CNBC Host Compares Colleges To ‘Incestuous’ Tribes. Guest Admits That’s Spot On


Nicole Silverio Media Reporter
Font Size:

A famous guest defending Harvard University on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” agreed with host Joe Kernen’s comparison of colleges to “incestuous” island populations Thursday.

Kernen openly criticized Harvard President Claudine Gay for allegedly plagiarizing multiple academic scholars in four of her papers, including her doctoral dissertation. Author Walter Isaacson defended Gay by saying he does not think “the plagiarism stuff is all that bad.”

“Harvard’s been around almost 400 years, it’ll be around another 400 years. Even on the Gaza thing, you think, okay, everyone should catch a breath for a minute to assess things,” Isaacson said. “I think this will play out. I don’t think this plagiarism stuff is all that bad, but I do think part of the atmosphere—”

“Really? What if the students did that? They’d be out without a Harvard [degree]” Kernen pushed back.


Isaacson said Gay was never secretive but did not add proper citations in some of her work. He said it was not the “biggest deal,” and the co-hosts pressed him on how he would view one of his students plagiarizing. (RELATED: ‘Get Your Act Together’: Sparks Fly After CNBC Host Gets Chippy With Frank Luntz)

Kernen then criticized colleges for possibly firing staff for using a student’s so-called wrong pronoun, but remaining silent on antisemitism on campus.

“We watched professors get fired for misgendering people, now they don’t get fired for saying genocide… I wouldn’t minimize it and just say take a breath, it’s not a big deal,” Kernen said.

“No, no, I’m just saying—” Isaacson said.

“Just in general, they have screwed up,” Kernen said.

Isaacson said colleges choose who they hire which allows them to be “woke.” Kernen then made the comparison to colleges being an “incestuous” tribe of liberals.

“Do you know what happens to places like islands where it’s so incestuous that they’re only between, do you know what kind of people that finally result from that?” Kernen asked.

“That’s a really good comparison to make,” Isaacson said.

Elite colleges have come under fire for the pro-Palestinian protests on their campuses and their refusal to condemn antisemitism. Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik grilled the Harvard president on her response to the rising antisemitism on the campus during a Dec. 5 hearing.

During that hearing, Gay refused to answer which disciplinary actions specifically would be taken against students spreading antisemitism. Over 30 student organizations at Harvard signed a pro-Palestinian letter blaming Israel for the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, to which Gay said they do not speak for the university.

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) president and Board of Trustees chairman both announced their resignations in a Dec. 9 statement after receiving backlash for their response to pro-Palestinian protests.