University of Tampa Assistant Sociology professor Kenneth Storey was "relieved of his duties" at the university after a series of tweets that implied the weather catastrophe in Texas was “karma.”
The entire tweet from Sunday night stated, “I don't believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas. Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn't care about them.”
On Tuesday, Tampa-based WFTS spoke to Storey over the phone. The Orlando native said he is in hiding after threats were made on his life.
"It's scary," Storey said. "I've received numerous death threats. Right now, I am not at home because of threats, that do look credible, of people that identify as white supremacists who stated they are 'coming down from Georgia to kill me.'"
Storey said he made a big mistake and didn't realize, when he sent the tweet, how dire the situation was for millions of Texans.
"I honestly, I really didn't. I was at lunch I was just sitting down to catch up on the news the last I saw it was not nearly as strong as it was," Storey said.
The tweet was immediately met on social media with disgust and anger.
One Twitter user in Florida responding back to Storey said “I guess since we’re a Red state we deserve some bad karma too, right.”
According to the screen grabs from tweets that have since been deleted, Storey responded back, “Yep, those who voted for him here deserve it as well.”
Students on the University of Tampa campus said Storey was way out of line.
“It is free speech and he does have the right to say that except he is a representative of this institution,” Melissa Paradise said. “And, for a professor, someone who is shaping and molding young minds I'm not sure that is the kind of professor I want shaping and molding young minds. I think he owes an apology.”
Late Monday night, Storey apologized on his Twitter account saying “I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly.”
I deeply regret a statement I posted yesterday. I never meant to wish ill will upon any group. I hope all affected by Harvey recover quickly
— Ken Storey (@klstorey) August 28, 2017
Storey sent a longer statement to WFTS reporter Michael Paluska that read:
I apologize for the the tweets. My intention was never to offend anyone. This was a series of tweets taken out of context. I was referring to the GOP denial of climate change science and push to decrease funds from agencies that can help in a time like this. I hope all affected by the storm are safe and recover quickly. I also hope this helps the GOP realize the need to support climate change research and put in place better funding for agencies like NOAA and FEMA.
I've been clear with that through various tweets that followed the initial tweet. It is hard to express one's full thoughts in 140 characters and I realize that taken out of context some tweets may sound extremely off-putting. I never intended it to be that.
University of Tampa officials also sent WFTS a statement distancing themselves from Storey’s comments.
“The University of Tampa stands in solidarity with the people impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and our thoughts and prayers are with all involved. The comments made by Kenneth Storey were made via his private social media account. They were not made within his capacity as a faculty member, and they don't represent the University’s views. The University of Tampa condemns these comments and the sentiment behind them,” Eric Cardenas the Director of Public Information and Publications said.