Controversies Social Media
Drexel George Ciccariello-Maher Latin American Studies Program at Cornell University./YouTube

This screen capture shows Drexel University professor George Ciccariello-Maher speak during a lecture at Cornell University in April 2016.

March 29, 2017

Drexel professor's tweet about military serviceman draws ire again

George Ciccariello-Maher posted that watching passenger on flight give up seat to man in uniform made him want to 'vomit or yell'

A Drexel University professor sparked outrage on social media this week after posting that he wanted to "vomit or yell" when he saw a fellow airline passenger give up his seat to an American military serviceman.


EARLIER STORY: Drexel calls professor's tweet about white genocide 'utterly reprehensible'


George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor at the college, posted the following tweet Sunday morning: "Some guy gave up his first class seat for a uniformed soldier. People are thanking him. I'm trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul."

Mosul is a reference to the Iraqi city where the U.S. is investigating military airstrikes that reportedly killed 200 civilians.

Ciccariello-Maher, who made headlines around Christmas when he attempted a satirical joke on Twitter about white genocide, has more than 10,000 followers and his latest tweet immediately caused an uproar from users across the political spectrum.

The professor has since elaborated on his position, claiming the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq "made the world a more dangerous place" and suggesting public school teachers, family doctors and public defenders are more worthy recipients of the gesture.

However, stating you want to vomit or yell because someone was giving away a first-class seat to a serviceman was tough to ignore. As of Wednesday evening, his tweet has more than 1,800 replies.

Despite the outcry, Ciccariello-Maher hasn't backed down and has engaged with his critics, both liberal and conservative.

"Frogmen" is an apparent reference to an internet meme, which has been declared a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League and frequently used by members of the "Alt-right," which is a an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism and populism.

Wednesday's controversy eventually caught the attention of conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who prodded her followers about his tweet:

Ciccariello-Maher quickly fired off a terse response, calling Coulter a white supremacist:

The firestorm was also fueled by right-wing websites The Daily Caller and Heat Street.

A self-described "radical political theorist", Ciccariello-Maher serves in Drexel's history and politics department. According to the university, he teaches about race, racism, prisons and policing. He previously taught radical theory and politics at the University of California-Berkeley, San Quentin State Prison and the Venezuelan School of Planning in Caracas.

Ciccariello-Maher released a statement Thursday afternoon via his Facebook page, explaining why he posted his tweet:

"Two days after U.S. airstrikes incinerated an estimated 200 civilians in the Iraqi city of Mosul, I sent a personal tweet in reaction to what I considered a smug and self-congratulatory gesture by a first-class passenger toward a uniformed soldier. Maybe predictably, my tweet has since been fed into and misrepresented by the outrage machine that is right-wing media. Needless to say, my personal views expressed off-campus have absolutely nothing to do with those of my employer, Drexel University.

I respect anyone who makes difficult and dangerous decisions out of economic necessity -- whether they are public school teachers, construction workers, economic migrants, or young soldiers. What I don't respect is a brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq that has not made our world any safer -- a war that has taken advantage of economically disadvantaged Americans, a war that has given the world ISIS, and a war that has wrought carnage like that seen in Mosul and elsewhere.

The best way to support troops is not with symbolic gestures and first-class seats, but by bringing them home safely, by ensuring that women in uniform are not subjected to what is an epidemic of sexual assault, and by providing dignified medical and psychological care. Those who today claim to demand respect for the troops show little in the way of respect for how they are treated in and out of the military."

In December, Drexel officials called Ciccariello-Maher's comments about white genocide "utterly reprehensible, deeply disturbing."

Attempts to reach the school were not immediately returned Wednesday evening.