Harvard withdraws fellowship invitation to Chelsea Manning after outcry

After severe backlash, Harvard has withdrawn its invitation to convicted felon and “traitor” Chelsea Manning to serve as a visiting fellow.

Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government dean announced Friday that offering the fellowship to the U.S. Army soldier-turned-convicted felon was a “mistake” after the school faced heavy criticism from many, including members of Congress and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” Douglas W. Elmendorf wrote in a 700-word statement, according to The Washington Post.

Manning was one of four visiting fellows invited by the school, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, for the 2017-2018 school year. Manning was supposed to interact with students and host a forum to answer “hard questions” about her story.

But Elmendorf withdrew the invitation after realizing  “many people view a Visiting Fellow title as an honorific,” and the school had no intention to “honor [Manning] in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds.”

“I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation,” Elmendorf wrote.

The 29-year-old transgender woman, formerly known as Bradley Manning, was released from a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in May after serving seven years of a 35 year prison sentence. Manning was convicted in 2013 of espionage as an Army private first class for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. Former President Obama commuted Manning’s prison sentence before he left office, sparking an outcry from many who saw the leaks as a danger to American security.

Manning fired back at the school in a tweet in the early morning hours Friday.

The announcement by the school to offer the fellowship was met with fiery backlash this week, causing former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell to resign from Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs where he had been a fellow since September 2013.

“Senior leaders in our military have stated publicly that the leaks by Ms. Manning put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk,” Morell wrote. “I have an obligation in my conscience — and I believe to the country — to stand against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information.”

His decision was praised by former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

“Well done, Mike. And abject shame on Harvard,”  the 2012 GOP presidential candidate, who holds law and business degrees from Harvard, tweeted.

Manning, on the other hand, reacted with just one word.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo cancelled his appearance Thursday at Harvard University following the Manning announcement, slamming the appointment in a fiery letter to the organizers of the event at the Kennedy School of Government. Pompeo, who earned a law degree from Harvard, called Manning an “American traitor.”

“Harvard’s actions implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law,” he wrote. “I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”

Pompeo agreed with Morell and his decision to resign, writing that Harvard “traded a respected individual who served his country with dignity for one who served it with disgrace.”

Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney had called for funding to the Ivy League school to be cut after the appointment of the “spy/traitor” in a tweet on Thursday.

Manning, who has become a prominent voice for LGBT rights, is not giving interviews according to her website, the Post reported.

Pompeo and Morell did not indicate that their decisions were motivated by Manning’s choice to become a woman, but on her choices leading to conviction.

“It is my right,” Morell said, “indeed my duty, to argue that the School’s decision is wholly inappropriate and to protest it by resigning from the Kennedy School — in order to make the point that leaking classified information is disgraceful and damaging to our nation.”

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Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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