In an ironic twist, Yale University fired anti-Trump faculty member Dr. Bandy Lee over alleged ethical violations. Lee had been a vocal critic of the Trump administration and claimed that Trump was unfit to serve in office, to the point that she advocated for the government to enact the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office.
Although Lee was a faculty member in Yale’s Department of Psychiatry, she was told last year that she was no longer an employee of the university. She filed a complaint against Yale, claiming “unlawful termination due to her exercise of free speech about the dangers of Donald Trump’s presidency.”
The Yale Daily News reported that Yale did not respond to questions about the case. Although Lee had told the newspaper that the country was “falling into a dangerous culture of self-censorship and compliance with authority at all cost,” she did not mention the issue about violating ethics rules.
Lee’s complaint said that Yale fired her because of a January 2020 tweet, which blasted supporters of President Donald Trump as people suffering from “shared psychosis,” and that one of Trump’s lawyers had “wholly taken on Trump’s symptoms by contagion.”
The lawyer in question was Alan Dershowitz, who is an emeritus law professor at Harvard University. Dershowitz wrote a letter that month to Yale University, demanding that the administration discipline her for this “serious violation of the ethics rule of the American Psychiatric Association” by diagnosing people from afar without having any in-person interactions. He also pointed out that although he did not get Lee fired, he had written the letter to inform the university of Lee’s actions. Dershowitz said that Yale never reached out to him to follow up on his letter, nor did it not contact him to discuss Lee’s firing.
This rule is known as the “Goldwater Rule,” named after Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. It was put into place after 12,356 psychiatrists claimed (without evidence) that he was mentally unfit for public office during the 1964 presidential campaign.
The American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater Rule reads as follows: “It is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”
Yale University warned Lee to stop making claims about Trump’s mental fitness or else it “would be compelled to ‘terminate’” her position. However, she did not heed the warning and had to meet with administrators about the same issue during which she was told that she “breached psychiatric ethics.” By May 2020, Lee was informed that she was terminated, but appealed the decisions in August and September 2020 without success.
According to court documents, Lee said that she believed the Goldwater Rule is a “gag order,” which is why she violated the rule multiple times. She had not been a member of the American Psychiatric Association since 2007, long before the election of Trump.