Harvard University reversed its decision to name Chelsea Manning a visiting fellow early Friday, a day after CIA Director Mike Pompeo scrapped a planned appearance over the title for the soldier who was convicted of leaking classified information.
Douglas Elmendorf, the dean of the university’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, wrote in a statement posted to the university’s website that naming Manning a visiting fellow was a mistake, even though he said the title carries no special honor.
“We invited Chelsea Manning to spend a day at the Kennedy School,” he wrote. “On that basis, we also named Chelsea Manning a Visiting Fellow. 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 apologized to Manning and to “many concerned people” he said he had heard from “for not recognizing upfront the full implications of our original invitation.” Manning is still invited to spend a day at the school and speak to students, though without the visiting fellow title, he wrote.
Manning responded on Twitter early Friday, writing that she was “honored to be 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow.”
“They chill marginalized voices under @cia pressure,” she said while also accusing the school of letting the CIA determine “what is and is not taught.”
Manning’s publicist didn’t immediately respond when asked if she would still accept Harvard’s invitation to visit the school.
The 29-year-old Manning is a transgender woman who was known as Bradley Manning when she was convicted in 2013 of leaking a trove of classified documents. She was released from a military prison in May after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence, which was commuted by former President Barack Obama in his final days in office. Obama said in January he felt justice had been served. Manning explained on ABC’s “Good Morning America” in a recent interview that she was prompted to give the information to WikiLeaks because of the human toll of the “death, destruction and mayhem” she saw while serving in Iraq.
Pompeo was a last-minute cancellation at a speaking event at Harvard on Thursday night. Minutes after the event was to begin, Elmendorf took the stage and told the audience Pompeo was not there and would not speak.
The CIA later released a letter that Pompeo, who has a law degree from Harvard, wrote to a university official. Pompeo said an appearance would betray the trust of CIA employees and stressed that his decision had nothing to do with Manning’s transgender identity.
“It has everything to do with her identity as a traitor to the United States of America and my loyalty to the officers of the CIA,” Pompeo said.
Earlier Thursday, Mike Morell, a former deputy director and acting director of the CIA, resigned from his post as a senior fellow at the Kennedy School, telling Elmendorf in a letter that he could not be part of an organization that “honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information.”
In addition to Manning, Harvard this week invited former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski to serve as visiting fellows.
Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report from Washington.
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