Thomas Brennan, an assistant professor of physical science at Ferris State University, has been placed on leave for making controversial and offensive comments on COVID-19 and other sensitive subjects on social media and during a Zoom meeting of faculty and staff.
His comments rejected the idea that the N-word shouldn't be used and expressed doubt about the reality of the atomic bomb and the moon landing. While speech by professors regularly sets off controversies, Brennan's comments were unusually inflammatory.
David L. Eisler, president of the university, said in a letter to the campus Monday that an investigation is underway and was launched after "the university learned of racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs made on Twitter that appear to be posted by Thomas Brennan."
"Individually and collectively we were shocked and outraged by these tweets. They are extremely offensive and run counter to the values of our university and our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion," Eisler wrote. "Our students, faculty, staff and members of the community are upset and offended by these comments, and they should be. As reported Dr. Brennan disrupted a College of Arts, Sciences and Education Zoom meeting last August. At this he expressed via video and chat that COVID-19 death rates in the United States were exaggerated, and the pandemic and rioting were leftist stunts. These comments both surprised and offended those attending the meeting. Dean Williams addressed this in a message to the College’s faculty and staff, and disciplined Dr. Brennan."
The university's Board of Trustees also weighed in.
"We stand strongly and proudly with the students, faculty and staff of Ferris State University in denouncing all actions that diminish, impugn, stereotype or cast aspersions on the rights and dignity of people. To do less is to fall short of the time-honored values and commitment of our university to its people and the education it provides," the board said.
Many of the comments that Brennan made were on a Twitter account that has now been made private. But Brennan issued a public letter that elaborated on and defended his views. His faculty profile appears to have been removed by the university.
"This controversy started after I made a few statements in a College of Arts and Sciences meeting of faculty and staff about the COVID-19 pandemic," he wrote. "My statements were to the effect that I believe the COVID-19 pandemic is a stunt designed to enslave humanity and strip us of all of our rights and freedoms. I don’t believe that the pandemic is a hoax, people have died. But its severity is being exaggerated by revolutionary leftists in the media and government who ‘never let a good crisis go to waste.’ The end result of this hysteria, if unchecked, will be a mandatory vaccine. No one will be allowed into public places or permitted to buy food in a supermarket unless they present proof-of-vaccination. Initially, this electronic vaccination certificate will be tied to a person’s smartphone, but will soon after be in the form of injectable micro or nanotechnology in the vaccine itself. If this comes about it will truly be a fulfillment of the prophecy of the mark of the beast, as described by St. John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 13:16-17."
He added, "I believe that Bill Nye, Buzz Aldrin, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Anthony Fauci are human beings of worth, as we all are, but I believe they are telling some lies and are a part of a system of lies."
Brennan also addressed his social media postings.
"Let me address a few of these tweets, starting with the one where I used the ‘n-word,’" he wrote. "I believe the ‘n-word’ is a mind-control spell designed to make us hate each other. I am not racist against black people, I love and respect them. But I reject the premise that there are certain magic words that should never be used in any context or by certain people. I uttered the word to try to neutralize its power, and its implied meaning in the context of the tweet was as a synonym for ‘human being,’ or ‘person,’ since I used it to describe people of different races."
Brennan also said in the statement that the atom bomb and the moon landings were "fake."
"After re-watching the footage of atomic bomb tests from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, it appears to me they are just films of explosions of large piles of TNT, made to look much bigger through special effects," he wrote. "By filming an explosion at a high frame-rate and playing it back in slow-motion, an impression of immensity can be achieved." Of the moon landing, he wrote, "The most powerful argument for why I believe we did not land on the Moon is that the inner solar system is a blast furnace, and the sun-lit surface of the Moon is over 700 F, not 250 F, as NASA claims. That is why the Moon glows red during a lunar eclipse -- not because of refracted red light from the Earth’s atmosphere, as Bill Nye and Neil Tyson would have you believe. The shadow of the Earth’s atmosphere is blue, not red."
Brennan also insisted that he was not anti-Semitic.
"Now I have to address the tweets I made about Jews and the ‘Jewish mafia.’ The Torch [student paper] article conveniently didn’t mention any of my undeleted tweets showing I support the existence of the state of Israel and I believe the Holocaust was real and not fake. The Holocaust was perpetrated against the Jews in order to highjack their nation and take them hostage. Hitler and the Nazis were the means to this end. Hitler was a golem, an evil monster whose rise to power only happened because he had financial support from global elites in the United States, Great Britain and other countries. King Edward was infamous for his early support of Hitler, and that’s why he abdicated. Henry Ford, Prescott Bush and international corporations like Bayer and IBM were also supportive of the Nazi regime. I do not believe that middle-class Jews are involved in an international conspiracy, only that a small number of their elites are. Furthermore, the great majority of elites involved in this globalist conspiracy are not Jewish. It’s not considered ‘anti-Italic’ to talk about an Italian mafia -- no one would think you believe all Italians are in the mob if you were to talk about that -- so it shouldn’t be considered ‘anti-Semitic’ to talk about a Jewish mafia."
An editorial in The Torch on Nov. 18 said Brennan's "adamant denial of the existence and tragic impact of COVID-19 is frankly disgusting. To disregard the thousands of people who have died and who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 is blatantly disrespectful to so many people, including those in our university community."
The editorial also criticized the university's administration for not responding more quickly.
"For a university that prides itself on diversity, inclusion and collaboration, it is incredibly disappointing to see nearly every person we reached out to refuse to acknowledge and respond to the offensive comments of a faculty member. Ferris had multiple opportunities to set the record straight on this and they did not," it said.
The university's administration responded to the controversy by releasing this statement: "Ferris State University is aware of information about a College of Arts, Sciences and Education faculty member‘s alleged inappropriate professional behavior and comments. Earlier this year, this person was disciplined as a result of unprofessional actions at a college meeting. Upon learning of these new allegations, an investigation has been launched into the faculty member’s behavior and the faculty member has been placed on administrative leave. The comments and actions attributed to this faculty member do not represent the university’s mission and values and its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Further, as a university actively engaged in taking extraordinary measures to keep our faculty, staff and students safe, we categorically reject any comments made regarding the validity or impact of COVID-19. As an investigation into these allegations is underway, the university cannot comment further at this time."