BIG RAPIDS — A science professor at a Michigan university has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated after denying the severity of the coronavirus and using racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs on Twitter.
David Eisler, president of Ferris State University, said Monday in a statement that Thomas Brennan was placed on leave last week for his “offensive” remarks.
“Individually and collectively we were shocked and outraged by these tweets,” Eisler said. “They are extremely offensive and run counter to the values of our university and our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
The Torch, the university’s student-run newspaper, first reported last week about the professor’s tweets. According to the newspaper’s screenshots, Brennan tweeted anti-Semitic language and racist and homophobic slurs. One of Brennan’s tweets said: “Covid19 is another jewish revolution,” The Torch reported.
Breenan’s Twitter account is no longer public, and his tweets are only available to approved followers.
Following the newspaper’s report, Brennan said in a statement that he is not racist, anti-Semitic or a science denier.
Brennan, a physical science professor, justified his use of racist slurs in one of his tweets as an attempt to “neutralize its power.”
“I believe the ‘n-word’ is a mind-control spell designed to make us hate each other,” Brennan said in the statement. “I reject the premise that there are certain magic words that should never be used in any context or by certain people.”
He said he used the word as a synonym for “human being” or “person” in the context of the tweet.
Brennan also said the media and government have exaggerated the COVID-19 pandemic, but he acknowledged that it is not a hoax and it has killed many people.
John Smith, a university spokesman, declined to say whether Brennan was placed on administrative leave in response to the professor’s tweets, his comments about COVID-19 or both.
Eisler said Brennan disrupted a virtual department meeting in August with comments about COVID-19, in which he said the pandemic was a leftist stunt. Many were offended by his comments, and he was disciplined, Eisler said.