Harvard University President Claudine Gay
Harvard University President Claudine GayReuters

Harvard President Claudine Gay apologized for remarks she made at a congressional testimony this week.

Gay, together with several other university presidents, danced around a question from Rep. Elise Stefanik on whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” is against the universities’ respective codes of conduct.

Speaking to The Harvard Crimson in an interview on Thursday, Gay said, “I am sorry. Words matter.”

“When words amplify distress and pain, I don’t know how you could feel anything but regret,” she added.

Gay said she sought to use her testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday to highlight efforts underway at Harvard to combat antisemitism. Her remarks, however, only served to inflame criticism of Gay’s response to reports of antisemitism on campus.

As the backlash grew into an uproar, Gay issued a statement through Harvard’s official social media channels on Wednesday in an attempt to clarify her response to Stefanik’s line of questioning.

She acknowledged in the interview with The Harvard Crimson that the damage had been done. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce announced an official congressional investigation into antisemitism at Harvard.

“I got caught up in what had become at that point, an extended, combative exchange about policies and procedures,” Gay said in the interview. “What I should have had the presence of mind to do in that moment was return to my guiding truth, which is that calls for violence against our Jewish community — threats to our Jewish students — have no place at Harvard, and will never go unchallenged.”

“Substantively, I failed to convey what is my truth,” Gay added, who said that over the past two months, she has heard “wrenching testimony about how much pain” students are in.

“To contemplate that something I said amplified that pain — that’s really difficult,” she said. “It makes me sad.”

Another participant at the congressional hearing, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, sought to clarify her conduct during the congressional hearing, and claimed that “she was not focused” during the hearing on “the irrefutable fact that a call for genocide of Jewish people is a call for some of the most terrible violence human beings can perpetrate. It’s evil, plain and simple.”

On Thursday, Ross Stevens, a University of Pennsylvania donor, withdrew a gift worth around $100 million in protest against the school's response to antisemitism on campus.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)