A prominent professor at Louisiana’s largest public university has said he is resigning after an extremist Republican candidate won the state’s gubernatorial election – a victory some fear could accelerate the already conservative-dominated state’s march into unfettered rightwing governance.
Robert Mann, a journalism professor at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communication and a well-known political commentator, said he will step down at the end of the academic year in response to Jeff Landry’s victory in the election to become governor.
Landry had previously called for Mann to be disciplined by LSU after the academic criticized him online.
“I have this morning informed my dean that I will step down from my position at LSU at the end of the school year,” Mann posted on X.
“My reasons are simple: the person who will be governor in January has already asked LSU to fire me. And I have no confidence the leadership of this university would protect the Manship School against a governor’s efforts to punish me and other faculty members.
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“I’ve seen too much cowardice and appeasement from top LSU officials already. That being the case, it’s clearly best to remove myself from the equation to avoid any harm to the school I love.
“I’ll add that I’ve suspected for the past two years it would come to this, so I’ve been making plans for some time. The minute that I knew Landry wanted me fired and was willing to call the [university] president to demand it, I knew there would be dark days for LSU if he won.”
Landry won a multi-party – or “jungle” – primary in Louisiana on Saturday with little meaningful resistance from the state’s Democratic party. He is preparing to be sworn in as governor in January after capturing a majority of the votes cast in Saturday’s race.
As attorney general, Landry railed against coronavirus vaccine and masking requirements, and measures to address the climate crisis, which he has called “a hoax”.
In 2020, he joined with other Republican attorneys general in a lawsuit which attempted to overturn the results of the election that saw Donald Trump lose the presidency to Joe Biden. Landry was endorsed by Trump in the gubernatorial race.
Mann – once the communications director for late former Democratic Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco – became the subject of Landry’s ire in 2021 after criticizing the attorney general’s opposition to vaccine mandates.
Landry, who sued the Biden administration after it mandated Covid vaccinations for federal contractors, had been opposed to stricter vaccine requirements at LSU. And he sent a representative to a university meeting where vaccines were discussed.
In response, Mann tweeted: “Louisiana AG Jeff Landry sending some flunkie to the LSU Faculty Senate meeting today to read a letter attacking Covid vaccines is quite the move from a guy who considers himself ‘pro-life’.”
Landry was unhappy with the characterization. He said he had spoken with the LSU president “and expressed my disdain and expectation for accountability”.
He added: “This type of disrespect and dishonesty has no place in our society – especially at our flagship university by a professor. I hope LSU takes appropriate action soon.”
Neither Landry nor LSU immediately responded to requests for comment.
The outgoing Louisiana governor, John Bel Edwards, a centrist Democrat, has used his veto power to prevent some of the most extreme Republican legislation from passing in the state.
Edwards issued 319 vetoes in his first seven and a half years as governor, including against a law which would have dropped compulsory school Covid vaccinations and a “don’t say gay” bill similar to the one in Florida, which would have banned teachers from mentioning sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools.
Landry’s victory means Louisiana will have a Republican governor and legislature, which will be eager to revisit efforts to enact those laws.