Phoenix City Councilman DiCiccio Fires A Salvo Against ASU Cancel Culture

ASU rejects dean, fires radio station manager over politically incorrect tweets

cronkite school

Sal DiCiccio is madder than hell, and he is not going to take it anymore.

After Arizona State University canceled its job offer to Dr. Sonya Duhé, who was hired as dean of its journalism school, and removed Rae’Lee Klein from her job as manager of its student-run radio station, DiCiccio told the school he is fed up with their discriminatory policies.

Duhé’s job offer was rescinded by ASU after she asked for prayer for police on Twitter, after George Floyd was killed.

Klein was fired by ASU for posting an article on Twitter about the criminal background of Jacob Blake, after he was shot by a police officer while resisting arrest on a sexual assault warrant.

DiCiccio is at odds with the university’s administrators, because he says they do not support the principles of free speech and traditional journalistic fairness.

In a letter to Kristen Gilger, interim dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, Phoenix City Councilman DiCiccio said he will no longer speak to them.

DiCiccio wrote that until the Cronkite school commits to the principles of journalistic integrity and free speech “neither I or my office will respond in any way to any inquiry, interview or information request made by students or faculty… other than provide a copy of this letter in response.”

In an interview on James T. Harris’s “The Conservative Circus” radio show, DiCiccio said university administrators are deciding what is acceptable speech, which should be worrisome for everyone.

“They are taking away the whole concept of the first amendment,” DiCiccio said Friday on the popular Phoenix-based morning show. “We have their students contacting us all the time for interviews and I’m like ‘screw you’ if your organization is going to be practicing these kind of things, there’s no way you’re going to be talking to me.”

Incoming dean’s job offer rescinded

Duhé, a professor and director of the School of Communication and Design at Loyola University New Orleans for more than a decade, Duhé resigned from those positions to take the job at ASU’s journalism school.

As Duhé was prepared to take the post in Arizona on July 1, she wrote this tweet, which angered some of her former students, who demanded that she lose her upcoming job: “For the family of George Floyd, the good police officers who keep us safe, my students, faculty and staff. Praying for peace on the #BlackOutTuesday.

George Floyd, 46, died May 25, after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck during an attempted arrest for allegedly trying to spend a counterfeit $20 bill. His death triggered nationwide riots.

After Loyola students were angered by Duhé’s tweet, allegations of racism by black students were brought to the attention of ASU officials. In early June, ASU rescinded its offer of employment.

Two former students subsequently told media that they had filed racial bias reports with Loyola human resources, alleging “racist and insensitive conduct,” said a June 7 story in the Maroon, Loyola’s student paper.

Duhé denied one of the student’s allegations in a 2019 racial bias complaint, saying some of her statements were ludicrous, such as that Duhé told her to press her hair, according to a Maroon story.

“In fact, I’ve never heard or used the word ‘pressed’ in regards to people’s hair. Never did I tell students of African-American descent to ‘not be natural’ when dealing with their hair,” Duhé said in the report. “I expect all students, male and female, taking a professional photograph to be well groomed.”

Another Loyola journalism professor, Maroon advisor Michael Giusti, vouched for Duhé, saying that he worked alongside her for 11 years and had “never seen her be racist.”

Allegations of racism against Duhé included that she told students—who were apparently preparing to be TV news broadcasters—that their hair was too messy, they weren’t wearing enough makeup and she “used microagressive racial comments” that they needed to speak more properly and change the way they dressed, said an article in the State Press, ASU’s student-run newspaper. 

Student station manager removed for truthful reporting 

Rae’Lee Klein, a 21-year-old ASU journalism student, posted a New York Post article on her Twitter page, which revealed details about the arrest warrant of Jacob Blake, 29, who was shot by a police officer while resisting arrest Aug. 23 in Kenilworth, Wis., sparking riots in Kenosha and several other cities.

“Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake’s warrant,” Klein wrote on her personal account. “You’ll be quite disgusted.”

The article revealed that Blake, who was paralyzed by a gunshot wound in the incident, was wanted on a sexual assault arrest warrant.

Klein later deleted that tweet and apologized for what she wrote in the retweet of the NY Post story.

“The incident is tragic in every sense of the word,” the ASU senior from Wyoming wrote. “The point of my tweet was to provide an additional perspective.”

After students responded with criticism of her tweet, she was removed from her radio station position by Interim Dean Kristen Gilger.

ASU announced that students decided to remove her, but evidence was later presented which showed that was not true.

A student radio board member leaked an audio recording of a board meeting that affirmed that it was the dean’s decision to remove Klein from her job at the student-run radio station, said an Oct. 1 story on the webpage.

Since her removal, Klein has been the subject of a tremendous amount of support and publicity from conservative media and politicians on social media, including Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, Arizona U.S. Rep. Debbie Lesko, Arizona State Rep. Bob Thorpe, Fox and Friends news show, National Review and Western Journal.

Her story went “full circle,” as Klein tweeted, when the New York Post writer Gabrielle Fonrouge, who wrote the original story that she retweeted, published a story on Klein’s case.

In the on Sept. 18 New York Post story, Klein explained that she had been instructed by her ASU journalism professors to tweet two or three times a day “and to share stories she thinks are interesting”. Klein told the Post that she was trying to do what she was assigned to do and “what I thought was my job as a journalist, which is to share an important part of the story.”

Klein, who was named Miss Wyoming Outstanding Teen in 2016, is fighting back. She retained Phoenix Attorney Jack Wilenchik, who informed ASU officials that they were violating Ms. Klein’s federal and state constitutional rights by removing her from her position for expressing herself in a tweet.

In a Sept. 23 letter to ASU President Michael Crow and Dean Gilger, Wilenchik wrote that the University must remain neutral regarding free expression of her First Amendment rights.

“Taking the decision to remove Ms. Klein is not remaining neutral – it is picking a side. It also exposes the University to an immediate lawsuit for injunctive relief, attorneys’ fees, and damages of one thousand dollars or actual damages, in this case Ms. Klein’s lost income over the case of the school year,” the attorney wrote.

About Huey Freeman 17 Articles
Huey Freeman was a reporter at the Herald Review in Decatur Illinois. as a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois. He is married to Kate Freeman, with four grown children. His books include: Who Shot Nick Ivie? Legendary Locals of Decatur