Ed Koch called for the City University of New York to terminate its relationship with a trustee who engineered the denial of an honorary degree to Tony Kushner because of the playwright’s criticism of Israel.
“I can’t think of a dumber academic action,” the former New York mayor and one of Israel’s most ardent supporters said in a letter Thursday to the chairman of the Board of Trustees. “What does Kushner receiving an award have to do with criticism of the State of Israel? I am a well-known supporter of that nation. What if I were denied an honorary degree because of my strong support for that state? That would make as much sense as denying Mr. Kushner a degree.”
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a Republican appointee to the board, quoted from several Kushner statements in his appeal to the CUNY board at its most recent meeting in urging the board to remove the playwright’s name from a list of honorees.
Neither Kushner nor anyone else was invited to speak in his defense.
“Mr. Wiesenfeld and the trustees who followed his request should immediately reverse their action and urge Mr. Kushner to forgive them,” Koch wrote. “I consider Mr. Wiesenfeld’s action so outrageous as to be an abuse of power on his part requiring his resignation or removal from the Board of Trustees.”