Skip to comments.Under ‘press’ure LSU dumps Hatfill, public relations nightmare (ASTOUNDING ADMISSION!!!)
Posted on 09/06/2002 7:10:37 AM PDT by PJ-Comix
It wasnt long ago when the mention of the word anthrax had everyone in this country scared to open their mail. For Dr. Steven Hatfill, the word association has now cost him his job.
Chancellor Mark Emmert fired Hatfill Tuesday, but said the decision to terminate him was not made based upon any assumptions in the FBIs investigation.
Hatfill is still a person of interest in the FBIs investigation of last years anthrax attacks. The FBIs interest in Hatfill stemmed from his employment at the Fort Detrick Army bioweapons lab in Maryland, where scientists had access to anthrax.
LSU hired Hatfill as an adjunct professor for the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training in April. The University placed Hatfill on paid administrative leave in August, before he moved to Baton Rouge, and after the FBI searched his Maryland home. Emmert said this was to give the university time to assess the situation while still letting Hatfill get paid.
The FBI label has prompted lots of media attention for Hatfill and controversy for the school in recent months, and this sudden firing makes things worse.
LSUs main concern may not be that it hired a man possibly linked to anthrax killings, but rather what could come next. The University could be in hot water down the road if Hatfill decides to sue for wrongful termination.
I think the schools heart is in the right place by claiming Hatfills guilt or innocence wasnt a factor in firing him, but its obvious the school was looking to dump this public relations mess before it got out of hand. After all the bad press associated with Hatfill, it seems the University just couldnt take the heat. For Hatfill, things likely wont end here. Even if hes innocent, the perception of being a possible anthrax suspect will follow him wherever he goes.
Considering LSU didnt do a stellar job of checking Hatfills background, the termination could come back to haunt the school. According to The Advocate, the University received assurances from the FBI that Hatfill wasnt involved in the anthrax case before promoting him to associate director of bioterrorism in July.
Daniel Walsh, LSU dean of Continuing Education, oversaw Hatfills hiring. Walsh told The Advocate hes always relied mainly on personal references when deciding who to hire.
The FBIs strange investigation didnt help Hatfills cause, either. Its still not clear if Hatfill is involved in last years attacks or if hes only a nifty scapegoat for a sagging government investigation. The office has never declared him a suspect, but it did pass around his picture in a New Jersey area where the anthrax mail could have originated.
At a news conference last month, Hatfill declared his innocence and accused the FBI of overzealously investigating him. He also claimed FBI officials trashed his apartment, threatened his girlfriend and leaked information about him to the press.
I watched the conference, and in my mind, Hatfill didnt seem to act like a guilty man. He was emotional, breaking down a few times as he spoke. He seemed angry, particularly about the things FBI investigators allegedly did to him.
To me, he looked more like a man caught in a bad situation rather than a sadistic individual who mailed poison to unsuspecting victims. Unfortunately, the University didnt feel the same way, though, and Hatfill is stuck in the middle.
While I understand LSUs reaction, the school could have given its employee the benefit of the doubt and afforded him the luxury every American enjoys being innocent until proven guilty.
This is an INCREDIBLE ADMISSION. So as recently as last July, the FBI has been assuring others that Hatfill WASN'T involved in the Hatfill case. So WHY are they persecuting him???
Orders from Ashcroft? Pressure from Congress?
Seems to me those political interests would now be well-advised to cut their losses, drop their lies, and hope everybody forgets about them in the midst of a war. If they keep up their lies, they're going to be badly discredited.
Hatfill and his lawyer seemed to me to be suggesting that they might get around to doing exactly that, at their first press conference. At the second press conference, the threat was more clearly directed at Nicholas Kristof and the New York Times.
And what if she's wrong? Rosenberg concedes that interrogating Hatfill might not help the FBI crack the case. But she quickly reverts to character. Even if that's true, she says, "the broad principles and the things I've said, I stand behind."
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