An Orange Coast College professor whose in-class likening of Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election to “an act of terrorism” says she has been living in fear and suffering nightmares for weeks since her comments unleashed a nationwide storm of controversy, including hundreds of fierce email and social media attacks against her and even threats of violence.
Olga Perez Stable Cox said in a Washington Post article that the blinds in her home remain closed and her door remains locked as the formerly outgoing human-sexuality professor spends her days isolated by fear and too scared to walk outside.
A few days after the Nov. 8 election, a student secretly recorded Cox on video referring to Trump as a “white supremacist” and Vice President-elect Mike Pence as “one of the most anti-gay humans in the country.”
The student shared the video with the Orange Coast College Republicans club, which posted it online, according to Joshua Recalde-Martinez, a political science major and president of the Republican group at the Costa Mesa campus. Recalde-Martinez said Cox was “calling those people in that room who supported and voted for [Trump] terrorists.”
The video went viral, and within days, Cox’s inbox and voice mail were filled with messages that referred to her as “libtard,” “Marxist,” “nutcase,” “vile leftist filth” and a “satanic cult member.”
“Keep your anti-white, man-hating, traditional-values-bashing, islamophile radical views to yourself!” an emailer named Xavier Israel Matamoros wrote.
“Go out in the middle of the football field, pull out a handgun, put it to your temple and shoot yourself,” Jim Ernst wrote. “Or better yet, douse yourself in gasoline and set yourself on fire.”
Threats of violence caused her to end her semester early and flee her home. Now she’s back in Orange County, but her life hasn’t returned to normal, she told the Post.
“Now, at 66, I’m paranoid,” Cox said. “It doesn’t feel good at all to be looking over my shoulder and wondering when an unfamiliar car pulls up across the street whether they’re going to take a picture of me or something worse. But that’s my life now.
“I feel like I’ve been attacked by a mob of people all across the country,” she added. “If they’re telling me over and over again that they want to shoot me in the face, how am I supposed to know if they’re going to do it or not?”
One email from a man named Tim White showed her home address, phone number and salary and threatened to spread the information “everywhere.”
Cox said she has appealed to Costa Mesa police and the FBI for help but was told by both agencies that until her property is vandalized or she is physically attacked, there’s nothing law enforcement can do.
In a statement to the Post, Costa Mesa police wrote that they “take the type of threats that Ms. Cox received seriously and we are currently investigating this case.”
Shawn Steel, a Republican national committeeman and legal counsel for Orange Coast College Republicans, filed a complaint Nov. 30 with college President Dennis Harkins over Cox’s “hate speech and bullying tactics.”
Recalde-Martinez said the complaint demands that OCC “immediately take steps to correct Ms. Cox’s behavior and to ensure such incidents are avoided in the future.” It also suggested Cox attend anger management classes and apologize to her students, and that the complaint be placed in her personnel file.
Cox told the Post that many of her students — especially those who are Muslim, gay or have undocumented relatives — had told her they were scared about the election of Trump, who a year ago called for a temporary ban on the admission of Muslims from abroad and more recently on “immigration from countries with a history of exporting terrorism.”
Cox, who is gay, told her students she felt the same way and added that “more of us voted to not have that kind of leadership,” referring to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s edge in the popular vote. “We didn’t win because of the way our electoral college is set up, but we are the majority and that’s helping me to feel better.”
Cox said her comments were meant to reassure her students “that OCC was safe.”
On Dec. 12, two groups on opposite sides of the controversy held demonstrations on the campus. Cox’s supporters held signs with messages such as “We support academic freedom” and “OCC for Olga.”
Counterdemonstrators held signs reading “Hold teachers accountable again” and “Teach, don’t preach.”
The Coast Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1911, circulated a letter defending Cox, who has taught at OCC for more than 30 years.
“She’s never had a complaint lodged against her by a student,” said Rob Schneiderman, president of the union, which represents instructors in the Coast Community College District.
On the website RateMyProfessors.com, which enables college students to review and rank their teachers, Cox has a 4.6 rating out 5 and is the highest-rated professor at OCC.
However, Recalde-Martinez, who stood with the people demonstrating against Cox, told the Daily Pilot that her comments “didn’t create an inclusive environment or treat students equally.”
He said in the Post story that he also has received threats since the video’s release.
“I don’t feel personally responsible for her situation,” he said. “I do condemn the individual who emailed photos of her house and published those. I think that’s unacceptable. ...
“But we still would like accountability from the college.”
Cox told the Post that if she could make her comments again, she wouldn’t change her language. She said she believes the controversy is part of a “very carefully planned plot to attack college professors that they don’t like and disagree with.”
“This is being done all around the country,” she said. “It’s not my fault, and I didn’t do anything wrong.”