'm all for academic freedom ... but hate speech shouldn't be protected. Let Mr Guth suffer the consequences of his ignorance.


patkindle 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I am sure some professors would like to support the freedom of Speech issue, but I doubt if any of them would post under their own name some childish rant like their colleague


bluefirebird 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Mizzou's journalism school is way better than KU's, so keep up the good work professors. I imagine its hard to teach a class when you piss off thousands of people with a tweet and are getting a high volume of death threats. And going to the cops with the death threats seems like a violation of free speech to me, hypocrite.


JayhawkFan1985 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I think his tweet was stupid. The stupidity was compounded by the university suspending him for tweeting something stupid and compounded farther by many private citizens grossly overreacting to the tweet by making threats. This is America, not nazi germany, not Stalinist Russia. We don't burn books here. We don't shoot people for what they think or what they say. To do so, is unamerican.


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