NEW YORK—Former White House spokesperson Anthony Scaramucci’s threat to sue a Tufts University graduate student and the school newspaper for defamation is a baseless attempt to silence criticism that is fully protected by the First Amendment, PEN America said today.

Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy graduate student Camilo Caballero published several opinion pieces in the Tufts student paper this month, objecting to Scaramucci’s position on the university’s Board of Advisors. In a Nov. 6 column, he argued that Scaramucci should not be on the Board because he is “irresponsible, inconsistent, an unethical opportunist and who exuded the highest degree of disreputability,” and has “sold his soul in contradiction to his own purported beliefs for a seat in that White House.” The column also notes that one of the first actions of Scaramucci’s “Scaramucci Post” publication was to tweet a poll that was widely seen as sympathetic to Holocaust deniers, asking Twitter users to vote on how many people died in the Holocaust.

Scaramucci’s role on the Board has been a subject of significant controversy at Tufts. Over 240 students, faculty, and alumni have signed a petition requesting that he be removed. Mr. Caballero’s Nov. 6 column was written in support of that petition. Mr. Caballero maintains that he is exercising his free speech rights, and urged the public to keep its focus on the question of whether it is appropriate for Mr. Scaramucci to remain on the Board of Advisors. The Tufts Daily published the cease and desist letter from Mr. Scaramucci’s attorney in full in its Nov. 27 edition, but has not issued an apology or retraction.

“Mr. Scaramucci’s threat to sue a graduate student and a college newspaper over an op-ed would be purely frivolous if it weren’t also so menacing​. The First Amendment clearly and fully protects the expression of personal opinion,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America. “This is nothing more than a heavy-handed attempt to bully them into printing an apology, and to scare other critics into silence. Good for Mr. Caballero and for the Tufts Daily for standing firm.” 

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

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