Local

Davidson College president voices anger over grad’s fake news presidential race story

Davidson College President Carol Quillen
Davidson College President Carol Quillen dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Davidson College President Carol Quillen said she “hears and shares” the anger of alumni, parents and friends over a recent grad’s fake news story during the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton presidential race.

“Please know that I hear and share your anger,” Quillen wrote to the school’s faculty in response to their concerns over grad Cam Harris’s fake news this fall.

Harris, who graduated from Davidson College in May, apologized on Twitter this week “to those disappointed by my actions.” His wish, he tweeted, “is that I will be allowed to contribute my informed experience to a larger dialogue about how Americans approach the media, tough issues, and the manner in which we, collectively, will inform our decisions going forward.”

Davidson College alumni and parents concerned about Harris’s actions have been contacting the school since The New York Times broke the story about him on Wednesday, school officials said. After the story was published, Harris was fired from his job as a Maryland legislative aide and apologized for his actions late Wednesday.

Maryland lawmaker David Vogt III, a Republican, told The Washington Post he terminated Harris “on the spot” after learning he was the mastermind behind the fake news.

“I apologize to those disappointed by my actions, and my wish is that I will be allowed to contribute my informed experience to a larger dialogue about how Americans approach the media, tough issues, and the manner in which we, collectively, will inform our decisions going forward,” Cam Harris said on Twitter.

With Donald Trump behind in the polls in early fall, Harris sat down at the kitchen table in his apartment and created a fake story that was eventually shared with 6 million people.

Harris started by crafting the headline: “BREAKING: ‘Tens of thousands’ of fraudulent Clinton votes found in Ohio warehouse,” according to The New York Times, which broke the story on Wednesday about what Harris had done.

It made sense, Harris told the Times, to locate this shocking discovery in the very city and state where Trump had highlighted his “rigged” meme.

“I had a theory when I sat down to write it,” Harris told the Times. “Given the severe distrust of the media among Trump supporters, anything that parroted Trump’s talking points people would click. Trump was saying ‘rigged election, rigged election.’ People were predisposed to believe Hillary Clinton could not win except by cheating.”

Late Thursday, responding to a woman’s tweet, Harris confirmed that he voted for Trump. At 1 a.m. Friday, he re-posted his apology “for the folks in my mentions who are more interested in castigation than conversation.”

Quillen addressed the issue of fake news in her letter to faculty this week. Davidson’s Office of College Relations made a copy of her remarks available to the Observer.

“The Davidson community has, for generations, worked hard to create a culture of integrity and to hold each other accountable,” Quillen wrote. “We strive to pursue knowledge aggressively and with relentless honesty. Fabricating news is radically inconsistent with the commitment to honest intellectual inquiry, leadership and service that the vast majority of our community live out every day.

“A few of you have already pointed out that Davidson will address this in our own way, and a few of you have suggested that we teach this as a case study in ethics in the digital age,” Quillen wrote. “This all will take time to develop and I know productive discussions are already occurring.”

Staff Writer Adam Bell contributed.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

  Comments