Culverhouse, the UA feud was about ego, power and money, not Alabama’s abortion law
This is an opinion column.
It was a tale that wouldn’t die, kept alive by a social media frenzy and many people too keen to believe it.
In an editorial published by the Washington Post on Friday, Hugh Culverhouse Jr. again framed his ongoing feud with the University of Alabama as a political dispute over the state’s near-total abortion ban.
Culverhouse Jr. is an heir to Hugh Culverhouse Sr., alumnus and donor of the University of Alabama. Last year Culverhouse Jr, who is not an alumnus himself, pledged $ 25 million to the university’s law school, and in return, the university agreed to appoint its faculty to right after Culverhouse Jr. and created an endowed chair. That relationship has gone sour, Culverhouse said, after calling on prospective students to boycott the university over abortion law.
It’s a good story.
Heck, I shared Culverhouse’s first comments on Twitter when he first made them. And after the Post published its op-ed on Friday, that story traveled even further and faster, as it was shared and retweeted by many people willing to believe the worst about Alabama and its eponymous university.
We all should have given it a second look.
Emails and timeline
There are big issues with this narrative, issues that show little of Culverhouse’s premise, if any, can be true, and that he has hijacked the abortion debate and Alabama’s horrific moment under. national spotlight as a preemptive attack on the university.
The university has now published email exchanges between Culverhouse and university officials, showing the dispute as something else – a bitter and personal feud between the University and one of the institution’s biggest donors. These emails show Culverhouse trying to influence decisions about hiring, admissions and scholarships – and threatening to take his money out of school when he hasn’t succeeded.
“I want to speak next week and go over all the nominees, but your actions resulted in me no longer giving Alabama freebies and yesterday I pulled Alabama as a beneficiary of my will.” / trust, ”Culverhouse wrote to the college’s law school. dean on May 24. “This amount makes fun of the money I gave.”
And those records show Chancellor Finis St. John first told Trustee Joe Espy that the university should repay all Culverhouse donations and rename the law school after Culverhouse. – four days before Culverhouse made any publicly reported comments on the abortion ban.
Further, these records show Culverhouse mocking administrators, the university president and the dean of the law school, threatening to take same day loans of the university unless those officials treat him with more deference, and ultimately demanding at least $ 10 million from the school.
Again, all before Culverhouse says a word in the press about Alabama’s abortion law.
“If you want to continue to treat me like a subversive spy, just change the professor’s name to ‘The Richard Shelby Chair of Constitutional Law’ and we’ll think of a cover story,” Culverhouse wrote on May 24. can be done with law school, after a financial settlement is made and completed.
Virulent and viral
On May 29, a Florida political website, FLAPOL, published an article in which Culverhouse called on prospective students to boycott the University of Alabama – not because of his argument with university officials, but because of the almost total ban on abortion in Alabama.
This is the story I shared on social media. Lots of other people have done it too. But quickly, the facts prevented a good story. And facts matter.
From the start, there were reasons to be skeptical. For starters, Culverhouse didn’t target Alabama in general, but the University of Alabama in particular. Yes, her last name carries more weight, but shouldn’t Auburn get the same treatment? Or any other university or college in the state? Or any business? Why just UA?
Deadlines matter and the backstory clarified Culverhouse’s motives.
The truth dies first
University administrators on Friday approved St. John’s proposal, removed Culverhouse’s name from law school and agreed to reimburse Culverhouse donations. That same day, Culverhouse sent his op-ed to the Post, which ran it and started a social media storm. Other media followed, most describing the dispute as he / they-say.
I am married to the Crimson Cult, but I have never hesitated to bow the nose of the UA system when I thought it was warranted. I might never have received more hate messages than the day I argued in a column that Nick Saban could have voted illegally by absent ballot. I’m lucky that I don’t have to leave the state.
And I’m not a fan of the abortion law in Alabama. Rather the opposite. I argued vehemently against it.
But the University of Alabama is not the right target here. Not this time.
Facts matter. The truth matters. And that whole sad saga ran out of both, even when Culverhouse tried to bring it back to Alabama’s true religion: soccer.
“I think what provoked them the most was when they asked me if I wanted to see a football game and I said no; I don’t like to see young men hurt each other, ” Culverhouse told the American Bar Association Journal last week.
It was a good line. A good story, but …
In addition to the emails, on Sunday I also received a photo by email. It’s about Culverhouse and his wife standing on the green grass, waving a sea of crimson – from the 50-yard line at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Kyle Whitmire is the State Political Columnist for the Alabama Media Group.
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