An Indian-origin professor at a Massachusetts college was fired for his Facebook post in which he encouraged Iran to choose 52 American sites as bombing targets, a statement he says was a "bad attempt at humour."
Asheen Phansey was Director of Sustainability and Adjunct Professor at Babson College, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Phansey''s post came in response to President Donald Trump''s recent tweet saying the US had earmarked 52 Iranian cultural sites for destruction, warning Tehran not to strike back after an American drone killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.
In the Facebook post, Phansey suggested that Iran''s supreme leader might want to do the same - and get specific.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei "should tweet a list of 52 sites of cultural American heritage that he would bomb ... Um … Mall of America? … Kardashian residence?" he wrote on his Facebook page last week.
In a report in The New York Times, Phansey''s lawyer Jeffrey Pyle said some of the uproar about his post was "racially intolerant."
The NYT report quoted Pyle as saying that he saw a number of messages saying Phansey should be deported as well as prosecuted and fired.
"Asheen was born in the United States, he is of South Asian origin,” Pyle said, adding that some people assumed his client was Iranian or from the Middle East. "I think that makes it doubly unfortunate that Babson couldn’t defend him when some of the vitriol thrown his way was of that nature," Pyle said in The New York Times report.
Phansey speaks French and has "limited working proficiency" in Marathi, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The post, which has since been deleted, was subject to a "prompt and thorough investigation" by Babson College, also Phansey''s alma mater.
The college said Phansey was fired because the post on his "personal Facebook page does not represent the values and culture of the College".
"Based on the results of the investigation, the staff member is no longer a Babson College employee. As we have previously stated, Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate," the College said in a statement on its website.
Phansey released a statement on Thursday, saying he was "disappointed and saddened" that the college had decided to abruptly terminate his 15-year relationship with it "just because people willfully misinterpreted a joke".
He called his post, which appeared to encourage Iran to choose 52 American sites as bombing targets, "a bad attempt at humour".
"I am really concerned about what this portends for our ability as Americans to engage in political discourse without presuming the worst about each other," he said.
Phansey has also apologised through his attorney, insisting his post was simply a bad joke.
According to a report in The New York Times, Phansey said, "As an American, born and raised, I was trying to juxtapose our ''cultural sites'' with ancient Iranian churches and mosques," he said, adding that he was opposed to violence.
"I am sorry that my sloppy humour was read as a threat."