We’ve found the new plot line for the next season of the spoof documentary show American Vandal, if there is one.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln political science professor Ari Kohen liked a photo on Facebook of a Republican congressman Jeff Fortenberry’s campaign sign that had been altered to put googly eyes on the candidate and changed his name from “Fortenberry” to “Fartenberry.” The campaign slogan on the sign was also changed to read: “Strong Families, Strong Communities, Strong Odor.”
Little did Kohen know, that fateful click of the “like” button would turn into a political scandal.
Fortenberry’s chief of staff, William “Reyn” Archer, found out that Kohen liked the post, but he thought the like was no laughing matter. Archer first tried to contact Kohen and left him a voicemail message. But when Kohen did not immediately respond (Kohen said he was out of town at a conference), Archer tried to get the professor in trouble by contacting the head of the political science department, as well as Kohen’s dean and the chancellor of the university.
“The question is what the position of the department and university is regarding vandalism or worse violence, which we have seen in this political season,” Archer wrote in an email to UNL administrators.
Kohen was shocked that Archer reached out to him and the university. “I know this is not high comedy,” Kohen told the Lincoln Journal-Star. “It was Sunday, I was bored and got a laugh out of it. I clicked like because I found it amusing.”
When Kohen called Archer back, he recorded the conversation, and the audio is insane. An shortened version of the call is below. During an hour-long conversation, Archer tried to convince Kohen why his Facebook like was an endorsement of vandalism. Kohen argued that the image could have been Photoshopped, for all he knew. Undeterred, Archer went on to talk about American professors’ reputations as being liberal and likened it to liking a photo of someone in blackface.
“Frankly, we have a First Amendment opportunity to basically to put you out there in front of everybody… Why is a professor liking vandalism? We can do that publicly, would you like that?” Archer told Kohen.
Considering Archer works for Fortenberry’s Congressional office, it seems like a bizarre use of taxpayer dollars to bother a professor for something as small as a like on his private Facebook page.
The American Association of University Professors took Kohen’s side, writing an open letter that called Archer’s actions “harassment.” Kohen said he has filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Archer and Fortenberry know perfectly well that I don’t “like vandalism.” But they wanted to intimidate me, with both the power of their office and with a specific threat to unleash a mob against me. And that’s why I’ve filed a report with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
— Ari Kohen (@kohenari) November 1, 2018