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Federal judge slams Georgetown for suspending scholar who criticized affirmative action

Federal Judge James Ho went completely off script during a recent speech at Georgetown Law to condemn campus leaders for their decision to suspend an incoming administrator over his poorly worded tweet criticizing affirmative action.

“If Ilya Shapiro is deserving of cancelation then you should go ahead and cancel me too,” Ho said during his speech Tuesday, reports National Review.

Ho, a judge for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, gave his speech at the behest of the law school’s Federalist Society chapter. It was to focus on originalism, according to prepared remarks obtained by National Review, but Ho decided there was a more pressing matter to address.

“I hope you won’t mind that I’ve decided to address a different topic today instead,” the judge said. “I’m going to spend my time today talking about Ilya Shapiro.”

Earlier this month, Georgetown Law suspended Shapiro on the day he was set to become executive director of the Georgetown Center for the Constitution. He is under investigation for whether he violated the institution’s “professional conduct, non-discrimination and anti-harassment” policies.

Shapiro’s now-deleted Jan. 26 series of tweets read: “Objectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan, who is solid prog & v smart. Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American. But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?”

“Because Biden said he’s only consider[ing] black women for SCOTUS, his nominee will always have an asterisk attached. Fitting that the Court takes up affirmative action next term.”

Shapiro has apologized and deleted the tweets.

National Review reports that Judge Ho defended Shapiro during his speech:

The first half of the speech defended Shapiro’s right to make controversial comments on the grounds that the freedom of speech is “the foundation of our entire adversarial system of justice,” in Ho’s description. “You must understand your opponent’s views in order to fully understand, and thus powerfully defend, your own views,” he said. …

But the second half of Ho’s speech went a step further. Ho defended the substance of Shapiro’s tweets, maintaining that equality of opportunity — which he described as “fundamental to who we are, and to who we aspire to be, as a nation” — was the principle that Shapiro was originally defending. “Ilya has said that he should have chosen different words. That ought to be enough,” Ho said. “I have no doubt — zero doubt — that Ilya did not intend anywhere near the worst interpretation that has been applied to his remarks.”

Ho went on to say that equal opportunity “define[s] why America truly is the greatest nation on earth,” and that America’s founding principles “are the principles that brought my own family to these shores, and that I have held all my life,” even in the face of racial discrimination. Those principles, he continued, “are worth defending — no matter how loud the booing from the crowd.” While “racism is a scourge that America has not yet fully extinguished,” he acknowledged, “the first step in fighting racial discrimination is to stop practicing it.” (As others have also pointed out, Shapiro’s tweets were criticizing an actual instance of racial discrimination — i.e., the White House’s use of racial preferences in Supreme Court nominations.) “Make no mistake: If there is any racial discrimination in statements like these, it’s not coming from the speaker — it’s coming from the policy that the speaker is criticizing,” Ho said.

Read the entire National Review report here.

MORE: Georgetown student protester requests place on campus for people to cry about controversial tweets: report

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