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Georgetown Law administrator on leave after tweeting Supreme Court nominee would lead to 'lesser black woman'

Ilya Shapiro, who was scheduled to begin a job Tuesday as executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center for the Constitution, was placed on administrative leave, officials say.
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An incoming Georgetown Law administrator is on leave after he sent tweets last week, which are now deleted, saying in part that President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court pick would result in a “lesser black woman” as the nominee.

Ilya Shapiro was set to take over Tuesday as the executive director of the law school’s Center for the Constitution. Shapiro’s previous job was vice president and director of the Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute.

Shapiro on Jan. 26 tweeted his choice for the Supreme Court vacancy, Sri Srinivasan — a South Asian of Indian descent — who is chief judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Shapiro also criticized Biden’s vow to nominate a Black woman to the nation’s highest court.

Georgetown Law administrator Ilya Shapiro on MSNBC.
Georgetown Law administrator Ilya Shapiro on MSNBC.MSNBC

“But alas doesn’t fit into the latest intersectionality hierarchy so we’ll get lesser black woman,” Shapiro wrote in a tweet. “Thank heaven for small favors?”

Georgetown Law Dean William M. Treanor said Monday in a letter to the law school community that Shapiro was placed on leave pending an investigation into whether he violated school policies and expectations about professional conduct.

“I have heard the pain and outrage of so many at Georgetown Law, and particularly from our Black female students, staff, alumni, and faculty. Ilya Shapiro’s tweets are antithetical to the work that we do here every day to build inclusion, belonging, and respect for diversity,” Treanor wrote.

“Pending the outcome of the investigation, he will remain on leave and not be on campus. This investigation will follow the procedures established by Georgetown University. Racial stereotypes about individual capabilities and qualifications remain a pernicious force in our society and our profession. I am keenly aware that our law school is not exempt.”

Shapiro has tweeted: “I apologize. I meant no offense, but it was an inartful tweet. I have taken it down.”

In a statement Friday, he wrote: “I regret my poor choice of words, which undermined my message that nobody should be discriminated against for his or her skin color. A person’s dignity and worth simply do not, and should not, depend on race, gender, or any other immutable characteristic. 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. Chief Judge Sri Srinivasan is, in my mind, the most qualified nominee a Democratic president could choose.”

After formally announcing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement last week, Biden pledged to place the first Black woman on the Supreme Court.

“The person I will nominate will be someone of extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity, and that person will be the first Black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court,” he said. “I made that commitment during the campaign for president, and I will keep that commitment.”

On Monday, Shapiro issued an additional statement saying he expects to be vindicated:

“I’m optimistic that Georgetown’s investigation will be fair, impartial, and professional, though there’s really not much to investigate. And I’m confident that it 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.”

The Georgetown Black Law Students Association said students protested Tuesday at a sit-in in front of Treanor’s office because of his decision to place Shapiro on leave for his “racist tweets.”

On Friday, the group issued a list of demands to Georgetown Law that included rescinding Shapiro’s offer and committing to a thorough hiring process that considers incoming faculty and staff members’ cultural competency.

NBC Washington reported that Shapiro’s remarks in 2009 about Sonia Sotomayor drew controversy after she was nominated to the Supreme Court. In an op-ed, he wrote, “She would not have even been on the short list if she were not Hispanic.”