Kenneth L. Storey, an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Tampa, was fired on Tuesday for suggesting that the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey karma for Texans voting Republican. “I dont believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them,” Storey tweeted on his now-deleted Twitter page.
Storey was fired after his tweet caused a social media furor. #FireKenStorey started trending on Twitter and the University of Tampa’s Facebook page was inundated with calls for his firing.
Here’s what you need to know about Storey.
1. Storey Tweeted That Hurricane Harvey ‘Kinda Feels Like’ Karma for Texas Supporting Republicans
Storey caused the controversy when he tweeted on Monday:
“I dont believe in instant karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesnt care about them.”
Although the tweet was deleted, it was up long enough for screenshots to be taken and they circulated on Twitter. At first, the University issued a statement that it does not condone Storey’s comments.
“The comments made by Kenneth Storey were made via his private social media account,” the university said. “They were not made within his capacity as a faculty member, and they don’t represent the University’s views. The University of Tampa condemns these comments and the sentiment behind them.”
Storey later issued an apology tweet, which read:
I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.
The University announced on Tuesday that Storey was fired:
On Sunday, Aug. 27, visiting assistant professor of sociology Kenneth Storey made comments on a private Twitter account that do not reflect UT’s community views or values. We condemn the comments and the sentiment behind them, and understand the pain this irresponsible act has caused.
Storey has been relieved of his duties at UT, and his classes will be covered by other sociology faculty.
As Floridians, we are well aware of the destruction and suffering associated with tropical weather. Our thoughts and prayers are with all impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
2. He Said He Was Referring to the Republicans’ Denial of Climate Change Science
Storey sent ABC Action News a longer apology, but explained that he was referring to Republicans who deny climate change science and said his tweet was taken out of context.
“I was referring to the GOP denial of climate change science and push to decrease funds from agencies that can help in a time like this,” Storey told ABC Action News. “I hope all affected by the storm are safe and recover quickly. I also hope this helps the GOP realize the need to support climate change research and put in place better funding for agencies like NOAA and FEMA.”
Storey continued, “I’ve been clear with that through various tweets that followed the initial tweet. It is hard to express one’s full thoughts in 140 characters and I realize that taken out of context some tweets may sound extremely off-putting. I never intended it to be that.”
3. Storey Says He Understands the University’s Decision & Says ‘I Love This Country’
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Storey said he understood the university’s decision, but was saddened by it.
“What they see in those tweets is not who I am,” he said. “How I worded it was wrong. I care about people. I love this country. I would never want to wish harm upon anyone.”
The Times notes that the university doesn’t have a policy on protecting speech like Story’s. Communication professor Gregg Bachman told the Times that the tweet was insensitive, but he didn’t like to see a fellow professor fired like that.
“I can feel a slight chill in the air over this,” Bachman told the paper. “I want to see that policy, and if it’s not there, I want it developed, because faculty can’t feel exposed like this.”
The American Association of University Professors told the Times that it plans on keeping track of Storey’s case. “In the meantime we continue to call on college and university leaders to denounce the targeted online harassment of their faculty members and to more forthrightly defend academic freedom,” Henry Reichman, first vice president of the AAUP, told the Times.
4. Storey Has Been Working at UT Since 2011 & Is Also a Freelance Writer
Storey describes himself as a “Sociologist, Futurist, Lover of All Things Orlando” on his LinkedIn profile. According to his profile, he has been an adjunct professor of sociology at the University of Tampa since August 2011. He has a masters in Applied Sociology from the University of Central Florida and a B.S. in Pastoral Studies/Counseling from Southeastern University.
Storey also works as a freelance writer for Orlando Weekly and was an editor for Central Florida Top 5. He also wrote for The Daily City in Orlando and was a research assistant at the Institute of Social and Behavioral Sciences at UCF.
In 2010, Storey was a campaign intern for Michael E. Earth, a Democratic candidate for Florida Governor.
5. Houston Hasn’t Had a Republican Mayor Since 1982 & Mayor Turner Is a Member of the Climate Mayors
While Texas at the state level is led by Republicans, Houston is more politically diverse. The city hasn’t had a Republican mayor since 1982. The current mayor is Sylvester Turner. In fact, all four of Texas’ major cities, including the capital Austin, have Democratic mayors.
Storey meant to be critical of Republican policies against climate change, but Turner is one of the leading members of Climate Mayors, a group of over 300 mayors who opposed President Donald Trump’s decision to leave the United Nations Paris Climate Accord. The group vows to hit the goals set by the Paris agreement.