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September 29th, 2010
08:36 PM ET

Michigan AG: I was 'shocked' by employee's blog

Martina Stewart
AC360° Digital Producer

(CNN) - Michigan's top lawyer is standing his ground - and fleshing out his legal position - when it comes to the controversial off-hours online behavior of one of his employees.

For months, Assistant Michigan Attorney General Andrew Shirvell has published "Chris Armstrong Watch," a personal blog that seeks to spotlight the comings-and-goings of Chris Armstrong, the first openly gay president of the University of Michigan student assembly.

In an interview Tuesday on AC360°, Shirvell defended his behavior, saying he is a concerned alum of the university who is invoking his constitutional right to speak out against what he views as Armstrong's agenda as the head of the school's student government.

Related: Assistant attorney general blogs against gay student body president

"I'm a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights," Shirvell told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he's advancing a radical homosexual agenda."

In an interview that airs Wednesday on AC360°, Shirvell's boss expressed distaste for his employee's behavior but insisted it was legally protected absent changed circumstances.

Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox told Cooper that after receiving complaints at his office, he read portions of "Chris Armstrong Watch."

"As I expected you did," Cox told Cooper, "I found it a bit of rambling of a slightly immature adult. And I was a bit shocked by it."

Shirvell's "actions are offensive," Cox also said. But the top Michigan lawyer also maintained that Shirvell's personal blogging is a form of free speech protected by Michigan law and by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Cox added, "Quite frankly, I feel embarrassed for Mr. Armstrong - that he has this unwanted attention. But again, Anderson, this is speech put on a blog. And if you think about it, when we start censoring blogs or having workplace punishment for off-duty free speech, where do we draw the line?"

But, Cox also shared with Cooper some circumstances that, if they came to pass, might lead him to discipline Shirvell for targeting Armstrong and the Michigan AG also shared his opinion about whether he thinks Shirvell is a bully.

Tune into Anderson Cooper 360° at 10 p.m. Wednesday to watch Cox's interview and hear more about why the top lawyer has decided not to fire or discipline Shirvell.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Bullying • Gay & Lesbian Issues
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. Steve from CA

    Cox is not going to discipline Shrivell because they are political buddies. It is that simple. Also, Cox seems to have an attorney turn against its own client, since Shrivell is attacking a citizen of the State of Michigan, the side that is supposedly representing.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:52 am |
  2. Thomas

    I respect Mr. Shrivell's courage to express his concerns and exercise his 1st Amendment rights.

    September 30, 2010 at 2:02 am |
  3. Nina,Berkeley,ca

    Please fire him,make your position strong.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  4. dan

    Thank you for doing a story on this. The Assistant Attourny General in Michigan is one no state needs. He is trying to destroy the life of a college student sitting outside his house invading his privacy. Laws have been set to protect people in this country from race, sex, or sexual prefrances.
    If he is sitting out side a college students house filming then he is a stalker.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:54 am |
  5. josh

    Considering the citizens of the US already have punishments being dealt from employers based on things they post online, I don't see how this guy gets a free ticket to conduct himself in an unbecoming manner casting a poor light on that city and state. At will employment states should have the same at will rules apply to public employees – end of story.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:46 am |
  6. Nate

    If even a single posting is done to his blog while he is supposed to be "on the clock" or using non-personal government owned equipment even "off the clock", goodbye free speech excuse. At that point it becomes sanctioned by the AG office of Michigan. Walking a razor thin line there...

    September 30, 2010 at 1:42 am |
  7. AnneSD

    The actions of this guy highlight an interesting question - with this kind of online ranting, where do you draw the line between protected free speech and online stalking?

    From what I understand, Shirvell has gone on an online hunt to find everything he can about Armstrong and his friends and attack them all. Some of his actions seem more like invasion of privacy and a form of online assault than simple free speech.

    If I were him, I would start worrying about my job - engaging in this kind of extremist and immature behavior in his private life will undoubtedly earn him a poor reputation that will carry over into his work life. Who wants to be represented by an attorney that prefers to act like an online bully instead of engaging in civilized, adult discourse?

    September 30, 2010 at 1:30 am |
  8. Katherine

    Words for the Asst. AG of Michigan......".Look in the Mirror and breathe...you need help...professional help." May Goddess bless you.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:28 am |
  9. mmi16

    While it may be free speech....it also sounds like harassment.

    September 30, 2010 at 1:03 am |
  10. stevn harnack

    As a prosecutor this man is in a position to make decisions that affect the life and liberty of people. If this is indicative of his judgement he should not be representing the people. All of the people in Michigan are supposed to be under his protection and that includes Chris Armstrong.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:52 am |
  11. DM

    I have a problem with the fact that Shirvell is stalking and intimidating Mr Armstrong to promote what I see as his very own radical Christian lunacy. I wish for once the good "Christians" in this country would stop trying to push their chosen lifestyle on the rest of us.

    September 30, 2010 at 12:17 am |
  12. Dr. Robert John Davis

    As a University of Michigan alum myself, I am deeply disturbed by the behavior of the assitant AG for the state of Michigan , Andrew Shirvell. His obsession with the lifestyle and activities of Curtis Armstrong, the openly gay student body president of the UofM ,clearly represent an obsessed and disturbed individual who professes to be a Christian. I take exception to Mr. Shirvell calling himself a Christian for his blog on Mr. Armstrong spewing out all the hate and intolerance nhe can muster is the antithesis of what Christ stood for. Mr. Shirvell must have forgotten that Christ commanded that we love one another as He loved us and that we should love our enemies and pray for them. To me , Mr. Shrivell has all the classic earmarks of someone who might be a latent homosexual as his bigotry and hatred of their lifestyle and agenda may be his subconscious attempt to thwart tendencies in himself that he despises. The same may be true for Pastor Eddie Long if it turns out that his virulent homophobia that he has preached for so long was just a cover up for his latent homosexual tendencies that four young men have come forth to allege that he actively engaged in with them. The veracity of those allegations will be put to test in the upcoming civil trials. Meanwhile, Mr. Shirvell is clearly in desperate need of psychotherapy for sick obessesion with Mr. Armstrong and I am embarassed for the University of Michigan that such a hateful person as Mr. Shirvell could be an honored grad from that stellar institution. Dr. Robert John Davis

    September 30, 2010 at 12:06 am |
  13. SteveB

    How is it not considered stalking when Shirvell is keeping such close tabs on Armstrong and blogging his every move. How is it not criminal harrassment? How is it his actions are not libelous? How are they not civil rights violations?

    Wouldn't Shirvell press those charges if some guy walked followed him around all day everyday talking trash about him?

    September 29, 2010 at 11:46 pm |
  14. EuphoricCrest

    Cox's response is baffling. Why would anyone continue to employ an individual who, in Cox's own words, is an "immature adult" and exhibits "bad judgment?" Are these the qualities of an assistant attorney general? If Cox doesn't act swiftly, his career won't last much longer than Shirvell's.

    September 29, 2010 at 11:42 pm |
  15. Mark

    While I couldn't care less whether the student is gay or not; I would be willing to bet this Assistant AG just got a big smear in his file and is political road kill that will now never be promoted or elected to AG

    September 29, 2010 at 11:33 pm |
  16. J

    this guy has a problem with gays. its blatent; having no place in state governement. One would think staying out of contreversal issues would be the best advice for a state rep. maybe he didnt get the memo.

    September 29, 2010 at 11:30 pm |
  17. Gregory Hollis

    I'm ready to come from Mississippi right now and join any protest against the Michigan AG and ask for his resignation. This has really teed me off, after all, the young man is a student body president, on his time. He shouldn't be distracted by this while in school.

    To Chris Armstrong: The Gay Community and our Straight Allies in the Mid-South support you!!!

    To Jeffery Toobin: You do a great service for all, it's not some gig on TV.
    To Anderson Cooper: Thanks for taking on those two in Michigan, and all that you do to "Keep 'm honest!"

    September 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  18. Kate Tippett-Bowles

    Mr. Cooper, I was so proud of the way you stood up to Andrew Shivall and even more importantly to his boss Mike Cox. How the State of Michigan can let these two goofballs so embarrass its citizens is shameful. Keep up the good work!

    September 29, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  19. Dee

    I've read other articles about this and I've yet to find anything stating what this supposed "radical agenda" is.

    Anybody have any links to some better detail?

    September 29, 2010 at 11:17 pm |
  20. Marty walsh

    Assistant Michigan Attorney General Andrew Shirvell claims that he is a Christian who is exercising his freedom of speech. Then he proceeds to be a bully to Armstrong. What gives him the right to be a christian bully? What is a christain bully, anyway? Wow! Jesus did not treat people that way when he was on earth. I am shocked to see how Shirvell bullies a hard working gay student at the University of Michigan. Members of my family and many of my friends have attended U of M. We are appalled by Shirvell's behavior and that our tax dollars are supporting him. How can anyone trust a bully to represent them fairly. There are true christian men and women out of work in Michigan who are qualified and deserve to have Shirvell's job. He should be fired. He has gone too far and he is too cruel.

    September 29, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  21. Caron Speas

    The attorney general should look a liitle closer at whether Mr. Shirvell's behavior constitutes stalking. In addition, Mr. Shirvell is not just an employee. He is an attorney at law and is held to a higher standard of public behavior. His behavior is utterly appalling and the Michigan State bar ought to take some action if the top attorney of the state won't. Frankly, Mr. Cox is a conservative and he probably secretly delights in Mr. Shirvell's childish behavior.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  22. CL Jahn

    While I agree with Cox that he has no grounds – or right – to force Shirvel to discontinue his blog or amend its content in any way, I do feel that the fact that an assistant AG would keep such a blog is inappropriate, and indicates that Shirvel might be temperamentally unsuited for his job in public service.

    After all, who wants to have their case handled by "a slightly immature adult?" Give him more time to work on his blog, and restore public confidence in the AG's office.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:55 pm |
  23. Pamela

    "I'm a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights," Shirvell told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he's advancing a radical homosexual agenda."

    Oh go figure, he's a christian. The fact that he has a problem with the advancing of a radical homosexual agenda means he DOES have a problem with homosexuals – so he contradicts himself in one sentence.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:41 pm |
  24. Lori Flahart

    I watched Mr. Cox's interview on Anderson
    Cooper tonight.
    I'm not saying Mr. Cox has a right to fire this man, but what I do know if I were the
    attorney general of this state, I would use my decency as a forfront to tell this half ass person to straighten up or he can leave his position. on his own. Now if this is a political thing as to why Cox doesn't want to get rid of this loud mouth idiot its just wrong
    and maybe both of them should go..

    September 29, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
  25. Tommie Christian

    Why is he so concerned about his doings in the first place. Is he abusing his position or acting out inapproriately? Or dose he perform his duties as prescribed by law and according to law? Seems to me this guy has the problem and not the other guy.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  26. dave p

    It may be offensive to some, but it is protected speech. If he's maintaining his blog on work time or at a work computer, then his employer has an issue. Otherwise, it really doesn't matter if the individual is a card-carrying Communist or a member of the Nazi party. If he or she is doing the job acceptably, then their off-hours behavior is not a subject for terms of employment.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  27. kd

    This assistant is not only illustrating misconduct which, makes termination valid, but he is attacking another citizens character and safety by stalking him and targeting him to the mass media. Mike Cox is an idiot.They Cox and his asst. Cannot defend all citizens without bias if his asst thinks its legal to stalk and slander people. If they interpret this as rationale and legal then how can they defend the public?? Can someone answer that for me?

    September 29, 2010 at 10:27 pm |
  28. valwayne

    For an Assistant Attorney General of a State of the United States to be engaging in this kind of obscene bullying behavior brings great disrepute upon the office of the Attorney General and the entire State Government of MI. He may have the right to engage in this type of free speech, but it displays such poor judgement and a show such a discriminatory state of mind that its impossible to see how he could fulfill his duties responsibly from a high office in state Government. He should be fired!

    September 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm |
  29. Linda

    A lot of 1st Amendement issues being brought to the fore lately. It would be so easy to say that this person's rantings are offensive and therefore should be censored. He really tests my commitment to the principles of the 1st Amendment. But, the 1st Amendment was designed to protect offensive speech and the best way to counter that speech is with MORE, not less, speech. Let him say what what he will and then let the rest of us speak with eaqual clarity and volume in opposition to his blog.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  30. Cielle

    Why are Christians sooooo obsessed with what other people are doing alll the time especially gay people. It's like they are obsessed with gayness which begs the question. This blogger guy should spend his time helping somebody instead of watching what people do. Christians are the ones pushing a radical agenda and are usually the ones steeped in some sinful BS. I am just so done with them people that I am about to denounce being a Christian myself! At this moment I am hating Christians. They are the most hateful people, standing on some high horse while committing crimes and sins. I just want to scream!

    September 29, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  31. jim

    yet another example of the intolerance of so called christians.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  32. Eric

    So does this mean that Mr. Cox will pursue companies that fire or have fired their employees for social media postings? I know at least 5 people that have lost their jobs for social media comments made OFF the job.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:16 pm |
  33. Iridius Izzarne

    Also, if an employer, a non-government employer, can fire an employee for their blog, why is the government held to a higher standard? Either employers should not be able to fire their employees for free speech outside of work OR they should be able to in certain circumstances.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  34. Iridius Izzarne

    His ramblings are little more than immature. They are obsessive and indicative of a mental illness. His manipulation of circumstances shows a lack of understanding of reality as a whole. He takes several photos and puts his on spin and captions on them, rather than relying on the facts. How can the state of Michigan trust this man to represent them with such bigotry being thrown around in his blog?

    September 29, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
  35. Jad

    The AG has it wrong. This is not protected speech. This is a government employee, charged with prosecutorial decisions relating to Michigan citizens on a daily basis, clearly expressing a strong bias against a citizen. And insofar as this poor kid may fear the unethical use of the legal system to further Mr. Shirvell's radical anti-gay agenda and the undue attention a government official is forcing onto a private citizen, it is a form of harassment. It is particularly disgusting as student government is often an educational endeavor, an arena where young people learn the basics of politics and governing, and are spared the nastier side of divisiveness at least until they graduate and decide to run for actual public office.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:10 pm |
  36. Michael

    The first Amendment protects citizens from being prosecuted by the government, but not fired by your employer.

    September 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm |
  37. ray gibbs

    American way, all parties, leave people alone.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:56 pm |
  38. Michael

    Shirvell sounds a little paranoid to me. What has happened at the school to make him this deeply concerned? We should be more worried about him!

    September 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  39. Cris

    This is domestic terrorism. I hope great karma for him.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:54 pm |
  40. Steve Lawson

    This could, without much of a mental stretch, be considered a form of Stalking along with a "hate crime in the making". Why such a detailed blog? Perhaps it is written to give other "nuts" a heads up on the whereabouts of Chris Armstrong.

    I believe in the concept of free speech. However, this does not give one the right to call our "FIRE" in a crowded event when there is no fire. With freedom of speech goes responsibility. Everyone always wants to shout about their rights. However, with these rights go responsibility and consequences.

    The blog is irresponsible because it is hate oriented and will lead to dangerous actions toward Mr. Armstrong by other bigots who now know his every move.

    Has Attorney General Mike Cox taken leave of his senses? Or does he simply lack the moral stamina to stand up for what is right?

    September 29, 2010 at 9:52 pm |
  41. Rich

    So I can get fired by my employer for offensive blogging as it reflects poorly on the company and the courts will support my employer.....unless of course I am an 'officer' of the court in which case the 'law' does not apply....convenient don't you think?

    Be nice to have a bit of consistency or what's that phrase; equal justice under the law.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  42. alicenyc

    Sounds like the AG is not a very good one. If nothing else his assistant should be charged with harrassment. And the AG should be the first to look into it on company time of course. I wounder if this assistant is related to him in some way ? Maybe like a great nephew. Mr. Armstrong should sue this character.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  43. Wynter

    Anderson, the problem with this situation is that it demonstrates that the Asst. AG has a bias against gay and lesbian individuals. And this demonstrates that he is not capable of keeping an open mind when cases come across his desk relating to these same individuals.

    The fact is that Mr. Shirvell, as part of his job, must maintain a public appearance of being an unbiased and open individual to do his job for the People of Michigan. His failure to maintain this level of fairness goes directly against his ability to perform his duties. Thus I am afraid it should be of great concern to his superiors.

    We live in a world where public figures are accountable for everything they say or do whether they are on the job or off duty. It reflects badly on the AG's office and the State of Michigan when Mr. Shirvell goes on a personal crusade such as this. He should be reprimanded at the very least.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:39 pm |
  44. Nora

    The blog may be protected by free speech but it's patently apparent that this person would DEFINITELY not be able to impartially represent the constituents of Michigan who were gay!

    His homophobia oozes out of that disgusting blog of his and if it doesn't cross the lines of internet harassment then the line is so darned close as to be nonexistent!

    This person is definitely deranged and needs psychiatric counseling.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm |
  45. Patrick

    Let's be real here. Had the blog have been about a radical Christian trying to convert people, the AG would have disciplined his employee for harassment. Though he's protected by free speech, he is harassing a private citizen; which is a pretty basic idea.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:32 pm |
  46. Sheila

    As a Michigan alum and Ann Arbor resident, I'm horrified at Shirvell's behavior and deeply embarrassed that a public official in my state such as Mike Cox is going to hide behind First Amendment rights as his excuse for not having any disciplinary action against Shirvell. Shirvell seems to be a highly unstable individual who is harrassing/stalking/bullying Chris Armstrong. There are too many cases where people only experience consequences once they've already injured another person.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:26 pm |
  47. Rongrant

    In the state of Michigan the Attorney General is an elected 4 year position. The last election was in 2006 when Mike Cox received 53.8% of the vote. Hopefully at the next election the voters of Michigan will keep in mind the 'type' of employees he has on his staff, and reconsider keeping him in office. His past record shows also that he defines 'marriage' as only between a man and a woman. And according to his biography on the website "Ballot*pedia" admitted to an 'out of marriage' affair in 2005.

    September 29, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  48. Todd Headlee

    Oh nooooo, God forbid we would infringe on Mr. Shirvell's rights. He has every right in Michigan it appears to cyber-bully, harass, hurl accusations, plaster swastikas on posters of the college student he is obsessing on. My question is, what about the rights of Chris Armstrong? Does this college student have to continually endure this Assistant Attorney General's antics? Does the Asst Attorney General not have more productive ways to spend his time? If Chris Armstrong were black, and he were trying to push some "radical black agenda", would he not be protected at all from being continually harassed by Mr. Shirvell. Forget that Andrew Shirvell is an embarrassment to himself, probably his family, and certainly the office of his state's attorney general's office - he's an embarrassment to the whole state. Grow some balls, Mr. Cox, and FIRE this lunatic!

    September 29, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
  49. Jack

    WHAT HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA?!?! Everyone keeps talking about it like there's a handbook somewhere with our "game plan" in it. I've seen no such thing, the only thing I can think of that could be classified as an "agenda" is fighting for equal rights. And tell me how that's a negative thing.

    September 29, 2010 at 8:51 pm |
  50. New Jersey

    Wow, can't believe this. At my school, sexual orientation isn't even a tpoic of conversation. If somebody's gay they're gay, if they're straight their straight, whatever. I'm straight but I have a lot of gay friends, both boys and girls, I really can't believe that a group of high schoolers can overlook sexual orientation but college kids can not. It really saddens me, I don't care what people are in that aspect, and why should I? It's their choise- people should just get over it.

    September 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm |
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