A Kent State University professor allegedly with former ties to a jihadist website shouted “Death to Israel” at a public lecture delivered on the Ohio campus by a former Israeli diplomat.
The outburst came during a presentation this week by Ismael Khaldi, a former deputy counsel general at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco. During the question and answer period, KSU history professor Julio Pino launched a series of provocative questions at Khaldi.
At some point, the professor shouted “Death to Israel” and then stormed out of the building. The event was first reported by the KSU student news site KentWired.
KSU president Lester Lefton, who is Jewish, denounced Pino’s outburst, calling it “reprehensible and an embarrassment to our university.”
At the same time, he defended Pino’s free speech rights.
“It may have been professor Pino’s right to do so, but it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable and his behavior deeply troubling,” his statement read.
Pino, who is originally from Cuba and a convert to Islam, did not return calls for comment.
A Kent State spokesman confirmed the professor was once investigated by federal authorities. The university said they were also aware of allegations that Pino wrote stories for a now-defunct jihadist website.
And according to the Akron Beacon Journal , the professor eulogized an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber in the Daily Kent Stater, the student-run newspaper.
And yet, the tenured history professor still remains employed by the university.
University spokesman Tom Neumann told Fox News that Pino remains employed and has not been removed from the classroom. He declined to say whether an investigation had been launched into his latest outburst, citing privacy issues.
The professor’s outburst has generated criticism and debate across the campus.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for a professor, an employee of the university, to engage in such hate speech,” student Evan Gildenblatt told the Cleveland Jewish News.
Ken Jacobson, the deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the university should consider taking disciplinary action.
“This kind of language is inappropriate,” Jacobson told Fox News. “It’s vitriolic, it’s violent – it undermines the sense of safety for Jewish students on campus to have a professor use such outrageous language.”
Jacobson said he was especially concerned about Jewish students who might be students of Pino.
"It’s a real problem,” Jacobson said. “If he’s doing that in his classroom, he shouldn’t be teaching there.”
Newmann said the university has received a number of calls and emails, and the president had been in touch with many of the local Jewish organizations near the university.
“Whether you are a Jewish student or not, we find it very troubling,” he said. “That’s the point we want to get across. Dr. Pino doesn’t speak on behalf of the university, and that’s not the type of behavior we expect.”
But Pino does have some supporters – among faculty members at the public university.
Donald Hassler, a member of Kent State’s Faculty Senate, told Fox News that Pino is a “colleague whom I respect.”
“We believe in freedom of expression and civil discourse,” Hassler said. “And those sometimes come in conflict – as they did in this case.”
Hassler said Pino must have lost control at the lecture.
“It lacked civility,” he said. "It was an example of hate speech. He knows better than to use hate speech. He has definitely strong opinions. He needs to state them in a civil way.”
Ken Bindas, the chair of the KSU history department, told the Cleveland Jewish News that Pino was not attending the program as a professor, but “as a human being.”
“I don’t agree with his comments, but at the same time, I can’t not defend his right to free speech,” he told the newspaper.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. Sign up for his American Dispatch newsletter, be sure to join his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter. His latest book is "God Less America."