The GW Commencement Controversy: A Response To Rep. Susan Wild
Added 05-16-22 10:55:02am EST - “This weekend, I was unable to attend our law school graduation after traveling to Utah to speak to the Federal Bar Association. I have only missed a couple of graduations in almost 30 years of teac?” - Jonathanturley.org
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This weekend, I was unable to attend our law school graduation after traveling to Utah to speak to the Federal Bar Association. I have only missed a couple of graduations in almost 30 years of teaching. I soon, however, received emails from students and colleagues that made me somewhat thankful that I was unable to attend.
This year’s commencement speaker was Rep. Susan Wild (D) who represents the 7th District in Pennsylvania and is a distinguished graduate of our law school. Wild chose the commencement address to launch into a personal attack that accused me of being an example of the use of law for “wrongful ends.” She falsely accused me of changing a critical legal point in my testimony in the Clinton and Trump impeachment hearings on whether impeachable conduct must be indictable crimes. I felt that a response was warranted.
Rep. Wild surprised many in the political tenor of her remarks, despite her other positive and inspiring points. These commencements are celebrations for our community as a whole, including students and family members who hold opposing views. While a minority to be sure, George Washington does have Republican, libertarian, and conservative members as well as those who subscribe to pro-life positions. As someone who has spoken at such commencements, it is a time when most of us avoid political partisanship and focus on the accomplishments of the students and our shared values.
Rep. Wild had many of the traditional and inspiring elements of a commencement speech. However, she suddenly and surprisingly veered off with an attack on my character, academic integrity, and scholarship. She made no effort to reach out to me before the commencement and clearly made no effort to confirm the underlying allegation. Indeed, she had every reason to expect me to be there (as I often am) and to just sit silently as she attacked my character. If Rep. Wild believes that I have misused my academic position for “wrongful ends,” this was the wrongful means to raise such false allegations, particularly without a modicum of research.
“You must be wary of those seeking to use their influence and their expertise to wrongful ends. GW Law, for example, has a tenured professor who is without question well versed in constitutional law but has recently made a name for himself on cable news and social media by undermining his own past well documented scholarship. A law professor who at one time strenuously advocated that a president need not commit an indictable offense to be impeached and in just this past year argued the opposite for a president more to his liking. A president no less who instigated an insurrection and a bloody assault on our democratic process and the rule of law.”
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