WASHINGTON • Facing harsh criticism, a Harvard dean yesterday said he was revoking his invitation to former US soldier Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking classified information, to be a visiting fellow at the university.
The sudden turnabout by the Harvard Kennedy School came after intense backlash over the university's announcement on Wednesday that Ms Manning would become a visiting fellow at the Institute of Politics.
Harvard Kennedy School dean Douglas Elmendorf said that while the university encourages a diversity of opinions and does not shy from controversy, naming Ms Manning a fellow was a mistake for which he accepted responsibility.
"I see more clearly now that many people view a visiting fellow title as an honorific, so we should weigh that consideration when offering invitations," he wrote on the school's website. "I apologise to her and to the many concerned people from whom I have heard... for not recognising upfront the full implications of our original invitation."
Ms Manning was among a group, including former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, named on Wednesday as visiting fellows at the school.
Mr Elmendorf said Harvard had extended the fellowship to Ms Manning because she fit its tradition of asking influential people to address students.
Ms Manning was convicted in 2010 for giving WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January as one of his final acts as president, and she was freed in May.
While the school is revoking the title of visiting fellow for Ms Manning, she is still invited to spend a day at the school and speak at a forum, the dean said.
The decision followed forceful denunciations by a former top official at the CIA and the current director at the agency.
Mr Michael Morell, a deputy director at the intelligence agency under Mr Obama, resigned as a fellow on Thursday, calling the invitation to Ms Manning "wholly inappropriate".
And CIA director Mike Pompeo withdrew from a Harvard forum he was to attend on Thursday, citing the fellowship as the reason. "Ms Manning betrayed her country," Mr Pompeo, who graduated from Harvard Law School, wrote in a letter to a Kennedy School official, adding that he commended Mr Morell's decision to resign.