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No Punishment for 'Run Them Down' Tweet

September 28, 2016
 

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will not punish a professor of law and well-known conservative blogger for his controversial tweet about the recent Charlotte, N.C., protests. Melanie D. Wilson, dean of Tennessee’s law school, said last week that she was investigating Glenn Reynolds's suggestion that motorists “run down” protesters blocking traffic. In a statement Tuesday, Wilson said she'd wrapped up that investigation, via “an examination of the facts, policies in the university’s Faculty Handbook and the law.” Wilson also discussed the tweet with Reynolds, university leaders and Tennessee’s general counsel, and sought feedback from faculty members, staff students and alumni, she said, before determining that “no disciplinary action will be taken.”

While Reynolds's tweet was widely criticized as inciting violence, many free speech advocates argued that an investigation that could result in a sanction was unwarranted.

“The tweet was an exercise of [Reynolds’s] First Amendment rights,” Wilson said. “Nevertheless, the tweet offended many members of our community and beyond, and I understand the hurt and frustration they feel. … We will now move forward to rebuild our law school community and refocus on our primary purpose: educating future lawyers and leaders.” She added, “Only by coming together as a community in thoughtful and constructive dialogue can we ensure that [the law school] -- and the university overall -- is a supportive, collegial community of scholars and lifelong learners.”

Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at Tennessee and moderator of Instapundit, responded last week to a tweet from a local news station about protesters blocking traffic with the words “Run them down.” He issued a separate apology Tuesday to the law school. One “of my 580,000 tweets blew up,” Reynolds wrote. “I try to be careful and precise in my language. I didn’t do that this time, and I unfortunately made a lot of people in the law school community sad or angry, something I certainly didn’t mean to do, and feel bad about.”

Reynolds said he was “following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence, which seemed to be getting worse.” While the words “run them down” can “be taken as encouragement of drivers going out of their way to run down protesters,” he said, “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. … My tweet should have said, ‘Keep driving,’ or ‘Don’t stop.’ I was upset, and it was a bad tweet.”

 
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