Prof: GOP candidates talk out of their asses

Rick Henderson, a political science professor at Texas State University, recently treated students in his introductory American government course to a colorful exposition of his views on the 2016 presidential campaign.

A student in Henderson’s required Political Science 2320 course, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently provided an audio recording from the class to Campus Reform in which Henderson can be heard making disparaging remarks about several Republican presidential candidates before expressing a desire to “vomit on” certain Fox News commentators.

The recording begins as Henderson is wrapping up an argument against the assertion—made by several GOP candidates—that the language of the 14th Amendment was originally intended to apply only to recently-freed slaves.

“In fact, every document relating to the Congress … there is not one single document on this earth mentioning anyone who was an author of a birthright who said that means slaves,” Henderson tells the class.

At that point, he progresses from the technical aspects of the issue to the personal, accusing Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and Ted Cruz of “talking out of [their] ass[es]” on that and other issues.

“So I guess if you’re Rand Paul you just go, ‘hmm, what can I pull out my ass?’ And Carly Fiorina saying that marijuana is more dangerous than beer? Talking out of her ass! And Ted Cruz, I can’t tell the difference between his mouth and his ass. I mean, what are you talking about? Are you insane?”

According to Henderson, “[t]hey don’t realize we live in a world that fact-checks like crazy, better than ever before,” and should be more circumspect in their public pronouncements.

“It's funny he's complaining about fact checks—since that's not actually what Carly said,” Sarah Flores, Deputy Campaign Manager for the Fiorina campaign, said in a statement to Campus Reform.

Henderson withheld comment in his initial response to queries from Campus Reform, so the source of his claim is unclear, but the charge is repeated verbatim in the headline of a Vox article that came out several days before he delivered his comments to the class.

Fiorina’s actual statement during the second Republican debate, as Vox acknowledges in the article’s opening paragraph, was: “We are misleading young people when we tell them that marijuana is just like having beer. It's not.”

Flores speculated that Henderson’s vitriolic attacks on Fiorina and the other Republican candidates may simply reflect his frustration at the growing resistance to liberal policy prescriptions.

“Liberal academics are terrified that their students are starting to make up their own minds about these issues after decades of debt being left on their doorstep and as Democrats fight against new startups like Uber,” she told Campus Reform. “They are losing their stranglehold on higher education as their left-wing dogma is being disrupted through technology and innovation, and it's becoming clear that the Left is stuck in the past.”


Warming to his theme, Henderson continued his discourse by complaining about “all the right-wing talk show hosts and people on Fox dissing the pope” during his recent visit to the U.S.

“I’ve got people saying, ‘send the pope back, I think he’s Muslim’,” Henderson says, calling such people “messed up” for claiming to believe in the Bible while being judgmental of others.

“I know my Bible well enough, [and] there’s really only two things in the Bible with relation to judgment: redemption, and taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves; taking care of the poor,” Henderson asserts. “That’s the only thing that Jesus was judgmental of, but you listen to right-wing talk show hosts and people on Fox, and that’s their life, is being judgmental.

“Ripping the pope, who probably represents a message of love and caring more than anybody that frickin’ puts their feet on the ground?” he asks rhetorically. “It makes me want to vomit … on those people.”

Henderson does go on to briefly address another common reaction to the pope’s visit, as well, saying, “I don’t want to listen to any politician—any Democrat, liberal, conservative, or moderate—who starts associating their policies that they favor with the pope.”

He then makes some general statements to the effect that the level of political discourse in this country has reached a new low, and claims that “neither party has really fielded a candidate that resonates with me.” Skimming past his preferences in the Republican nominating contest by expressing his hope for a deadlocked convention, Henderson then turns to the Democratic primaries.

“Did you see the latest Texas poll among Democrats?” he asks the class. “72.1 percent favor Bernie Sanders,” he recounts, prompting a mixture of applause and laughter from the class.

“Y’all are laughing, but this is a moment where you become the teacher and I become the student, because I didn’t know Bernie Sanders resonated so much,” he says with an air of surprise. “I mean, I like a lot of things he says, but I don’t really think he’s going to win.”

Unprompted, he proceeds to elaborate on his distaste for Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ main competitor among declared Democratic candidates.

“I have admired Joe Biden for 30 years; I’ve always admired him very much,” Henderson says. “But I am so unenamored [sic] … by Hillary Clinton that if there’s a nincompoop running under the GOP and Hillary Clinton, I’m just going to skip to what’s next on the ballot and move on down the line.”

The student who made the recording told Campus Reform that Henderson’s diatribe was “unrelated to the class”—a claim that seems plausible insofar as the description on Henderson’s faculty bio page states that POSI 2320 is “A study of functions performed in the American system of government, both national and state, with special reference to Texas.”

The student further attested that “[h]e was just having a conversation with the students, which he does pretty often,” further evidence for which can be found on Henderson’s Rate My Professors profile, which is replete with comments from former students describing his tendency to go off topic.

Dr. Kenneth Grasso, the Political Science Department Chair at TSU, told Campus Reform that while instructors have the right to express their opinions, they are also expected to keep their classroom discussions relevant to course objectives.

“Our department respects both the right of faculty members to freedom of speech and their responsibility to teach material that is related to course content,” Grasso explained. “I have reminded Professor Henderson of the need to maintain a classroom climate that honors the principles of free and open expression while maintaining an appropriate level of civility.”

Campus Reform is awaiting further correspondence with Prof. Henderson on the matter, and will update this article with any remarks he might choose to make if and when they are available.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @FrickePete