MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton's organization, the National Action Network (NAN), is expected to picket outside Bill Ackman’s office on Thursday in protest of his involvement in former Harvard President Claudine Gay's resignation.
Ackman, a former Harvard alum and billionaire hedge fund manager, has frequently criticized Gay, especially since her controversial congressional testimony on antisemitism on college campuses, calling on her to "resign in disgrace" and suggesting she was hired due to the university's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
Sharpton asserted in a statement that Gay stepped down as a "result of Bill Ackman’s relentless campaign against" her, "not because of her leadership or credentials but because he felt she was a DEI hire."
Sharpton asserted Gay's resignation was about more than her, it was "an attack on every Black woman in this country who’s put a crack in the glass ceiling. It’s an assault on the health, strength, and future of diversity, equity, and inclusion – at a time when Corporate America is trying to back out of billions of dollars in commitments."
He therefore announced NAN would be picketing outside Ackman's offices to protest his actions and send a message to those who oppose the DEI agenda.
"The National Action Network will show Ackman that his attacks on DEI, President Gay, and Black Americans have consequences. This Thursday, our team will picket outside of his office so New Yorkers, his investors, and Corporate America can see Bill Ackman for who he is. If he doesn’t think Black Americans belong in the C-Suite, the Ivy League, or any other hallowed halls, we’ll make ourselves at home outside his office," Sharpton said.
Ackman later responded when notified about the protest in an X post, encouraging Sharpton to connect with him.
"I would be delighted to sit with Mr. Sharpton and discuss any concerns he might have about anything I have said or done in connection with @Harvard and Claudine Gay. I encourage anyone who knows Mr. Sharpton to ask him to reach out to me directly," Ackman wrote. "I won’t be able to meet him at the protest if he comes tomorrow as I am currently out of the country."
Ackman first weighed in on antisemitism at Harvard after he called on the university to reveal the names of students who signed a letter blaming Hamas’ terror attacks on Israel while they were still going on, so he and other executives could avoid hiring them in the future.
Since then, he penned a letter to Gay in November, demanding she crack down on antisemitism on campus that rose in the wake of the Hamas' terror attacks on Israel. He released an open letter in December accusing the school of also discriminating against White males, Asians and conservatives after speaking with anonymous faculty members.
"The problems at Harvard are clearly not just about Jews and Israel. It is abundantly clear that straight White males are discriminated against in recruitment and advancement at Harvard. That is also apparently true to a somewhat lesser extent for men who are Asians or of Indian origin. The [Harvard Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging] is an important culprit in this discrimination on campus as it sees the world in a framework of oppressors and the oppressed, where the oppressor class includes white males, Asians, Jews and other people perceived to be successful and powerful," Ackman wrote in December.
After Gay's resignation, Ackman wrote a lengthy X post excoriating DEI's effect on the institution and calling for wide-ranging reforms, including getting rid of the board members who supported the former president and terminating Harvard's Office for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.