A New Jersey college has defended the firing of an African-American adjunct professor who engaged in a racially charged war of words with Fox News’ host Tucker Carlson on national TV earlier this month.
Citing an “outpour of concern” from students, faculty and the community following former professor Lisa Durden’s prime-time feud, newly appointed Essex County College President Anthony E. Munroe reiterated the institution’s commitment to the right to free speech and the sharing of independent views and expressions. However, Munroe argued that “racism cannot be fought with more racism.”
“The character of this institution mandates that we embrace diversity, inclusion and unity,” the president said Friday, June 23, in an emailed statement. “In consideration of [Essex’s] mission, and the impact that this matter has had on the College’s fulfillment of its mission, we cannot maintain an employment relationship with the adjunct.”
“The College affirms its right to select employees who represent the institution appropriately and are aligned with our mission,” he added.
Durden was initially suspended with full pay for the remainder of the summer after she defended an “all-Black” Memorial Day celebration hosted by Black Lives Matter, telling a clearly annoyed Carlson, “Boo hoo hoo, you white people are just angry you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited into the Black Lives Matter all-Black Memorial Day celebration.”
The racially charged quip ultimately cost the communications professor her job, as she was fired soon after addressing the college community at an open forum on June 20, according to Munroe.
At no point during the interview did Durden identify herself as an Essex County College professor. In fact, she made it a point to clarify that her views were her own and no one else’s. Carlson simply introduced her as a “political commentator and Black Lives Matter supporter.”
“My name is Lisa Durden,” Durden said at one point during the June 6 interview. “I’m speaking for Lisa Durden.”
Just days after her firing, the ousted professor told NJ.com on Friday that she’d received an overwhelming amount of support from fellow staff members and students, and likened her predicament to a rape victim who ultimately gets blamed for the crime. She also compared her experience to someone who returns home from war only to be greeted by a hostile environment.
“It should be a safe place for me,” Durden said of the two-year community college. “I thought when I came home from war, I would be safe.”
Leslie Farber, Durden’s lawyer, told the new site they’re considering taking legal action against the institution.
“I believe their first suspending and then firing her was directly because of her appearing on the Tucker Carlson TV show and is a violation of her federal and state constitutional rights to free speech,” Farber said.