In case you needed another example of why you should think before you tweet, Columbia University’s Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman is waking up today without a job. Lieberman was the psychiatry department chair at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and the psychiatrist-in-chief at Irving Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital.
Although he’s an award-winning doctor who has authored hundreds of papers on mental illness, Lieberman thought it was a good idea to retweet a photo of Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech. The original post is equally culturally-insensitive and claims that Gatwech is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having “the darkest skin ever seen on Earth.” Lieberman’s post added the caption, “Whether a work of art or freak of nature, she’s a beautiful sight to behold.” Lieberman’s now-deleted tweet sent Twitter users into an uproar, demanding his firing.
Columbia University responded by suspending Lieberman effective February 23, according to an internal email shared with NBC News.
In an interview with NBC New York, Gatwech called the comments “straight up racism.” The model then took to Instagram to respond to Lieberman’s post. “I have no idea where it originated, but my manager first brought it to my attention in 2020 and although we’ve denied it to multiple fact-checkers, clearly it’s still floating around even after @guinnessworldrecords stated that it does NOT monitor skin tones. I can’t imagine it’s even possible to know who’s the lightest or darkest person on the planet!” She went on to say, “I love my dark skin and my nickname ‘Queen of Dark,’ but I’ve never said I’m the darkest person on Earth.” As of this writing, the Guinness Book of World Records has not commented on the issue.
We may never know why Lieberman thought it was a good idea to share this post, but Twitter user, @MariedeGournay_ said it best, “The only thing good about this is now I know about Nyakim Gatwech. Wow.”