Metro

Scaramucci resigns from Tufts advisory panel after weeks of battle with students

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci
Ariel Schalit/Associated Press
Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci

Anthony Scaramucci, the brash former White House spokesman, resigned from an advisory board at Tufts University on Tuesday, after he threatened a student and the school’s newspaper with a defamation lawsuit.

Students who had protested Scaramucci’s role at Tufts and argued that he was an inappropriate representative of the school declared victory.

“This is a win,” said Camilo A. Caballero, a student at Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. “This makes us feel good about who we are as an institution.”

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In an e-mail Tuesday, Scaramucci said his resignation “will make it easier for all parties. . . . Easier for Tufts and easier for me.”

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Scaramucci, a Tufts graduate who served as President Trump’s spokesman for less than two weeks over the summer, has been at the center of an uproar on campus about free speech and whom the university chooses for roles of honor.

Students and alumni objected to Scaramucci’s advisory position at Tufts, citing his firing from the White House in July and other controversies. Cabellero wrote two opinion columns in the school newspaper making that case against Scaramucci. Last week, Scaramucci threatened to sue.

Scaramucci’s attorney demanded that Caballero and The Tufts Daily newspaper retract “false and defamatory allegations of fact” about his client and issue an apology.

Scaramucci had been a member of the 40-member Fletcher School advisory board since June 2016. He had served on other university boards before and has donated money to the school; his son also graduated from Tufts.

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“We thank Mr. Scaramucci for his past service to Tufts and wish him well,” James Stavridis, dean of the school, said in a statement announcing the resignation.

Still, Scaramucci showed no signs of backing away from his lawsuit threats on Tuesday.

“Mr. Caballero still has an opening to apologize for the defamation. There will be no lawsuit if he does,” Scaramucci said. “I hope someone gives him good advice here.”

In particular, Scaramucci took issue with how Caballero described him. Caballero characterized Scaramaucci as “unethical” and a “man who makes his Twitter accessible to friends interested in giving comfort to Holocaust deniers.”

Legal experts said it would be difficult for Scaramucci to prove defamation, and a lawsuit would require him to demonstrate that facts, not just opinion, were inaccurate and defamatory.

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The ACLU of Massachusetts, which is advising Caballero, accused Scaramucci of trying to chill free speech. The organization sent a rebuttal letter to Scaramucci’s attorney Tuesday afternoon, calling the lawsuit threat “without merit.”

“Resorting to litigation . . . is not the best way to deal with a difference of opinion,” said Matthew Segal, legal director with the ACLU of Massachusetts.

The Scaramucci dust-up began when some 240 students, professors, and alumni at Tufts signed an online petition earlier this month that called on the administration to remove Scaramucci from the Fletcher School’s board. They argued he didn’t belong on the panel after making vulgar comments about another White House official and hosting a social media poll that critics said pandered to Holocaust deniers.

Scaramucci gave a profanity-laced rant this summer to a New Yorker reporter in which he called Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, “a [expletive] paranoid schizophrenic.”

Carter Banker, a graduate student at the Fletcher School who started the online petition in mid-October, said she is pleased that Scaramucci stepped down but disappointed that the debate drew personal attacks from both sides.

“I’m happy with the results, but I’m not happy with the way movement ended. It evolved to be kind of nasty and got personal,” Banker said.

The university postponed an event featuring Scaramucci earlier this week after he threatened to sue.

The threat turned many students and professors who had been ambivalent about Scaramucci’s advisory role at Tufts against him, Banker said.

“He really alienated a lot of people by that point,” Banker said. “I am so shocked at the outcome. I didn’t visualize it [the petition] leaving our Fletcher circle.”

Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at deirdre.fernandes@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.