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Tags: obama | penny pritzker | claudine gay | harvard

Report: Obama Lobbied in Support of Harvard President

By    |   Friday, 22 December 2023 02:58 PM EST

Former President Barack Obama and former Obama administration official Penny Pritzker are drawing scrutiny in the controversy engulfing Harvard University President Claudine Gay as backlash grows concerning on how Gay handles antisemitism on the campus and after accusations that she allegedly plagiarized portions of her academic work.

Obama, a graduate of Harvard, is said to have privately lobbied in favor of Gay while she was being pushed to resign after her appearance before the House Education and Workforce Committee's hearing on antisemitism, reported The Jewish Insider, quoting a source.

"It sounded like people were being asked to close ranks to keep the broader administration stable — including its composition," said the publication's source, who had been informed about Obama's efforts and was asked to speak anonymously while discussing a confidential matter.

Obama's office has not responded to a request from Newsmax or The Jewish Insider for comment.

It's not clear if Pritzker, a senior fellow for the Harvard Corporation, the school's highest board, and who served as Obama's second-term commerce secretary, spoke with her former boss while the school's board was deliberating its support for Gay. 

The Harvard Corporation elected Pritzker, a billionaire Chicago hotelier, to the board as a senior fellow in 2022, with the appointment coming months after she donated $100 million to the university. 

She led the search committee naming Gay as the Harvard president in December 2022, and while announcing the hire called her a "remarkable leader who is profoundly devoted to sustaining and enhancing Harvard's academic excellence.”

Pritzker, rather than speaking publicly about Gay, Harvard's first Black president, signed a statement with the 11 members of the Harvard board, which last week unanimously backed the university president, The Jewish Insider reported. 

The board also accepted Gay's apology for the congressional testimony, when she would not specify whether calls for the genocide of Jews violate the Ivy League school's code of conduct.

Pritzker has not responded to requests for comment, and a Harvard spokesperson said she was not available for an interview. 

Critics are now questioning the vetting process for Gay, and donors are starting to pull away, according to Bloomberg.

Len Blavatnik, whose family foundation has given at least $270 million to Harvard, became the latest donor to pause contributions to Harvard. He told Bloomberg that "if Harvard has already lost a billion dollars in donations because of her testimony, her plagiarism, and her unwillingness to truly back free speech, the jury may still be out.”

Pritzker, while, keeping a low profile on Gay, has reportedly said she has misgivings about Harvard's delay in responding to the Hamas attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, after leading donors called on the university to rebuke a letter a coalition of student groups signed blaming Israel for the invasion.

Hedge fund manager Ken Griffin told The New York Times in October that Pritzker told him in a phone call that she agreed with his demand for Harvard to release a statement standing behind Israel. 

House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Fox, R-N.C., said in a letter to Pritzker on Wednesday that she is launching an investigation into Harvard's handling of the plagiarism accusations against its president. 

"An allegation of plagiarism by a top school official at any university would be reason for concern, but Harvard is not just any university. It styles itself as one of the top educational institutions in the country," Fox wrote.

Sandy Fitzgerald

Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics. 

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Former President Barack Obama and former Obama administration official Penny Pritzker are drawing scrutiny in the controversy engulfing Harvard University President Claudine Gay.
obama, penny pritzker, claudine gay, harvard
Friday, 22 December 2023 02:58 PM
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