Assistant State AG ’Obsessed’ with Gay University Student President
An assistant attorney general for the state of Michigan has carried on a half-year-long campaign against the openly gay student assembly president of the University of Michigan. Among other actions targeting Chris Armstrong, Andrew Shirvell has posted images of Armstrong at a blog called Chris Armstrong watch and made a number of claims against Armstrong, including accusations that the young man has seduced fellow students in order to coax them into a "homosexual lifestyle," and that an orgy took place in Armstrong’s dorm room, reported CNN.com in a Sept. 29 article. Shirvell’s blog is maintained under the name "Concerned Michigan Alumnus," the article said.
The CNN.com article included a clip from news program Anderson Cooper 360. Shirvell appeared on the program on Sept. 28 to explain why he had spent so much time and energy "protesting" the college student.
Before broadcasting the interview, Cooper showed images taken from the blog, including one of Armstrong that had been written over with the word "Resign." A rainbow flag sporting a swastika had been added to the photo, with an arrow pointing from the flag to Armstrong.
Cooper reported that the blog called Armstrong a "privileged pervert," and accused him of "sexual escapades at churches and children’s playgrounds." The blog also referred to Armstrong as a "Nazi-like recruiter for the cult that is homosexuality," and accused the young man of being "racist and elitist to the core."
Cooper also reported that in answer to a query from Anderson Cooper 360, Shirvell’s boss, Mike Cox, who is the attorney general for the state of Michigan, responded, "Mr. Shirvell’s personal opinions are his and his alone and do not reflect the view of the Michigan Department of Attorney General."
Cox’s statement continued, "But his immaturity and lack of judgment outside the office are clear."
A similar rebuke was reported upon several media sources, including the Detroit Free Press, which noted in a Sept. 16 article that Cox’s office had released a statement containing that exact same sentence. The article also noted that Shervill is a civil service employee, and that his position imparts greater job security than other forms of state employment.
The article also reported that Shervill won an August primary election to represent Charlotte as a Republican delegate. Shervill wrote a column for two years for Rightmichigan.com, the article noted. That site carried a description of Shervill as a "pro-life citizen activist," media sources noted.
The Detroit News also reported on the rebuke in a Sept. 16 article. The story said that Shervill had taken exception to a comment about "self discovery" that Armstrong had made, interpreting the remark as an attempt to push fellow students into same-sex encounters. "It is clear that Armstrong’s remarks constituted nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to cause sexually confused, and perhaps some impressionable, 17- and 18-year-olds to experiment sexually with members of their own gender," Shervill’s blog charged.
The blog also characterized Armstrong as "a viciously militant homosexual activist," the article said. The blog also mentioned protesting Armstrong at events. Anderson Cooper said that Shervill had gone so far as to stand outside Armstrong’s residence and take video footage. Cooper also reported that Shervill had monitored Armstrong’s Facebook page and written about Armstrong’s friends and family members.
Prior to the broadcast of his interview with Shervill, Cooper told viewers, "This is a public figure, a grown-up, fixating on a 21-year-old college student, dedicating a blog to vilifying him, scouring his Facebook page, making unproven allegations."
In his interview with Shervill, Cooper asked the assistant attorney general about his apparent "obsession" with Armstrong. Shervill responded that previous to his blog, anti-gay Christian organiztion the Alliance defense Fund had issued an "alert" about the young man.
A May 2 posting at Chris Armstrong Watch made the same claim, reading, "The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF)--a nationally respected legal foundation dedicated to defending religious freedom--has put out an ALERT about Chris Armstrong, the MILITANT HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST who has recently become the new student body president at the University of Michigan.
"The ADF’s warning shows that Armstrong’s radical agenda for the Michigan Student Assembly represents a very serious threat to the religious liberties of Michigan students, and in particular Christians," the blog posting continued.
"The substance of the matter is, Anderson, Chris Armstrong is a radical homosexual activist who got elected partly funded by the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund to promote a very deeply radical agenda at the University of Michigan," Shirvell told Cooper.
A Sept. 29 Gay Politics posting said that Armstrong had interned with the Gay and Lesbian Victrory Fund, an organization that provides campaign money for GLBT politicans in races around the country. The assertion that the Fund had provided money to Armstrong to win the post of president of the student assembly at the university, Gay Politics reported, "is false. While interning at Victory, Armstrong attended the organization’s Candidate and Campaign Training, which he has credited with helping him learn how to build a campaign, but the Victory Fund does not endorse or fund student government campaigns."
Cooper contested the claim that Armstrong had attempted to advance any "radical agenda" at the university. Shirvell claimed that Armstrong’s "biggest issue is gender-neutral housing. What we’re talking about is anybody, any man or woman, wanting to choose to live together. That’s a radical redefinition of gender norms."
News sources indicate that Armstrong had voiced support for gender-neutral housing. A July 18 op-ed at University of Michigan student publication the Michigan Daily read, "Shirvell suggests that Armstrong’s support of gender-neutral housing will ’endanger female students, as it will also force heterosexuals of different genders to share the same room and will undoubtedly lead to a massive increase in rapes.’
"But that argument doesn’t make a whole lot of sense," the op-ed continued, "because a gender-neutral housing option--which hasn’t even become official University policy yet--will undoubtedly be one that is opt-in only."
"It appears, though, that you are obsessed with this young gay man," Cooper told Shirvell, before going on to cite the state of Michigan’s criminal code regarding cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying. Cooper asked Shirvell whether he fit the description of a cyber-bully, given the accusations he had posted online against Armstrong.
"No, I’m totally not--and that’s a totally mischaracterization," Shirvell responded.
"Do you consider yourself a bigot?" Cooper asked.
"Absolutely not," Shirvell replied. "I’m a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights. I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual," added Shirvell. "I have a problem with the fact that he is advancing a very radical agenda."
"It seems like you hate this guy because he’s gay," Cooper said.
"Well, Anderson, that’s your spin on it," Shirvell replied. "The real bigot here is Chris Armstrong." Shirvell went on to add, "He’s a political figure, Anderson." Shirvell cited his having graduated from t eUniversity of Michigan as a primary reason for his "protests" of Armstrong, telling Cooper, "I have a right as an alum and as a private citizen to criticize him in my after-hours work."
Throughout the half-year of attacks that the blog has aimed at him, Armstrong has refused to fire back. But on Sept. 27, at a meeting of the student assembly, Armstrong said, "I will not back down. I will not flinch. I will not falter. I will not succumb to any unwarranted attacks," reported the Michigan Daily on Sept. 28.
"What I will do is I will carry on with the utmost pride and vindication," Armstrong continued. "I, along with the rest of this assembly, were elected to this body to represent the University. And nothing said about us, or regarding our personal merits, will waive our commitment to serve the student body."
The article reported that Shirvell had attended the first meeting of the student assembly for the fall semester, calling for Armstrong to step down because of his membership in a student group called the Order of Angell, which previously was known as Michiguama. The student society had drawn criticism in the past for including American Indian artifacts in its gatherings, a practice that the group discontinued. Cooper noted that former president Gerald Ford had been a member of the society.
The Michigan Daily also reported in a Sept. 29 story that the Spectrum Center, a university-run LGBT resource, had send a message of support for Armstrong. The student assembly president had also won expressions of support from the University Board of Regents, the article said, as well as from the Office of the Dean of Students.