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Penn President Liz Magill resigns after Jon Huntsman Jr., others call for her ouster over antisemitism remarks

Magill’s congressional testimony sparked a backlash by donors and students after she failed to condemn genocide

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University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill reads her opening statement during a hearing of the House Committee on Education.

Mark Schiefelbein, Associated Press

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned Saturday after she faced a chorus of calls to step down over her congressional testimony on antisemitism, including from former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., a Penn graduate and donor.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Magill stepped down after her comments at a committee hearing this week led to a congressional investigation of Penn. Magill was just one of several college presidents who spoke at the hearing, and she faced particular criticism over her answer to a question about genocide.

During the House Committee on Education and Workforce hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., asked Magill, “Specifically calling for the genocide of Jews, does that constitute bullying or harassment?”

“If it is directed and severe and pervasive, it is harassment,” Magill answered.

Stefanik then asked, “So the answer is yes?”

“It is a context-dependent decision, congresswoman,” Magill replied.

The backlash to Magill’s comments were bipartisan. Pennsylvania’s Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro called her testimony “shameful,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

“It should not be hard to condemn genocide,” he said.

Jon Huntsman Jr. called for Magill’s ouster

Several donors, including Huntsman, had already announced they would close their checkbooks to the university over its response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas on Israel. The university was at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in donations.

On Thursday, Huntsman went a step further by issuing a call for Magill’s ouster, according to a statement he made to CNN.

“Let’s make this great institution shine once again,” Huntsman said. “We are anchored to the past until the trustees step up and completely cut ties with current leadership. Full stop.”

“At this point it’s not even debatable,” Huntsman said, per CNN. “Just a simple IQ test.”

Huntsman is a 1987 graduate of Penn, and he and his family are major donors to the university.

In October, Huntsman, who also served as a U.S. ambassador to Russia and China, sent an email to Magill where he wrote the university had become “deeply adrift in ways that make it almost unrecognizable.”

“The University’s silence in the face of reprehensible and historic Hamas evil against the people of Israel (when the only response should be outright condemnation) is a new low,” he wrote.

“Consequently, Huntsman Foundation will close its checkbook on all future giving to Penn — something that has been a source of enormous pride for now three generations of graduates. My siblings join me in this rebuke.”

Presidents of Harvard, MIT also rebuked for testimony

Magill isn’t the only university president who was criticized after the hearing. Calls were also issued for the ouster of Harvard President Claudine Gay and MIT President Sally Kornbluth over their testimonies.

Harvard President Claudine Gay issued an apology for her remarks over her response to a question on whether calls for genocide against Jews would violate Harvard’s code of conduct, according to The Associated Press. She said it depended on the context.

“What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged,” Gay said.