Pfizer chief Albert Bourla took to X on Wednesday to condemn the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania for their congressional testimonies on antisemitism.
“I was ashamed to hear the recent testimony of 3 top university presidents. In my personal opinion, it was one of the most despicable moments in the history of US academia,” Bourla wrote in his post.
Bourla, born in Thessaloniki, Greece of Jewish descent, was disappointed by the presidents’ refusal to condemn hate speech despite being “offered numerous opportunities.”
“The memories of my father’s parents, Abraham and Rachel Bourla, his brother David and his little sister Graciela, who all died in Auschwitz, came to mind,” Bourla wrote in his X post, which included a photograph of his late aunt Graciela.
“I was wondering if their deaths would have provided enough ‘context’ to these presidents to condemn the Nazis’ antisemitic propaganda,” Bourla continued.
I was ashamed to hear the recent testimony of 3 top university presidents. In my personal opinion, it was one of the most despicable moments in the history of U.S. academia. The 3 Presidents were offered numerous opportunities to condemn racist, antisemitic, hate rhetoric and… https://t.co/5BhQonZah4 pic.twitter.com/lgMtSum8pd
— Albert Bourla (@AlbertBourla) December 6, 2023
The three presidents attended a congressional hearing about on-campus semitism on Tuesday. During the hearing, all three were repeatedly asked if calling for the genocide of Jews violated their universities’ rules on bullying and harassment.
“It can be, depending on the context,” Harvard’s Claudine Gay said. The University of Pennsylvania and MIT presidents Liz Magill and Sally Kornbluth replied similarly.
Bourla isn’t the only business executive who has weighed in on the three presidents’ statements at Tuesday’s congressional hearing, Business Insider reports.
Billionaire fund manager Bill Ackman, who retweeted Bourla’s post, had earlier called for their resignations. “They must all resign in disgrace. If a CEO of one of our companies gave a similar answer, he or she would be toast within the hour,” Ackman wrote in an X post on Tuesday.
Albert Bourla, a Greek Jew, sensitive about antisemitism
If it hadn’t been for the kindness of an uncle and the insight of his grandfather, Albert Bourla, would never have been born due to the Holocaust.
A descendant of the Jews of Greece’s second-largest city, Bourla’s ancestors, like those of almost all the Thessaloniki Jews, had come to the country after the edict of 1492 in Spain. Invited to live in the country by the Ottoman overlords, they put down roots and flourished there, in peace and freedom, for centuries.
But the scourge of Nazi occupation brought a horrific end to tens of thousands of these people, wiping much of Thessaloniki’s Jewish population off the map, robbing most of the Jewish population there of its future.
As many as 48,000 Thessalonians of Jewish heritage were deported from their home city, never to return, during World War II. A small remnant of 2,000 people still live there today, however — the descendants of those who were fortunate enough to hide or escape the clutches of their occupiers.
Speaking to the group Sephardic Heritage International on January 27, 2021, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Dr. Bourla related the harrowing story of his family during the War — and for the first time ever, told the world that if it hadn’t been for his mother and father hiding and escaping execution at the last minute, he wouldn’t be here today.