The University of Tennessee will not take disciplinary action against the law professor who urged Charlotte, N.C., motorists to run down protesters who were blocking roads last week, the school announced Tuesday.
“In short, no disciplinary action will be taken against Professor Reynolds. The tweet was an exercise of his First Amendment rights,” College of Law Dean Melanie D. Wilson said in a statement. “Nevertheless, the tweet offended many members of our community and beyond, and I understand the hurt and frustration they feel.”
Glenn Reynolds, a conservative writer and law professor who created the Instapundit blog, tweeted, “Run them down” in response to a tweet from a news station in Charlotte that showed protesters on Interstate 277.
Reynolds’ account was briefly suspended by Twitter, but Twitter reinstated his account after he agreed to delete the offensive tweet.
While the university may not be taking action against Reynolds, the Knoxville News Sentinel, which is part of the USA Today network and where Reynolds is also a contributor, reports that Bill Sternberg, USA Today’s editorial page editor, said that Reynolds had violated the newspaper’s standards, and suspended his twice-weekly column for a month.
"USA TODAY expects its columnists to provide thoughtful, reasoned contributions to the national conversation, on all platforms," Sternberg wrote in a statement. "Glenn Reynolds' 'Run them down' tweet, in response to a news report about protesters in Charlotte stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles, was a violation of that standard and can be interpreted as an incitement to violence."
Reynolds issued his own statement Tuesday in an email addressed to the University of Tennessee College of Law community, saying that he tries to be careful and precise in his language and that he didn’t mean to make anyone sad or mad.
I was following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence, which seemed to be getting worse. Then I retweeted a report of mobs “stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles” with the comment “run them down.”
Those words can be taken as encouragement of drivers going out of their way to run down protesters. I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed to many that I did. What I meant was that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. I remember Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was beaten nearly to death by a mob during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. My tweet should have said, “Keep driving,” or “Don’t stop.” I was upset, and it was a bad tweet. I do not support violence except in cases of clear self-defense.
I have always strongly supported peaceful protests, and I’ve spent years speaking out against police militarization and excessive police violence in my USA TODAY columns, on my blog, and on Twitter itself. I understand why people misunderstood my tweet and regret that I was not clearer.
The email statement seems to be the opposite of the one he sent to the News Sentinel last Thursday defending his tweet.
“Yes, that was my post," he wrote in an email to the News Sentinel. "It was brief, since it was Twitter, but blocking highways is dangerous and I don't think people should stop for a mob, especially when it's been violent.”