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BBC rushes to defend Harvard’s president Gay

Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

President Gay, we hardly knew thee. Six months ago, the political scientist was appointed the head of Harvard University to much fanfare: hailed as a trailblazer, Gay was the first black woman to hold such a role. Now, after weeks of damning headlines, she has a new claim to fame: she is the shortest-serving president in four centuries of Harvard history. Girl boss!

Gay’s downfall came after a disastrous appearance last month at a congressional hearing on campus antisemitism. Throughout the grilling, she and her counterparts at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology repeatedly sidestepped the question of whether calls for the genocide of Jews violate the school’s conduct rules. Penn president Liz Magill resigned days after the widely-mocked hearing while the under-fire Gay faced claims of plagiarism in her past ‘scholarship’. Harvard apparatchiks tried to defend their beleaguered boss but last night she was forced to quit after six fresh allegations of plagiarism appeared in the Washington Free Beacon. That brought the total number of copying claims to nearly 50. Eat your heart out, Rachel Reeves.

This sorry tale is the accepted series of events by most media outlets: almost all, that is, except for the BBC. For according to the taxpayer-funded broadcaster, ‘Harvard’s Claudine Gay [is] a casualty of campus culture wars’ – a remarkably, er, generous interpretation of events. In a piece that would make Pravda blush, Anthony Zurcher, the BBC’s North America correspondent, bemoans how Gay’s departure is ‘being celebrated as a high-profile victory by conservatives who have objected to her on ideological grounds.’ ‘For her right-wing critics’, he continues, ‘Dr Gay – who is black – represents much of what they loath about modern American higher education.’

Among those irked by the characterisation of Gay as a victim was ex-Beeb North America Editor Jon Sopel, who asked his former employers on Twitter/X:

You sure you’ve got this headline right? What brought her down was her inability to say that calling for a holocaust would be offensive to Jewish students.

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Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

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