Two years ago, not many people outside the world of academia knew who Claudine Gay was. Chris Brunet did, and he was on her case from the start.
In a phone interview with The American Conservative, Brunet recalled the genesis of his journey to take down the ex-president of Harvard University: “About two years ago, I got an email with an anonymous tip from someone at Harvard about research misconduct by a professor in the political science department…. Once I started tugging at that string, it led me directly to Claudine Gay because it turned out she was covering up for him.”
At the time, Brunet had leveraged his experience on Substack writing about corruption in academia into a job at the Daily Caller. After presenting the anonymous tip and subsequent pitch for an article to expose Claudine Gay’s academic history (or lack thereof), Brunet recounts being told he could not publish the story for legal reasons.
“They wouldn’t run it because it was too much legal risk, which is true, because Harvard, they sic lawyers on the New York Post, right, they’re quick to sue,” Brunet said. “So it was a lot of legal risk and not very much upside.” Brunet ended up leaving the Daily Caller that day, having a gut feeling that the Gay story was worth pursuing.
Some have claimed that Brunet was fired from the Daily Caller in an attempt to persuade his readers that he is not a trustworthy source of information. Yet Geoffrey Ingersoll, the editor-in-chief of the outlet, corroborated Brunet’s story in an email with TAC.
“It made me happy to see his work vindicated, and to see a fraud who was bad for the university and bad for America go down in the process,” Ingersoll said.
“The Curious Case of Claudine Gay” was Brunet’s first piece on the subject, and he only continued to find more damning information the more he dug into Gay’s unimpressive academic career. It turned out that all he needed was out there, just waiting to be discovered.
“All of what I wrote about was public information, right?” Brunet said. “Like, I can look at her scholarly record and see it’s not very good. And a lot of it was research done by other people. I just connected all the dots and put it out in a coherent narrative.”
Although Brunet continued to dutifully produce accusations of Gay’s plagiarism and academic misconduct, Gay took office as the first black president of Harvard in July 2023. His warnings seemed to be falling on deaf ears—or at least on ones that were not willing to expose a blatant DEI hire for fear of being called racist or sexist.
Many professors, students, and alumni of Harvard voiced their concerns to Brunet, but in private: “I’ve gotten too many emails to even respond to, dozens of emails from people at Harvard or Harvard alumni, or just random academics, telling me how grateful they are. Just because the world was so unfair with her power because she was so unqualified and corrupt.”
Brunet was finally able to bring the story to a wider audience by getting in touch with Chris Rufo, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Together, they published an article jointly on Substack and in City Journal under the title “Is Claudine Gay a Plagiarist?”
Brunet said, “We put it out there. And then we got lucky when our reporting was followed up by additional accusations from the New York Post, and the Washington Free Beacon, like over and over and over again. And so we got the ball rolling. Once we broke the dam open, then everyone was able to publish their stories.”
It was satisfying to see years of research and labor make a difference—Claudine Gay has resigned from Harvard (while staying as a tenured member of the faculty, unfortunately), and her reputation has been tarnished. While the future of Harvard is questionable, it is unlikely that their next selection for president could be as egregious as Gay.
Brunet’s passion for education was what motivated him to pursue this story in the first place:
One thing I’ve been struggling with the past couple years is reform versus revolution. And what I mean by that is when I first started writing on Substack, I was all about burning universities to the ground, like they can’t be saved. And now I’m gradually coming around to the fact that they can be fixed and they are important institutions that just need to be run properly and held accountable.
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Brunet’s work shows conservatives that not all hope is lost and that people outside the insular world of academia—even straight, white men—are capable of exposing injustice and being recognized for their work.
Brunet agreed: “One of the biggest impacts of this has just been providing morale to the right. We’ve been demoralized and depressed for so long, it’s good to inject some life and enthusiasm into the conservative movement finally. People who believe in meritocracy have some hope and light at the end of the tunnel.”
Brunet is continuing his quest to restore the integrity of higher education by spearheading an initiative to compile the research from various university presidents and professors and check them for plagiarism with AI software. He has also been awarded the Manhattan Institute’s Logos Fellowship and will be continuing his work on Substack and at TAC as a contributing editor.