The Citadel is condemning a fake news release posted in an alumni Facebook group that made racist comments falsely attributed to the historic military college's administrators.
The fake news release mimicked the look of the school's own press statements, using The Citadel's logo with the headline "Achieving Racial Equity: The Citadel to install African-American Water Fountain in the lobby of Mark Clark Hall."
It included a photo, underneath the headline, of two water fountains, with a sign over one reading "African-American Cadets Only," emblematic of Jim Crow-era policies levied against Black Americans.
The post was shared in "The Citadel 'Old Corps'" alumni group, which is open only to cadets who graduated from the historic military college in Charleston, South Carolina, prior to 2000. Promoting a historical inaccuracy, the group says that moderators "will not tolerate the glorification of the hypocritical northern aggression that started the Civil War."
Immediately, the post drew strong criticism from other alumni and was deleted. A screenshot of the fraudulent news release was shared with Military.com.
The fake release featured three fraudulent quotes attributed to the Citadel's president, the president of The Citadel's African American Alumni Association and the historic military college's new chief inclusive excellence officer.
"The nature of the post was racially offensive; The Citadel will not sit idly by and tolerate comments of this nature," the school said in a statement. "While the post appeared in a private Facebook group and has since been deleted, it is important to publicly condemn these comments in the strongest possible terms, as they are completely opposed to our core values -- Honor, Duty and Respect."
The identity of the author has not yet been confirmed by Military.com, and The Citadel did not name the individual or comment on any possible legal action.
The college was founded in the 1840s in response to possible uprisings by enslaved African-Americans. During the Civil War, many of the cadets fought for the Confederacy.
More recently, The Citadel has had to confront public incidents regarding racist behavior and comments.
In 2020, the school rescinded an applicant's admission after a racist comment online gained public attention. In 2018, Citadel officials condemned "abhorrent racist comments" after a student posted racial slurs on Snapchat. In 2015, eight cadets were suspended from the school after a picture of them wearing all white outfits, including pillowcases with holes cut around their eyes, was widely circulated.
Ken Gordon, a 1988 graduate of The Citadel who has frequently shared about the difficult experiences he had as an African-American cadet, was disappointed in the fake news release.
"This post shows that the people who authored it are out of touch with the America of now," he said. "Their America is a thing of the past."
Gordon pulled on his experiences at The Citadel in a novel he published last year titled "Bad Dogs: A Black Cadet in Dixie." The graduate believes the school has been making strides in confronting racism, but said the main issue comes from older alumni exerting influence.
"The issue isn't the administration," Gordon said. "The problem is the graduates who won't let the past go."
The Citadel's response to the fake news release comes during Black History Month -- and one day before the school was set to honor the first group of Black women to graduate the historic military college with a ceremony and a parade.
-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.