Last month, we told you about a college art galleries director who was fired after calling Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) a “fear-monger,” prompting an angry letter from the congressman to the university president.
Now, thanks to a public records request made by TPM to the university, we have a clearer idea of what happened — including how Gohmert reacted to all the news coverage of the story. (Hint: not well.)
The now-former art galleries director at Stephen F. Austin State University, Christian Cutler, was asked by Gohmert’s staff to jury a high school art competition. He agreed — until he looked up Gohmert online and saw his interview with “Anderson Cooper”, in which Gohmert ranted about the threat of terrorists having babies in the United States and then training them to return as adults and attack.
The next time Cutler spoke with Gohmert’s staff, he says, he declined to do the art competition, saying he didn’t want to work with a “fear-monger” like the congressman.
So Gohmert personally wrote a letter to Cutler, and copied the president of the university. It was only then, Cutler says, that he learned that Gohmert wanted to host the congressional art competition at the university’s galleries. According to the copy obtained by TPM, Gohmert wrote:
I apologize for my misunderstanding that your outstanding institution wished to be included in our efforts at providing students with exposure to different campuses around our east Texas district. We will not bother you in the future, even though I do hope to continue moving the host school from campus to campus in the years to come. May God Grant you peace that passes all understanding so that one day your bitterness and intolerance diminishes to the point that you are able to tolerate even someone like me.
The letter, sent on Sept. 20, prompted several meetings and emails among Cutler and his supervisors, according to copies of the emails and notes from the meetings. One called him the same day. The next day, his two supervisors met with the provost, calling the incident the “last straw.”
A few days after that, on Sept. 25, the board of regents met privately to discuss “personnel matters” regarding Cutler, according to a meeting notice. Before the meeting, the university president, Baker Patillo, forwarded Gohmert’s letter to the chair of the board via email.
Cutler submitted his resignation three days later.
That wasn’t the end of it, though. After several news outlets, including TPM, wrote about the story in late October, Gohmert wrote another scathing letter — this time to the vice chair of the board of regents — accusing the school of “hanging [him] out to dry,” according to internal emails.
“I did not ask for that guy to be fired, frankly I would have preferred he hadn’t been for this very reason [that] I would be blamed even though yall said he was a problem and there were other issues,” he wrote. “But doing what I didn’t ask for in dismissing that the manipulative liar and then refusing to make ANY statement about what was done is hanging me out to dry for something I did not do.” [sic]
The school had refused to give statements to the media about what happened.
“Now, I am the scapegoat nationally for SFA’s decision. This is not really fair nor good. I do appreciate your ongoing concern for fairness and truth and know you will encourage doing whatever you believe is appropriate,” he wrote.
Late update: Cutler, the fired art galleries director, tells TPM that he’s “shocked” by the materials we posted today, including the email from Gohmert calling him a “manipulative liar.”
“I don’t want to say anything negative about the congressman,” Cutler said. “He flips it over into a completely different story and then calls me a liar. I’m flabbergasted.”
He also said he was shocked by the university’s depiction of him as someone who constantly flouted rules and that this was the “last straw.”
“I felt loved by the university, and to hear this now, these seemingly made-up statements about me and my reputation, is just very hurtful,” he said. He is still, he said, looking for a new job.