Gizmodo Digs Into Google Memo Author’s College Days For Signs of Sexism

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Not content with destroying Google memo author James Damore’s reputation with an intentional mischaracterization of his memo’s contents as an “anti-diversity screed,” Gizmodo has now taken it upon itself to dig through Damore’s past for anything deemed remotely offensive.

A piece on Gizmodo’s website, which came out after Google fired Damore, claims Harvard University's administration had to apologize for a “sexist” skit Damore was part of in 2012.

According to Gizmodo, the site obtained emails and comment from four Ph.Ds were who in Damore's program that he had, at one point in time, “offended his peers with sexist ideologies.”

The allegedly sexist skit in question was a joke related to masturbation that Damore made during a “roast” session (that, reportedly, was not meant to offend).  While describing the reaction to the skit as "sexist," however, Gizmodo said half of the sources they spoke to said the backlash to the joke was due to its delivery, “not any malice on the part of Damore.”

Regardless, at the time, the co-directors of the Systems Biology Program, sent an email apologizing for the skit:

At our recent retreat, a student skit presented material that offended many members of our community. Skits are an important form of self-expression and we believe that students should feel free, and even encouraged, to make fun of the faculty, the academic leadership of the program, and the trials and tribulations of being a young scientist. But even in the context of a deliberately humorous event, targeting any group within the program that can be defined by gender, by ethnicity, by sexual orientation, or by religious affiliation, is never acceptable. As the directors of the program, we are responsible for creating a culture in which this important principle is self-evident. The responsibility for any offense thus lies with us and we would like to offer our sincere apology for uneasiness, embarrassment, or offense that any of you suffered at the retreat.

Wired’s reporting on the topic clarifies the joke was meant to mock professor Timothy Mitchison, who discovered a concept called “Microtubule Jerking,” and was one of the directors of the program.

Both Gizmodo's and Wired's stories come as Google employers request more information about Damore’s potentially offensive past.

When talking to Wired reporter Nitasha Tiku about claims that Damore did not finish his Ph.D program, Google employee Liz Fong-Jones asked Tiku about whether she asked Harvard about whether Damore had been on the receiving end of a harassment complaint:

Another Google employee, Matthew Garrett, claimed there was an “independent report” on that claims Damore made a “thinly-veiled masturbation allegory”:

 

The comments by the two Google employees bringing up Damore’s college past predate the stories on Gizmodo and Wired, though Fong-Jones stated she discovered the accusation about Damore on the comments section of a blog (which Garrett reportedly also cited).

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