Bret Stephens on 'bedbug' controversy, leaving Twitter: Insect comparisons have 'totalitarian' history

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens stood by his much-criticized reaction to a professor comparing him to a bed bug, pointing to how insect comparisons have been used by totalitarian regimes.

"There is a bad history of being analogized to insects that goes back to a lot of totalitarian regimes," Stephens said during an MSNBC appearance on Tuesday.

Stephens was discussing his decision to leave Twitter over the derogatory description. His comment about "totalitarian regimes" came after MSNBC host Chris Jansing asked him if that was the "worst" thing he's been called on Twitter.

The columnist called the professor's words "dehumanizing" and argued people should be the same on social media as they are in "real life."

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Stephens left Twitter over the incident, which started after news surfaced that the Times' offices were infested with bed bugs. George Washington University professor David Karpf joked that "the bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens."

Stephens responded by sending an email to both Karpf and his provost, but insisted on Tuesday that he wasn't trying to get the professor in trouble.

"I also copied his provost -- people are upset about this -- I want to be clear. I had no intention whatsoever to get him in any kind of professional trouble," he said.

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He argued that employers should be aware of the way their employees interact with the rest of the world.

In his email to Karpf, Stephens invited the professor to come to his house and meet his family -- and then call him a "bedbug" to his face.

"That would take some genuine courage and intellectual integrity on your part," Stephens told the college professor. "I promise to be courteous no matter what you have to say. Maybe it will make you feel better about yourself."

Later on Tuesday, GWU Provost Forrest Maltzman invited Stephens to give a talk at the university on "civil discourse in the digital age."

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Maltzman also defended Karpf, saying that he was an academic who spoke for himself and didn't "take direction" from the provost.

"His opinions are his own," Maltzman added. "Our commitment to academic freedom and free speech are integral to GW's mission."

Fox News' Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.