Claudine Gay
Claudine GayReuters

Former Harvard University President Claudine Gay commented on her resignation on Wednesday, admitting that she made mistakes but insisting she was the target of a sustained campaign of lies and personal insults, AFP reported.

Gay stepped down on Tuesday after coming under attack over plagiarism accusations as well as her response to anti-Israel demonstrations on campus amid the Israel-Hamas war.

"Those who had relentlessly campaigned to oust me since the fall often trafficked in lies and ad hominem insults, not reasoned argument," she wrote on Wednesday in The New York Times.

"They recycled tired racial stereotypes about Black talent and temperament. They pushed a false narrative of indifference and incompetence," added Gay.

"It is not lost on me that I make an ideal canvas for projecting every anxiety about the generational and demographic changes unfolding on American campuses: a Black woman selected to lead a storied institution. Someone who views diversity as a source of institutional strength and dynamism," she wrote.

Gay, who made history as the first Black person to be president of Harvard, argued she was targeted because she believed "that a daughter of Haitian immigrants has something to offer to the nation's oldest university."

Gay courted controversy starting with her initial response to the Hamas massacre of October 7, including her initial refusal to condemn the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust or the 34 Harvard student groups that published a statement in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, blaming Israel for the Hamas massacre.

The antisemitism controversy came to a head on December 5, when Gay, along with MIT President Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, testified before a congressional hearing on the issue of antisemitism on college campuses.

All three university presidents gave similar answers to Rep. Elise Stefanik in which they failed to unequivocally condemn antisemitism or even calls for genocide against Jews.

In response to a question about whether such calls for genocide violate Harvard's code of conduct, Gay responded that this depended on the "context" and whether or not the genocidal language turned into action.