In a recent column published on his own website, Georgetown adjunct professor Michael Scheuer seemed to endorse the assassinations of President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron. Borrowing words from seventeenth-century British political theorist Algernon Sidney, he wrote, “every man might kill a tyrant; and no names are recorded in history with more honor, than of those who did it.” Scheuer clearly identifies Obama and Cameron as these tyrants, and the context of his column allows for little debate over the meaning of the concluding quote. Openly advocating for the assassination of two world leaders is questionable content for political dialogue—especially for an educator at a prestigious academic institution.
A fierce anti-war critic of the Bush administration, he wrote on a Ron Paul online forum in 2012, “Fox television would be missing a bet if it did not create a program called ‘Let’s Kill US Kids and Bankrupt America,’” and as a result, he was fired from his job at Fox News. Scheuer has also criticized the influence of Jewish policymakers in the United States, claiming in a 2008 column that “Israel-Firsters” had led the United States into the Iraq War and that Israel “owns the Congress.” Furthermore, he also suggested that Osama bin Laden is a beloved figure in Islam and that fighting al-Qaeda is akin to fighting the entire Muslim world.
Comments like these only serve to deepen religious and political division. In today’s constant cable news cycle, developing a tolerance for such extreme and dangerous rhetoric is unavoidable. Freedom of speech is important, therefore, Scheuer’s opinion that Obama and Cameron are tyrants, though extreme, deserves to be heard and included in open dialogue and debate. However, his encouragement of political violence against our own president and close ally is troublesome.
Scheuer’s remarks are particularly troubling due to his position as an adjunct professor at Georgetown’s Center for Peace and Security Studies. Students, especially those with leadership roles, are held to a certain standard when it comes to public remarks and assertions, as they are associated with their universities. Therefore, professors should be held to the same standard. Though the right of free speech extends to both students and professors alike, a professor who calls for the assassination of a president should not be associated with a university that prides itself as fostering rational debate among divergent opinions.
Professors should be cognizant of their connection to the university before publishing radical remarks, as any member of its academic community who advocates for murder as a potential solution to real foreign policy and security challenges reflects poorly upon Georgetown and its values.