Robert O’Neill, a retired Navy SEAL who says he shot Osama bin Laden in the head, wants a word with a university professor who said giving plane seats to vets makes him nauseous. (Walter Hinick/ Montana Standard via AP)
Last December, a Drexel University professor found himself in the news over a tweet: “All I want for Christmas is White Genocide.”
George Ciccariello-Maher would spend the next several days defending himself from outrage — from Fox News hosts, right-wing writers, and even his own university, which released a statement calling the tweet “utterly reprehensible.”
But the professor said his tweet was satire. He avoided being disciplined, and eventually the furor died down.
Until last weekend, when Ciccariello-Maher tweeted again:
So it was back to Fox News — where this time the professor’s interrogators were ready.
After a few days of anger on social media and another public chiding from his employer, Ciccariello-Maher was invited to explain his tweet to Tucker Carlson last week.
“I don’t even understand,” Carlson began. “Was that satire too?”
Not this time, Ciccariello-Maher replied: “I think it’s really irresponsible to blindly support, for example, wars that send off young people into combat, risk their lives, kill many others as we’ve just seen in Mosul.”
The U.S. military has been accused of killing scores of civilians when it launched an airstrike against the Islamic State in the Iraqi city. Carlson listened to the explanation as if stunned, his lips slightly parted, then interrupted.
“But you’re blaming the soldier, you’re not blaming the policymaker,” he said. “Why did that make you feel like throwing up?”
[Professor keeps job after ‘white genocide’ tweet]
The professor tried again: “They don’t need symbolic gestures. What they need is not a first-class seat. They need health-care support, psychological support.”
This did not suffice. “Someone’s trying to be nice to the guy that’s going through all the hardship that you described,” Carlson said. “And that makes you mad?”
“I’m all for generous gestures,” Ciccariello said.
Carlson spent the rest of the segment making fun of the professor’s essays and writing abilities. “You’re not an impressive scholar,” he said. “You’re a performance artist.”
The scholar and Carlson argued over each other for nearly a full minute, before the camera finally cut away from Ciccariello-Maher, whose face was twitching slightly.
And it wasn’t over.
Fox and Friends recapped the entire saga the next day, then brought in a special pundit.
“What does the man who risked his life to kill Osama bin Laden have to say about that?” host Steve Doocy asked, introducing the Navy SEAL veteran who claims to have fatally shot the al-Qaeda leader.
[Why a conservative group says it regrets its portrayal of the Navy SEAL who killed bin Laden]
The SEAL, Robert O’Neill, said he couldn’t see the professor’s original tweet. (Most can’t; Ciccariello-Maher protected his account after the “white genocide” dispute.) But he knew what it said.
“This is a guy that lives in a bubble,” O’Neill said. “He deals with students all day that, regardless of what he says, they need his grade to get on with life. So he’s a tough guy.”
O’Neilly went on to defend those in the military.
“Most of the troops are very humble and when they hear ‘thanks for your service’ they kind of shy away. But support for the troops is buying them a beer at the airport, paying for their meal, giving them a first class seat.”
Before the segment ended, co-host Ainsley Earhardt made sure to steer clear of the professor’s example.
“Thanks for serving our country,” she told the SEAL.
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