Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government announced Friday that they will be rescinding Chelsea Manning’s visiting fellow invitation after the school faced severe backlash from several influential individuals, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo and others.
Manning, a former U.S. Army soldier who served seven years in prison for leaking classified information to WikiLeaks, and Sean Spicer, the former White House Press Secretary for Donald Trump, were two of the latest individuals to be named visiting fellows at Harvard University, the school announced Wednesday. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison in August 2013 after leaking more than 700,000 classified or sensitive military and diplomatic documents. Manning came out as transgender while in prison and was released this past May after having her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama. Manning would have spoken on issues regarding LGBTQ in the military.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo withdrew last-minute from an appearance at the Kennedy School over Harvard’s announcement that Manning was to be a visiting fellow. Pompeo said in a letter that Manning is a an “American traitor” who endangered the lives of others for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks.
“Harvard’s actions,” Pompeo said, “implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law. … I believe it is shameful for Harvard to place its stamp of approval upon her treasonous actions.”
Pompeo was set to speak at the school on allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election.
Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell, resigned from his position at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Morell said that he resigned because he didn’t want to be a part of an organization “that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.”
“I have an obligation to my conscience — and I believe to the country — to stand up against any efforts to justify leaks of sensitive national security information,” Morell wrote.
Douglas W. Elmendorf, the Dean of Harvard Kennedy School, said that inviting Manning to be a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School was a “mistake.”
“I now think that designating Chelsea Manning as a Visiting Fellow was a mistake, for which I accept responsibility,” Elmendorf said.
Elmendorf said that Harvard University does not endorse actions that are “abhorrent to some members of our community.”
“We invited Chelsea Manning because the Kennedy School’s longstanding approach to visiting speakers is to invite some people who have significantly influenced events in the world even if they do not share our values and even if their actions or words are abhorrent to some members of our community,” Elmedorf said in the statement.
Elmedorf said that Manning was also invited to speak with students, and host a forum and take questions from a variety of viewpoints.
“We did not intend to honor her in any way or to endorse any of her words or deeds, as we do not honor or endorse any Fellow,” Elmendorf pointed out.
“I apologize to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard today for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation,” he added.
Emendorf added that Manning is still invited to speak at the forum and spend a day at the Kennedy School.
Manning was among several individuals invited by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government to be a visiting fellow at Harvard. Others included Spicer and Corey Lewandowski, the former Donald Trump campaign manager who was caught on video manhandling a protester.
After being “uninvited,” Manning tweeted: “Honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting Harvard fellow. They chill marginalized voices under CIA pressure.”