A history professor at Fresno State has come under scrutiny after writing on Twitter that President Trump "must hang" to save American democracy.
The professor, Lars Maischak, tweeted that to his 28 followers in late February, but it wasn't until the right-wing website Breitbart News wrote a story about it last week that the comment made national headlines.
The professor's Twitter account has since been deleted and he issued an apology Wednesday.
"I ask forgiveness of those who felt threatened or offended by them," he said in a written statement. "It was never my intent to harm anyone, nor to encourage others to harm anyone."
Maischak said that before Breitbart's article, nobody read his tweets as an "invitation, or endorsement of, violence," but that in the aftermath of its publication he has received a "flood of threats and hate-mail."
He added that at the time, it felt cathartic to write the tweet. "I never expected them to be read by anyone but a close circle of acquaintances who would know to place them in their context," he said.
As a result, however, federal officials are now conducting an investigation. Maischak said he has been contacted by the Secret Service and is cooperating fully.
Fresno State President Joseph Castro said he appreciates Maischak's apology and "willingness to take accountability for the statements made on his Twitter account," adding that his top concern is the safety of students.
He added that the university will also cooperate with any investigations conducted by federal officials, and that the administration is reviewing Maischak's statements in the "context of rights of free expression, but also for potential direct threats of violence that may violate the law."
Fresno State Provost Lynnette Zelezny notified students enrolled in Maischak's classes that his lectures scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have been canceled. A spokeswoman for the university said the cancellations were made "in an effort to minimize disruption and ensure campus safety."
A total of 213 students will be affected, the spokeswoman said.
Maischak's university bio says he has a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University and his research interests include transnational history and political economy. He currently teaches five sections of American history, according to the university.
While the Breitbart article spoke of the professor's tweet about Trump, it also mentioned other Tweets he'd written on subjects regarding capitalism and Christianity.
Maischak's future as a professor at Fresno State remains to be seen.
A petition calling for him to be fired from Fresno State had gathered more than 1,100 signatures as of Thursday evening, a few hundred away from its 1,500 goal.
"While Maischak is certainly entitled to his opinion, he should not be in a position of power and authority over impressionable young minds while inciting violence against the president and those who support him," the petition reads.
Students using the "Rate My Professor" website paint a different picture of Maischak, however.
One wrote in December that "he was a good professor," who "jokes here and there." Another student wrote last April that Maischak "is a very patient person, although his lectures can be boring."
Maischak said late Thursday that since his tweets surfaced, he has left town and no longer feels safe.
"I am not taking my chances," he said.
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