California university won't punish professor who cheered death of "racist" Barbara Bush

Professor calls Barbara Bush racist

FRESNO, Calif. -- A California State University, Fresno professor who called Barbara Bush "an amazing racist" and cheered her death will not be punished, the president of the university announced Tuesday. Randa Jarrar was acting as a private citizen using her personal Twitter account so her remarks didn't violate any California State University or campus policies, Fresno State President Joseph Castro wrote in announcing the results of a review.

"Her comments, although disgraceful, are protected free speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution," Castro wrote. "Our duty as Americans and educators is to promote a free exchange of diverse views, even if we disagree with them."

Jarrar has been on leave this semester and couldn't immediately be reached for comment. An email to her university address was not immediately returned.

The English professor provoked a storm of criticism last week with her tweets following the death of the former first lady.

"Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal," Jarrar wrote.

Jarrar also commented that she was "happy the witch is dead."

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Tweet from Fresno State professor Randa Jarrar, whose Twitter account has since been made private.  Twitter/Randa Jarrar

The professor, whose bio says she grew up in Kuwait and Egypt and moved to the U.S. after the Gulf War, continued her criticism of the Bush family and the war in Iraq, and defended her tweets against those who took offense. 

"PSA: either you are against these pieces of [expletive] and their genocidal ways or you're part of the problem," Jarrar wrote in another tweet, "that's actually how simple this is. I'm happy the witch is dead. can't wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis did."

She describes herself in her Twitter messages as an Arab-American and a Muslim-American woman.

A Change.org petition to have her fired had garnered 50,000 online signatures as of Tuesday evening.

In response to critics, Jarrar said she was a tenured professor who could not be fired but Castro said the issue wasn't related to her job or tenure.

However, he also condemned her remarks.

"Professor Jarrar's conduct was insensitive, inappropriate and an embarrassment to the university," Castro wrote, adding: "On campus and whenever we are representing the university, I expect all of us to engage in respectful dialogue."