Fox News accuses Boston University professor of ‘trolling white rape victim’

Saida Grundy, the incoming Boston University professor accused of insensitive trolling.
Saida Grundy, the incoming Boston University professor accused of insensitive trolling. –Boston University

8:10 p.m., Tuesday: Updates with additional comments from Meghan Chamberlin.

Saida Grundy hasn’t started her professorship at Boston University yet, but she’s already the subject of several Fox News headlines, including a new one that says she’s “accused of trolling a white rape victim.’’

Did she?

The story gained traction because of the implication that a prominent university is about to give a position of influence to someone with profound insensitivity. Grundy, who’s joining the BU sociology department, was already a person of note to news media outlets—especially conservative ones—because of tweets in which she called white, college-aged males a “problem population.’’

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But the friend of Grundy’s who is at the center of the new dispute says Fox News’ account is misleading at best.

The woman Grundy is accused of trolling told Boston.com Tuesday afternoon that she didn’t think Fox News got the story right. But she called back Tuesday evening, after speaking with a Fox News reporter, to say she did believe Grundy was aware that she had been raped when the professor argued with her online.

This much is not in dispute: Grundy got in an argument online with Meghan Chamberlin, a woman who is a survivor of sexual assault. According to Grundy’s friend, Frank Miller, Grundy didn’t know when she argued with Chamberlin that Chamberlin had ever been assaulted.

The dispute started, oddly enough, with Patricia Arquette. In February, Miller posted an article on Facebook, titled “Dear Patricia Arquette: Blacks and gays owe white women nothing.’’ It was an opinion piece by African-American writer Blue Telusma, who argued Arquette was wrong when she said at the Oscars: “It’s time for all the women in America, all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for—to fight for us now!’’

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Chamberlin, also one of Miller’s friends, interpreted the article to mean that white women’s opinions don’t count. Her comment was long, and was hidden behind a “click here to see more’’ wall. Which may have led to more problems.

Grundy declined to speak with Boston.com about her response to Chamberlin’s comments. Fox News and Maxim Lott, the author of the article, did not respond to requests for comment.

But Miller says Grundy responded to Chamberlin without clicking to read her full comment, and missed the context in which Charmberlin explained that she had been raped.

“She just thought, here’s another person willfully not understanding,’’ Miller said.

Grundy responded with a comment linking to another article in the hopes of “shutting down’’ the argument and pointing Chamberlin to something that could explain what she said was wrong with Arquette’s speech.

Given the attention around Grundy’s tweets about young white men, someone anonymously sent screenshots of the conversation to Jezebel. (Boston.com has spoken with the person, who declined to be identified.)

When no one at the feminist news outlet jumped on the story, the person sent it to The Washington Post and Fox News.

The latter went with the story, with the full headline: “Boston University prof in racist tweet flap accused of trolling white rape victim.’’

Miller says Grundy learned for the first time that she had been arguing with a rape survivor because of the Fox News story.

Grundy wasn’t trolling a “rape victim,’’ Miller says: She was arguing with a woman she didn’t know had been raped.

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“It blindsided her,’’ Miller said. “She was like what? Who was raped?’’

When Boston.com first spoke with Chamberlin Tuesday, Chamberlin said she believed Grundy.

“I want brains like hers not in just higher education,’’ Chamberlin said about Grundy. “I wish we could have that open-mindedness and critical thinking in more places. I would like it my kids’ elementary school.’’

But in her later phone call to Boston.com, she said she believed that Grundy was aware that she had been raped when the argument took place.

Fox News reported that the post was deleted, but Miller says he just made it private. He tried to send screenshots of the full conversation to Boston.com, but wrote in email, “Just realized while piecing together the screenshots, that with Saida’s account deactivated for the time being, her comments are now missing from the Facebook thread and all the context is lost.’’

But even with the context, it’s still unclear exactly what happened.

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