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Incoming Georgetown Law director on leave after tweets about Biden’s Supreme Court plan

<i>CNN</i><br/>Ilya Shapiro is seen here from a segment on CNN.
Ilya Shapiro is seen here from a segment on CNN.

By Jenn Selva, CNN

The incoming executive director for Georgetown University’s Center for the Constitution has been placed on administrative leave after social media comments made last week questioning President Joe Biden’s intentions for the US Supreme Court vacancy.

Biden last week confirmed that he would make good a campaign promise and nominate a Black woman to replace Justice Stephen Breyer, who announced his retirement last week. There has never been a Black woman on the country’s highest court.

Ilya Shapiro, who was to take up his position at Georgetown Law on February 1, tweeted on Wednesday: “(o)bjectively best pick for Biden is Sri Srinivasan,” a judge on the US Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit. Shapiro also described Srinivasan as progressive and smart.

“Even has identity politics benefit of being first Asian (Indian) American,” Shapiro wrote. “But alas doesn’t fit into latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman. Thank heaven for small favors?”

Those tweets have since been deleted.

Two days later, Shapiro took to Twitter to apologize.

“I regret my poor choice of words, which undermined my message that nobody should be discriminated against for his or her skin color,” Shapiro wrote.

“A person’s dignity and worth simply do not, and should not, depend on race, gender or any other immutable characteristic,” he said. “While it’s important that a wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds be represented in the judiciary, so blatantly using identity politics in choosing Supreme Court justices is discrediting to a vital institution.”

Shapiro went on to say that he considered Srinivasan to be “the most qualified nominee a Democratic president could choose.”

“Reasonable people can disagree on that particular assessment, but it’s a shame that he and other men and women of every race are excluded from the outset of the selection process,” he tweeted.

Georgetown Law Dean Bill Treanor said, “Ilya Shapiro’s tweets are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging and respect for diversity,” in a statement released Monday.

The university has launched an investigation into whether Shapiro violated their “policies and expectations on professional conduct, non-discrimination and anti-harassment,” Treanor said.

Georgetown’s Black Law Student Association is calling for Shapiro’s employment to be permanently revoked.

“Our concern and frustration is not rooted in Shapiro’s opinion that someone else is more qualified for the position,” the association wrote in a statement. “Instead, our anger stems from Shapiro’s suggestion that any Black woman, regardless of their qualifications, would be a ‘lesser’ choice for the courts.”

Shapiro on Monday tweeted that he is confident the investigation “will reach the only reasonable conclusion: my tweet didn’t violate any university rule, or policy and indeed is protected by Georgetown policies on free expression.”

“Accordingly, I expect to be vindicated and look forward to joining my new colleagues in short order,” he wrote.

Shapiro told CNN he has no further comment at this time.

Shapiro was announced as Georgetown Law’s new executive director and senior lecturer on January 21, according to the institution’s website.

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CNN’s Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.

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