The Detroit Free Press reported Friday that, contrary to what was stated in other media reports, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox did not suspend Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell. A spokesperson for the governor said Shirvell voluntarily took a leave of absence.
Shirvell is under fire for engaging in a public harassment campaign against a gay student leader at the University of Michigan, Chris Armstrong. Cox has been widely criticized for not firing him.
Thursday, Cox told CNN he would not fire Shirvell, claiming that to do so would violate Shirvell’s First Amendment rights. Cox has since told the Detroit News that he was wrong to stand by Shirvell — but he is still standing by him by maintaining him on the state payroll. Shirvell has no business in the employ of the state’s highest law enforcement authority, given his behavior toward Armstrong.
Cox called Shirvell’s behavior bullying, but said it was off-the-job conduct shielded by civil service rules and the First Amendment.
On Friday, Cox admitted that he had not read all of Shirvell’s blog posts against Armstrong when he made his earlier statement. This controversy has been ongoing for two weeks. Why did the state attorney general go out on a limb in public to defend Shirvell without first reading the blog posts that had been quoted extensively in the media? Now there are two public officials whose responsibility to the public is in question: Shirvell and Cox.
If Cox has not investigated the blog posts, what basis does he have for publicly stating they were made on Shirvell’s free time? Verification that none of the postings took place during Shirvell’s work time is a responsibility Cox owes to the public.
Throughout this controversy, Cox has chosen to focus on Shirvell’s free speech rights while ignoring more compelling issues raised by Shirvell’s behavior toward Armstrong.
Shirvell did not merely exercise free speech; he engaged in dedicated cyber-bullying. Cox publicly denounced Shirvell’s behavior as bullying, so he can hardly claim this is news to him.
Besides uttering ugly words about Armstrong, Shirvell has pursued him relentlessly, picketed him at his home, school, and recreational hangouts, according to media reports. Shirvell has followed Armstrong in public, denouncing him as a racist and liar. On Sept. 1, Shirvell identified Armstrong in a blog post as a leader of a group that would engage in “VIOLENT” persecution of Christians, pro-lifers and minority students this fall when Armstrong is called out in public about his alleged lies. The University of Michigan recognized Shirvell’s behavior as sufficiently dangerous that it barred him from the campus pending a full “stalking and harassing” investigation. Shirvell has appealed that order.
Shirvell is an officer of the court working for a public office charged with law enforcement duties. The public cannot expect evenhanded law enforcement activity from Shirvell given his actions toward Armstrong on the basis of Armstrong’s sexual orientation. These biased actions include Shirvell’s singling out a young citizen and creating a blog to discredit his activity, “Chris Armstrong Watch.” According to the Michigan Daily, one blog post was titled “Chris Armstrong: the PRIVILEGED pervert.” The blog persistently refers to Armstrong as a radical homosexual activist, according to various media reports.
In another blog post, Shirvell depicted Armstrong with a swastika over his face. Shirvell described homosexuality as a cult for which Armstrong is a “Nazi-like recruiter,” according to advocate.com. Friday, the blog suddenly was closed to the public.
Shirvell publicly accused Armstrong of hosting homosexual orgies and engaging in underage drinking in violation of the law, accusations he could not substantiate when confronted by WXYZ. WXYZ said Armstrong did not attend the party where Shirvell claimed he engaged in underage drinking. Shirvell admitted that he based his accusation that Armstrong broke the law on a comment the student allegedly made on Facebook indicating an intention to attend the party, coupled with a Facebook description of what the party was all about.
Isn’t a public official entrusted with law enforcement activity making false public allegations of law-breaking based on vague Facebook posts a problem in Cox’s eyes?
Shirvell has brought disgrace to his public office. He has violated the public trust. He has engaged in behavior that, at a minimum, creates an appearance of impropriety and demonstrates his inability to treat homosexual citizens fairly. In defending Shirvell and brushing off his conduct toward Armstrong as free speech protected by the First Amendment, Cox called his own competency and credibility into question.