UT law professor apologizes for tweet about Charlotte protesters

The University of Tennessee is investigating a law professor Glenn Reynold's remarks on Twitter that urged motorists to run down protestors blocking a Charlotte highway.

A University of Tennessee law professor and prominent social media figure has apologized for his tweet that urged motorists to run down protesters blocking a Charlotte highway. 

Glenn Reynolds, who is also a columnist for USA TODAY, explained Thursday morning that Twitter suspended his account, but reinstated it on the condition he deleted the "offending tweet." 

USA TODAY announced Thursday night that it was suspending Reynolds's column for a month because it could be interpreted as inciting violence and it violated the expectations that its columnists "provide thoughtful, reasonable contributions to the national conversation, on all platforms." 

The suspension announcement also linked to an apology from Reynolds. 

"I didn’t live up to my own standards, and I didn’t meet USA TODAY’s standards. For that I apologize," he wrote on usatoday.com

Earlier in the day, the University of Tennessee school of law said it would be investigating the situation as well. 

"Run them down," Reynolds posted in reference to a news station's tweet about protesters stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles. The protests were in response to an incident on Tuesday in northeast Charlotte where police shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Scott. 

"But lest I be accused of airbrushing, it’s preserved here," Reynolds added online, providing a link to a screenshot of his original tweet. 

A representative of Twitter said the company does not discuss individual accounts, but sent a section of their policies that reads, "You may not make threats of violence or promote violence..."

During an interview with 10News, Reynolds said he now believes the tweet was misinterpreted. He said he'd just watched an interview with a trucker trapped inside the cab of the vehicle while looters rummaged through the trailer.

“I wasn’t saying run down peaceful protesters," he told 10News. "I was saying don’t stop -- keep driving, don’t let these people trap you in your truck. I was talking about ways to protect yourself. I wasn’t encouraging violence against peaceful protestors.”

Still, some online accused him of inciting violence.

“It's not inciting violence, inciting violence is when you intend to cause and are likely to cause an imminent lawless act," said Reynolds. "I was telling people not to let themselves be trapped and beaten up.”

“I'm hearing a lot of things about it," added Reynolds. "Somebody just tweeted out a picture of me and said people on the UT campus should run me down."

University of Tennessee College of Law Dean Melanie D. Wilson confirmed Thursday morning that the university is investigating the matter. 

Dean Wilson said she's aware of the remarks and the "serious and legitimate concerns expressed by members of the UT Law family and the University of Tennessee community." 

"Professor Reynolds has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform," she added. 

UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek issued a statement supporting Dean Wilson's response. 

Before Twitter unblocked his account Thursday morning, Reynolds defended what he wrote. 

"Sorry, blocking the interstate is dangerous, and trapping people in their cars and surrounding them is a threat. Driving on is self-preservation, especially when we’ve had mobs destroying property and injuring and killing people. But if Twitter doesn’t like me, I’m happy to stop providing them with free content," Reynolds wrote. 

He said once he finishes responding to critics, he plans to delete his Twitter account.

"It's not fair," he said. "Twitter is a private company and can do what they want, but they say they don't censor and yet they do."

As for the University investigation, he said as a professor, he has a right to free speech and academic freedom.

"As a previous dean of mine said, the answer to speech you don't like is more speech," said Reynolds. "I think if people don't like what I have to say, they should respond to it, not shut me up."

Full statement from the University of Tennessee College of Law Dean

"College of Law Dean Responds to Professor’s Twitter Post

"I am aware of the remarks made last night on Twitter by Professor Glenn Reynolds and of the serious and legitimate concerns expressed by members of the UT Law family and the University of Tennessee community, as well as concerned citizens across the country. Professor Reynolds’ comments do not reflect my views and opinions, nor do they reflect the values of the college and university.

University administrators, college faculty, and I are investigating this matter.

The university is committed to academic freedom, freedom of speech, and diverse viewpoints, all of which are important for an institution of higher education and the free exchange of ideas. My colleagues and I in the university’s leadership support peaceful civil disobedience and all forms of free speech, but we do not support violence or language that encourages violence.

Professor Reynolds has built a significant platform to discuss his viewpoints, but his remarks on Twitter are an irresponsible use of his platform.

The College of Law is committed to ensuring our students learn in a welcoming, open, and inclusive community in which they can successfully pursue their law degrees and become not only responsible lawyers, but also responsible global citizens who are able to competently represent people of all backgrounds."

 

 


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