Miami music professor’s tweet to impeach ‘the Kenyan’ strikes discord on Twitter

Saxophonist Ed Calle has been a go-to jazz and Latin music recording and concert player for everyone from the Estefans to Arturo Sandoval. He's one of the leading local music figures in Miami.
Saxophonist Ed Calle has been a go-to jazz and Latin music recording and concert player for everyone from the Estefans to Arturo Sandoval. He's one of the leading local music figures in Miami. PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Ed Calle may not be a household name, but he is well-known in the music industry as a gifted saxophonist who has played alongside everyone from Celia Cruz and Gloria Estefan to pop stars Rihanna and Shakira. The Latin Grammy winner and five-time Grammy nominee is also a professor at Miami Dade College, where he teaches music business and production.

But on Sunday, a tweet from Calle struck a sour note, unleashing a Twitter storm and calls for MDC to fire the tenured professor.

In response to a tweet from a political activist about impeaching President-elect Donald Trump, Calle tweeted: “Yeah, right. Let’s work on impeaching the Kenyan first.”

Dozens of people expressed outrage at Calle’s suggestion that President Barack Obama was not from the United States, tweeting to Calle and MDC that he should be sacked. The thoroughly debunked allegation has been espoused by so-called “birthers,” including Trump himself until he finally dropped it during the presidential campaign in September.

Calle subsequently deleted his Twitter account, but he posted a letter on his website under the heading “Response to Twitter Mob” in which he defended his right to free speech and argued that Obama’s birth certificate was fake.

“My constitutionally protected response to a comment demanding the baseless impeachment of President Elect Donald J. Trump was an ironic and likely baseless alternative suggestion that America impeach someone whose posted birth certificate has been carefully analyzed and determined a forgery by at least two independent experts,” Calle wrote.

He added that “while I am sorry if anyone was offended by my constitutionally protected exercises of free speech and inquiry — I will never apologize for exercising my rights.” Calle finished the letter by threatening to “pursue legal action against anyone slandering me”.

Calle did not respond to requests for comment. MDC’s President Eduardo Padrón also declined to comment through a spokesman. In November, Obama awarded Padrón the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his work expanding access to higher education for minority and low-income students.

MDC spokesman Juan Mendieta would not say whether the college had reprimanded Calle or discussed the matter with him, saying that MDC was unable to comment on any personnel matters.

“We are aware of the post and understand some people were offended by it,” Mendieta wrote in an e-mail. “The statement in question was not posted using any college resources. Opinions expressed on personal social media accounts do not reflect the official position of [MDC]. MDC is an institution that promotes understanding and values all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender, political affiliation or religion.”

Jackie Griebel, a Pennsylvania resident, was among the people who responded to Calle’s tweet. She said she felt his message was “inappropriate for someone in his position.”

“I just don’t think anybody, let alone somebody that’s a professor, should be tweeting conspiracy theories,” she said.

Billie Furdyna, a speech-language pathologist in New Jersey, was also outraged by Calle’s message. “I was shocked beyond belief that another teacher would say such a thing, something so demonstratively untrue,” she said. “It behooves us as people who work with children and young adults to speak factually.”