by WorldTribune Staff, August 6, 2020
Several leftist academics and journalists reacted with anger, some blasting President Donald Trump, after the story of a Native American professor who contracted and died of coronavirus after her university forced her to teach a seminar amid the pandemic made the rounds on social media.
But, according to the university and other observers, the story of the Hopi professor and her covid death are a complete fabrication.
The Daily Caller reported on Aug. 4 that the Twitter accounts of Dr. BethAnn McLaughlin and the Hopi Arizona State University (ASU) professor known as @Sciencing_Bi were suspended by Monday morning for violating Twitter’s “spam and platform manipulation policies.”
The suspension came after McLaughlin, who is a former faculty member at Vanderbilt University’s Center for Matrix Biology, posted a lengthy eulogy for the Hopi professor, identified as @Sciencing_Bi, on July 31.
In the social media posts, the Native American ASU professor is seen criticizing the university for forcing her to return to work in April before she supposedly contracted and then died from the virus, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. However, ASU had transitioned to virtual learning in March, according to The Arizona Republic.
“She was a fierce protector of people,” McLaughlin tweeted after announcing the Hopi professor’s death, Twitter screenshots show. “She let me take my shoulders away from my ears knowing she was meaner and more loving than everyone else.”
She added: “She changed so much of how I thought about advocacy and power.”
After McLaughlin announced the professor’s apparent death, California State University Northridge biologist Jeremy Yoder tweeted that he is “seriously considering returning to religion just so I can believe in a hell for Donald Trump to go to”.
“The death of @Sciencing_Bi is on the hands of those who compelled her to teach in the midst of COVID,” tweeted California State University Dominguez Hills biologist Terry McGlynn, The Daily Beast reported.
Then, the bottom fell out of the story.
“Unfortunately, this appears to be a hoax,” said Jerry Gonzalez, an ASU spokesperson, according to The Daily Beast. Gonzalez added that the university was unable to verify the existence of @Sciencing_Bi.
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, the ASU Department of American Indian Studies head, said he had not heard of @Sciencing_Bi, but that he would likely have known her if she was Hopi, according to The Arizona Republic.
“From what I can tell, the claims that are attributed to @Sciencing_Bi are a hoax, and a sick one at that,” Gilbert told The Republic.
McLaughlin founded MeTooSTEM in 2018, an advocacy network which provides informed counsel to survivors of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, the Daily Caller noted.
“MeTooSTEM focuses on holding individuals and institutions accountable for removing those who have committed sexual assault and misconduct from leadership, teaching, and positions of influence,” according to its website.
McLaughlin has been the subject of criticism from individuals who have resigned from MeTooSTEM citing her hostile management style, according to BuzzFeed News. The only two black women who worked for the organization resigned in April 2019 saying that “white leadership input was prioritized over our own.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that she created a Native persona, if she did, if she wanted to shore up the perception that she had good relations with a woman of color,” Kim TallBear, a professor of Native studies at the University of Alberta, told The Chronicle of Education.