A Fresno State University lecturer has been placed on paid leave after tweeting that President Trump “must hang” to save American democracy.
Lars Maischak, who teaches history, will spend the rest of the spring semester off-campus, Fresno State President Joseph Castro said in a statement Tuesday.
The professor, who has worked in the history department since 2006, will no longer have a teaching role but will conduct research elsewhere, Castro said. In the meantime, he added, the university would continue to review the matter.
Reached via email, Maischak declined to comment Tuesday.
Maischak is the latest person to suffer the consequences for publicly wishing death upon Trump, joining others who have been punished in recent months for making threatening or inflammatory statements about the chief executive on social media.
It started with a tweet Maischak wrote in February. “To save American democracy, Trump must hang,” he told his 28 followers. “The sooner and the higher, the better.”
The tweet remained lost in the ether until April 8, when Breitbart News published it in an article saying his remarks exemplified why “universities across the country are now viewed with disdain.”
Outrage erupted, and a petition circulated online calling for the professor to be fired. (It had not reached its goal of 1,500 signatures as of Wednesday morning.) The FBI and Secret Service launched investigations into his remarks, while Fresno State tried to distance itself from him.
In a statement last week provided to the Fresno Bee, Maischak apologized for the tweet, saying he meant no harm.
“My statements each represent the end point of a dark train of thought triggered by my despair over the actions of the U.S. government,” Maischak said.
“It felt cathartic at the time to write them down,” he said. “I never expected them to be read by anyone but a close circle of acquaintances who would know to place them in their context.”
He has since deleted his Twitter account, he said, to “preclude the possibility that anyone reading my statements in the future would take them as encouragement to act violently or unlawfully.”
Maischak told the Fresno Bee that nobody had reacted negatively to the tweet before the Breitbart article ran. In the days that followed, he said, he received hundreds of emails and social media messages calling for him to be “fired, deported or killed.”
Maischak’s faculty biography lists his interests as “Nineteenth-Century United States, Transnational History; Political Economy,” and his courses, among others, as Colonial Americas, American History to 1877, Topics in Intellectual History — Marx and Hegel for Historians.
Others have found themselves in hot water for similar remarks.
Shortly after the presidential election in November, the former chief executive of a California-based cybersecurity start-up came under fire after he threatened on Facebook to assassinate Trump.
“I’m going to kill the President Elect,” Matt Harrigan wrote. “Getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts.”
Like Maischak, Harrigan said he believed his posts would only be seen by a small circle of friends who understood their context. But within a week, they started showing up on social media, drawing thousands of angry responses on Reddit and Twitter. Eventually, federal investigators contacted him.
In an interview with The Washington Post at the time, Harrigan apologized for the threats, calling them a “bad joke” made in a moment of alcohol-fueled frustration. He resigned from his company in mid-November.
In January, around the time of Trump’s inauguration, a Louisville woman was reportedly fired from her job at an insurance company and investigated by the Secret Service after she called for Trump’s assassination on Twitter. “If someone was cruel enough to assassinate MLK, maybe someone will be kind enough to assassinate Trump,” read the tweet, according to the Courier-Journal.
Throughout his time in the White House, President Barack Obama’s detractors called for him to be hanged. Given the country’s history of lynchings after the Civil War, the threats carried a racial component.
In one instance in 2015, Jeff Gullickson of Plymouth, Minn., tweeted at Obama, “hope to see you hang soon you treasonous fraud.” When the tweet surfaced in a New York Times story, Gullickson was investigated by authorities and later fired from his job at a used car lot, as Minnesota Public Radio reported.
Unlike Maischak, Gullickson was unapologetic. “My only regret,” he told MPR, “is being called racist when my opinion has more to do with him being a communist as opposed to being black.”
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