The University of Pennsylvania professor who called Ben Carson a “coon” in the fall is teaching her only class this semester at top-secret, ever-changing locations at the Ivy League school, partly out of fear of nefarious assassins.
The tenured associate professor of religious studies is Anthea Butler. The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn’s campus newspaper, discovered Butler’s stealthy, clandestine status when a reporter tried to track her down.
“Because of the threats against her, I cannot tell you where she teaches and any further inquiries should be sent to Penn Police (she is protected by them),” religious studies department chairman Justin McDaniel informed the newspaper in an email.
McDaniel said Butler has received “death threats and incessant harassment by many people over the last several years.”
The department chairman also explained that “the location of her undergraduate courses are [sic] not publicized to anyone but the students registered for the course.” Thus, he wrote, he cannot reveal “the building or time.”
Fresh threats possibly came after the professor suggested naming Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson “coon of the year” on her Twitter account. (RELATED: Ivy League Prof Calls Ben Carson A ‘Coon’)
Butler, whose Twitter feed has featured more than 69,000 tweets, was responding to another Twitter user who tweeted a link to a Sports Illustrated article describing Carson’s declaration that NASCAR fans should be allowed to show the Confederate flag.
“If only there was a ‘coon of the year’ award…” Butler tweeted in response. The tweet was spotted by the website Campus Reform, which grabbed a quick screenshot. When the website contacted Butler for comment, she quickly deleted it.
The Ivy League prof, who has been a frequent guest at media outlets including MSNBC and CNN, then coincidentally went on a sabbatical.
A religious studies department staff member, Stephanie Evette Palmer, initially told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Butler’s sabbatical would last the entire 2015-2016 academic year, and that the graduate seminar on evangelism had been a printing mistake. Palmer observed that she had not once seen Butler in her own academic department all year.
In any case, Butler is, in fact, teaching a graduate-level seminar at Penn this semester called “Readings in American Evangelicalism.” It is scheduled to meet on Mondays from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Butler responded to The Daily Pennsylvanian’s investigation with a letter to the editor accusing the student newspaper of printing “poorly sourced, clickbait.” In the letter, which is 192 words longer than the actual article about her, Butler also declared that she receives no special protection and protested that she didn’t actually call Ben Carson a “coon” in her deleted tweet.
“For the record, I did not call Ben Carson what people have said I did,” she wrote. “I made a reference to a friend’s tweet, and that was distorted by right wing press sites.”
Butler also referenced Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Black Lives Matter in her letter to the editor.
Reportage of Butler’s special, covert campus status is just the professor’s late brush with fame.
In 2014, Butler used the MTV Video Music Awards as an occasion to express frustration that Ariana Grande won the 2014 award for best pop video for a song called “Problem.”
“First they shootin us in the streets, and then they taking all the video awards for sorry songs y’all,” the Penn professor wrote.
She then deleted the tweet and changed her Twitter settings to private so that only confirmed followers have access to her ungrammatical musings.
In July 2013, Butler blocked her page to keep out “trolls” after an epic rant about God’s failure to live up to her high expectations when a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty.
“God ain’t good all of the time,” Butler had declared. “In fact, sometimes, God is not for us. As a black woman in an [sic] nation that has taken too many pains to remind me that I am not a white man, and am not capable of taking care of my reproductive rights, or my voting rights, I know that this American god ain’t my god.” (RELATED: Irate Ivy League Professor Calls God ‘A White Racist God’ After Zimmerman Verdict)
“Whatever makes them protected, safe, and secure, is worth it at the expense of the black and brown people they fear,” the religious studies professor also raged. “Their god is the god that wants to erase race.”
In a later Twitter taunt, Butler wrote: “Trolls? You Mad? Block Blockety BLOCKED.”
It’s not clear if Butler realizes that there is no way to prevent the general public — including anyone who is “blocked” — from viewing the contents of a public Twitter account.
In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, Butler also said that filmmaker Sam Bacile should be held responsible and jailed.
Bacile made the anti-Islam movie “Innocence of Muslims,” which was cited by the U.S. State Department as a reason for the attack on the embassy, which killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. Later reports have shown that the movie almost certainly played no role in the well-planned terrorist attack. (RELATED: Professor Who Called God Racist Has History Of Incendiary Statements, Is Despised By Students)
Butler has a Ph.D. in religious studies from Vanderbilt University. As an undergraduate at the University of Houston–Clear Lake, she majored in marketing.
“Thank God I got a great institution that takes care of me. I have tenure. I can’t get fired,” she said in 2013, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.