Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell will take a personal leave of absence amid much controversy over a series of blog posts attacking a gay University of Michigan student.
Shirvell has been blogging about University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong since April, accusing Armstrong, who is gay, of having “a radical homosexual activist” aiming “to promote a very deeply radical agenda at the University of Michigan.”
The office of Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox said that Shirvell began leave yesterday for an undetermined period of time, and will face possible disciplinary action when he returns. “Contrary to other reports, he has not been suspended,” spokeswoman Joy Yearout told the Detroit Free Press today. “He’s taking a leave of absence. It was a personal decision on his part.”
Wednesday, Cox defended Shirvell’s right to speak his mind on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show: “Here in America, we have this thing called the First Amendment, which allows people to express what they think and engage in political and social speech.”
Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), who used to be AG in Michigan, was not so forgiving, tweeting yesterday:
If I was still Attorney General and Andrew Shirvell worked for me, he would have already been fired.
But Cox later admitted that he made those comments without fully reading Shirvell’s blog posts: “I’m at fault here,” Cox told the Detroit News Thursday. “I’ve been saying for weeks that [Shirvell’s] been acting like a bully, that his behavior is immature, but it’s after-hours and protected by the First Amendment.”
Yesterday Shirvell was banned from the University of Michigan campus, after Armstrong filed a restraining order against him. The order, which can be read (in pdf form) here, alleges that, among other things, Shirvell showed up at Armstrong’s house on the night of a party and stood outside taking pictures. The complaint also claims Shirvell called the office of Nancy Pelosi to try and obtain information about Armstrong, who was interning there.
Shirvell plans to appeal the restraining order.
The school’s administration has come out in support of Armstrong as well, saying that U of M “does not tolerate bigotry of any type.”
Shirvell has since closed public access to his blog (though a cached version can be found here.)