Posted on February 24, 2022

Columbia Psychiatry Chair Suspended After Backlash From Racist Tweet

Kara Grant, MedPage Today, February 23, 2022

The chair of Columbia University’s psychiatry department has been suspended after posting a tweet earlier this week that many have called racist.

The original tweet from Jeffrey Lieberman, MD, along with his entire Twitter account, have since been deleted — but not before members of #MedTwitter took screenshots that were reposted and shared. In the tweet, he retweeted another user who had posted about Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech, describing her as “the most beautiful among the Black beauties.” Lieberman added his own version of a compliment to this, writing, “whether a work of art or freak of nature, she’s a beautiful sight to behold.”

Healthcare professionals on #MedTwitter were quick to point out why his remark was not, in fact, a compliment at all.

“Respectfully, this ‘compliment’ is problematic stated and reads as racist,” wrote Stella Safo, MD, MPH, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, in response. “Your role as a clinician providing care for patients is the only reason I and others are asking you to please delete and rephrase. It’s anti-Black; may not be your intention but that’s how it’s coming off.”

According to screenshots, Lieberman took to retweeting the criticisms put forth by clinicians on #MedTwitter when the backlash erupted, in which he expressed “sincere apologies for any offense taken and indiscretion” and said that he was “living and learning.” Lieberman deleted his Twitter account altogether after more tweets came in denouncing his apology for being insufficient.

Lieberman formerly served as the president of the American Psychiatric Association. {snip}