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Cornell professor on leave for remarks about ‘exhilarating’ Hamas attack has history of incendiary rhetoric

ITHACA, NEW YORK – A Cornell University professor who was accused of “justifying terror” after describing Hamas’ bloody operation in Southern Israel as “exhilarating” previously admitted that he was a “Marxist” who supported an antiracist insurgency to take power in the United States, Fox News Digital found. 

Cornell’s Russell Rickford is an associate professor of history at Cornell University and specializes in African-American political culture. He is currently on leave amid the media firestorm over his comments about Hamas’ killing spree against hundreds of civilians, including American citizens.

However, Rickford’s comments on political violence go as far back as a decade. 

In two videos reviewed by Fox News Digital, one from 2021 and another from 2014, Rickford discusses his desire for an antiracist “insurgent” group to take power in the United States. In one of the videos, he said some White people are ready to commit “race suicide” and goes on to discuss the “politics of violence” while simultaneously attacking the ideals of civility. 


Russell Rickford Marxist Hamas

Russell Rickford is a pro-Palestinian professor at Cornell University who has called for an antiracist insurgency to take power in the U.S. to redistribute the power and resources away from purported White supremacist system. 

During a webinar hosted on a Cornell platform in February 2021, Rickford endorsed “radical frameworks for antiracism.” 

The radical frameworks call for a fundamental revolutionary change in society to change the distribution of wealth in neo-Marxist fashion. “Radical antiracists… knew justice required not… dialogue…  but genuine reallocations of resources and power. Attacking the roots of White supremacy meant challenging the normal operations of capitalism.”

Rickford said that the Black Lives Matter movement “reflects this more… redistributive mode of antiracism,” adding that “What we need is not more civil dialogue [but] more insurgent popular antiracist movements that fight the whole apparatus of oppression.” 

The self-identified “secular Marxist” added that BLM has signaled it “is an aggressive and insurgent movement that is not a respectable movement, that it’s not a tame movement,” therefore it “faced tremendous resistance from the beginning to the end.”

Critical race theory cornell university russell rickford

Critical race theory holds that people belong in oppressor versus oppressed categories.  (FOX News Digital)

“We live in a White supremacist society and it… will be a White supremacist society as long as the underlying institutions, the fundamental structures that determine the means of production, that determine the distribution of wealth… are fundamentally committed to maintaining inequality.” 


The solution to the White supremacist society, Rickford said, is that people must be given “the tools” to “revive an insurgent history.” He went on to say that the antiracist insurgency comprises Black nationalists and “believers in armed struggle.” 

“[The antiracist movements] are not just respectable,… it’s not just nonviolent and includes Black nationalists…, communists, socialists, radical feminists, believers in armed struggle… And they are always, deeply and aggressively contested by the White supremacist capitalist state. That’s what we mean when we talk about racial capitalism,” he said. 

Russell Rickford Hamas israel Palestine cornell

The Marxist professor attacked ideals of respectability and civility.  (FOX News Digital)

In another video from December 2014, Rickford said a minority of White people are ready to commit “race suicide” at a town hall discussion hosted by the Black Student Union on campus. 

“White folks… are ready to commit race suicide… They’re ready to reject corrupt skin privileges. They’re ready to perform treason to Whiteness… They’re ready to reject corrupt skin privileges… We have to inflict pain on the system… We have to make the system suffer,” he said. 

Cornell itself is an institution that “pursues White supremacy,” Rickford claimed, since he believed it only engaged in performative displays of social justice. He attacked the ideals of civility, respectability and discourse – saying it was not enough to bring about the fundamental restructuring of society before going on to discuss the “politics of violence.” 

“What is the legitimacy of the politics of violence? You know, that violence is of politics, right? [Violence] is not merely a catharsis of irrationality. It’s not merely nihilism… [Violence] is an uncompromising politics, a politics of resistance based on an uncompromising critique that stems from a basic recognition of an unjust disparity of power,” he said. 

Burbank California Konstantine Anthony

The professor is a self-identified ‘secular Marxist’ who believes in the redistribution of power.  (Adobe Stock )

“The facade of civility… is a basic misapprehension of the nature of social movements and the nature of social change. We are taught even in a fancy place like Cornell. We are taught a version of social movements that suggests that reform is inherent in the American democratic institutions, that progress, greater inclusion, decreasing discrimination are the inexorable products of our liberal democracy,” he said. “Why are we so afraid of confrontation, of disruption? What are we protecting? What are we trying to preserve?”

After Hamas launched a terrorist campaign against Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, killing hundreds, including women and children, and taking hostages, Rickford responded at a pro-Palestinian rally in Ithaca to the violence. 

Rickford said, “Hamas has shifted the balance of power. Hamas has punctured the illusion of invincibility. That’s what they’ve done… Hamas has changed the terms of debate… Nothing will be the same again.”

“Hamas has challenged the monopoly of violence… It was exhilarating. It was exhilarating, it was energizing. And if [the Palestinians] weren’t exhilarated by this challenge to the monopoly of violence, but this shifting of the balance of power then they would not be human. I was exhilarated,” he continued. 


Russell Rickford cornell university

Russell Rickford is a history professor at Cornell University.  (FOX News Digital | Getty)

An expert from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Jonathan Schanzer, called Hamas’ terror operation a “murder orgy.” 

“The last time we saw anything like it was ISIS… Israel, I think, has always known that if the group had its way, it would do this more… It wants simply to murder as many Jews and as many Israelis as it possibly can,” he said.

At another point, the professor said that if he was a Palestinian in Gaza, “I would take up arms.” 


Fox News Digital reached out to the professor and the university for comment but did not immediately receive a response addressing his previous statements. 

A Jewish student who recorded the speech – Netanel Shapira – sent an email, obtained by Fox News Digital, to the college’s administration to complain about Rickford’s speech he believed was “justifying terror.”

Mia Shem Gaza Hamas hostage

Mia Shem, who is 21 years old, was taken captive by Hamas. She was depicted in a video with a serious arm injury which required surgery.  (Hamas-Telegram)

“These words show his true beliefs. He is justifying terror, the murder of children, the massacre of innocents and says he was exhilarated by this. This cannot be tolerated. These words can be used to incite violence against Israelis and Jews as a whole,” Shapira said. “How can Jewish students feel safe on this campus when this abhorrent hate speech is occurring near our campus? This institution cannot allow an antisemite and justifier of terror to use Cornell to give his viewpoint legitimacy.”

“He must be fired for his actions… No one can feel safe when someone is ‘exhilarated’ by the murder of their people.”


Rickford issued an apology for his comments about the Hamas attacks last month, calling his remarks “reprehensible.”

“I am sorry for the pain that my reckless remarks have caused my family, my students, my colleagues and many others in this time of suffering. As a scholar, a teacher, an activist and a father, I strive to uphold the values of human dignity, peace and justice,” he wrote.

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