AG Jeff Landry Calls for Sanction of LSU Professor Over Tweeted Insult

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is calling on LSU President William Tate IV to sanction LSU professor and Dean of the LSU School of Manship Robert Mann after Mann sent a tweet criticizing Landry in a tweet from his personal social media account.

In the tweet, professor Mann refers to an AG staffer sent to read a personal letter from Landry to the LSU Faculty Senate attacking mandated COVID-19 vaccines at the school as “some flunkie.”

“Louisiana AG Jeff Landry sending some flunkie to the LSU Faculty Senate meeting today to read a letter attacking covid vaccines is quite the move from a guy who considers himself ‘pro-life,'” Mann tweeted.

Landry later used his official Twitter account to send a response, accusing Mann of “attacking” the staffer and making “disparaging remarks.”

“This type of disrespect and dishonesty has no place in our society – especially at our flagship university by a professor. I hope LSU takes appropriate action soon.”

The attack on a private citizen’s first amendment rights to criticize elected officials  – particularly since Mann’s Twitter account is not verified by the platform nor affiliated with the university – is an alarming stance for the state’s top legal official.

“As a so-called ‘pro-life’ politician, Jeff Landry should be working to save lives. Instead, he’s adding to the state’s COVID death toll with his malicious lies about life-saving vaccines,” said professor Mann in a statement to Big Easy Magazine. “He’s a charlatan of the first order and anyone who cares about truth and accuracy should ignore anything he says about this issue. When he sent an aide to the LSU Faculty Senate to read a letter filled with those lies, I called him out on Twitter. In response, he wants LSU – a government institution – to punish me for my speech criticizing his deadly disinformation.”

Several national organizations that protect the rights of public university faculty members to express their personal opinions have stepped up to issue statements defending Mann:

“For a state attorney general to call for a state university to sanction a member of its faculty because he disagrees with the views that the professor expressed on social media is a grave threat to academic freedom,” said Academic Freedom Alliance Chair Keith Whittington in a letter to LSU president Tate. “The AFA calls upon the leadership of Louisiana State University to reaffirm and adhere to its academic freedom principles by making clear that Professor Mann will not be sanctioned in any way for his constitutionally protected speech.”

“The First Amendment protects the right of public faculty at universities to criticize state officials,” said the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education. “The ‘appropriate action’ is to take no action.”

In a statement to Big Easy Magazine, LSU president William F. Tate IV made it clear that there would be no reprisals taken against Mann: “As president of LSU, I am deeply committed to First Amendment rights. LSU is committed to free and open scholarship and the freedom to debate ideas and principles without interference.”

LSU Policy Statement 15 officially defends the rights of its staff to express their personal opinions on social media:

“In order to be fully engagemend members of a university community and of society in general, faculty may experess personal opinions; and these opinions need not always be in complete agreement with the positions of the university and its related institutions… As citizens engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, professors have an obligation to promote conditions of free inquiry and to further public understanding of academic freedom and free speech.”

Editor’s note: this piece was updated at 3:27 PM to correct professor Mann’s doctoral status and at 4:41pm to add a statement by LSU president William F. Tate IV

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