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(Video Credit: PIX11 News)
Columbia University’s Department of Psychiatry Chair Jeffrey Lieberman was suspended on Wednesday after he apologized for sending out a “racist and sexist” comment via Twitter that described dark-skinned Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech as “a freak of nature.”
“Whether a work of art or freak of nature she’s a beautiful sight to behold,” Lieberman said in a now-deleted tweet concerning the 29-year-old model, who is known as the “Queen of Dark.”
Lieberman replied to a tweet on Monday erroneously referring to the model as “the Guinness Book of World Records holder for person with the darkest skin on Earth.” Guinness does not actually track that type of thing.
His apology was swift but not fast enough to keep him from being suspended, “My sincere apologies for any offense taken and indiscretions. Living and learning.”
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Hi, this is not true as skin tone is not something we monitor.
— Guinness World Records (@GWR) May 4, 2020
Lieberman told colleagues in an email on Tuesday that he was “deeply ashamed” over the tweets, according to The New York Times.
“I tweeted from my personal account a message that was racist and sexist. Prejudices and stereotypical assumptions I didn’t know I held have been exposed — to myself and to you — and I’m deeply ashamed and very sorry,” the psychiatrist said in an email provided to the New York Post.
“An apology from me to the Black community, to women, and to all of you is not enough,” Lieberman groveled in the email. “I’ve hurt many, and I am beginning to understand the work ahead to make needed personal changes and over time to regain your trust.”
Lieberman’s Twitter account was no longer active as of Thursday.
@DrJlieberman has deleted the Tweet. This is 2022. It is unfathomable that a department chair at a leading institution could be so openly racist or casually cruel or both. @Columbia come get your senior leader & talk about respect. pic.twitter.com/Z0uOlnOrk6
— Dr. Tracey Perez Koehlmoos (@DrTraceyK) February 21, 2022
Columbia University released a statement on Wednesday announcing the psych head’s suspension not only as chair of the Department of Psychiatry but also as Psychiatrist-in-Chief at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. The university declared that the decision was final.
Lieberman also resigned from his role as executive director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute on Tuesday. The new acting director, Thomas Smith, aggressively denounced Lieberman’s actions.
“We condemn the racism and sexism reflected in Dr. Lieberman’s tweet and acknowledge and share the hurt, sadness, confusion, and distressing emotions you may be feeling,” Smith said in an over-the-top placating statement.
Gatwech slammed Lieberman for bringing negative attention her way, claiming that she has had to battle claims that she has the darkest skin in the world repeatedly.
“Unfortunately, I believe this has been impacting my Instagram account negatively,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I have worked really hard to build my page and use it as platform to promote self acceptance, body positivity, and of course, my brand partnerships, but it’s about self love above anything else,” she added. “I don’t buy followers, and to those who believe otherwise, I do not need to manufacture lies for likes… I love my dark skin and my nickname ‘Queen of Dark,’ but I’ve never said I’m the darkest person on earth.”
Nyakim Gatwech is stunning. pic.twitter.com/3RaZnd6HS4
— Eric hale (@Erichale1979) February 24, 2022
Calls for Lieberman to be fired poured in.
Dr. Daniel Block, who is a fellow psychiatrist, tweeted that Lieberman’s comments were unforgivable given his prestigious position.
“It’s unconscionable that anyone would post that anywhere – it is nothing but hurtful and propagates racism,” Block proclaimed, basically calling for Lieberman’s head. “That it was a psychiatrist in such a position of power and authority makes it that much worse. An apology is no longer enough – that is just words.”
Robert Klitzman, who is a professor of psychiatry at Columbia and has worked for decades with Lieberman, told the New York Times this was an “unfortunate” incident. He added that it “really highlights how deep and pervasive some of our own unconscious biases can be.”
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