Columbia University suspends head of psychiatry over tweet about model

Columbia University suspends head of psychiatry over tweet about model
‘Coming from somebody with so much power, that was so disappointing,’ the model said.

The head of Columbia University‘s psychiatry department has been suspended after commenting on a photo of an African model using the phrase “freak of nature”.

Dr Jeffrey Lieberman shared a tweet discussing South Sudanese model Nyakim Gatwech. The tweet claims that the model is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the “darkest skin ever seen on Earth”. That claim is false, as Guinness does not measure records based on skin colour.

“Whether a work of art or a freak of nature she’s a beautiful sight to behold,” Dr Lieberman wrote in his Twitter post.

The tweet has now been deleted, but it generated significant backlash online, especially after Ms Gatwech shared it on her Instagram page and explained that the original tweet was false. It included Dr Lieberman’s tweet. She told NBC New York the post was “straight up racism”.

NBC News confirmed that Dr Lieberman was suspended from his role as a department chair at Columbia’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons on Wednesday. He was also removed as psychiatrist-in-chief at Columbia University Irving Medical Centre/New York Presbyterian Hospital.

<p>Jeffrey A. Lieberman</p>

Jeffrey A. Lieberman

“Coming from somebody with so much power, that was so disappointing,” she said.

She addressed the fake claim that she is the darkest person on Earth in her Instagram post.

“My manager first brought it to my attention in 2020 and although we’ve denied it to multiple fact-checkers, clearly it’s still floating around even after @guinnessworldrecords stated that it does NOT monitor skin tones. I can’t imagine it’s even possible to know who’s the lightest or darkest person on the planet!” she wrote.

She said that she loves her skin colour and her nickname “Queen of Dark”, but added that she “never said I’m the darkest person” on the planet.

Dr Lieberman apologised to his colleagues in an email on Tuesday, calling his tweet “racist and sexist”. He said he was “deeply ashamed”.

“An apology from me to the Black community, to women, and to all of you is not enough,” he said in the email. “I’ve hurt many, and I am beginning to understand the work ahead to make needed personal changes and over time regain your trust.”