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October 6th, 2010
08:30 PM ET

Targeted student: Given recent suicides, 'it's hard not to say something'

Martina Stewart
AC360° Digital Producer

New York (CNN) – In an exclusive interview that will air Wednesday on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, college student Chris Armstrong said the recent rash of headlines about gay teens who have committed suicide has motivated him to break his silence about his own experience of being targeted online.

For months, Armstrong has been the subject of the blog “Chris Armstrong Watch” which is published by Andrew Shirvell, a lawyer in the Michigan attorney general’s office; Shirvell and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox have both maintained that the blog is a personal project of Shirvell’s done during non-work hours and without any official resources.

Armstrong, a college senior, is University of Michigan’s first openly gay student body president, and Shirvell is an alum of the university who has taken issue with what Shirvell calls Armstrong’s “radical homosexual agenda.”

After his blog garnered national media attention in the past week, Shirvell placed it behind a privacy firewall, making it only available to invited readers. The lawyer, who is an assistant Michigan attorney general, has also taken a voluntary leave of absence from his state job, according to the Michigan AG’s office. Shirvell has also been barred from University of Michigan’s campus, and Armstrong is seeking a personal protection order against Shirvell.

In his first national interview about the situation, the college student told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he did not ask to be the subject of Shirvell’s attention on- and offline. But Armstrong said he has decided to use the spotlight to try to reach other gay teens who may be going through something similar.

“Given what’s happened in the past week, and given the suicides that have happened in the past few weeks, it’s been, it’s been – it’s hard not to say something,” Armstrong explained.

He added, “I felt like it was important for me to speak out as well just because I think that it’s important for them to understand that things can get better. And it’s important to know you can reach out in your community, you can reach out to friends and they can support you.”

In his sit-down with Cooper, Armstrong also discusses whether he’d ever met Shirvell previously, how Armstrong feels about Shirvell’s efforts to target some of Armstrong’s friends and Armstrong’s reaction to being branded a radical activist by Shirvell.

Tune into AC360° tonight on CNN beginning at 10 p.m. ET to watch more of Armstrong’s exclusive interview.

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Thom DuPuis

    Kudos to you Anderson, for being the voice of reason in this sea of insanity! I was an openly gay student leader in college, and the job was hard enough facing bigotry from fellow students, let alone having to deal with a "grown adult" like Shirvell constantly harrassing me. His questionable ethics as a public employee (and alumnus) should be called into question, especially at a time when the trickle-down effect of this type of hate speech is causing so many LGBT youth to see suicide as a last resort. I was glad to see that Chris is such a bright, strong young man, who has the constitution to weather this storm unscathed.

    October 7, 2010 at 2:43 am |
  2. chris erskine

    As a Michigan resident, I am appalled at Andrew's Shirvell's conduct. And in some ways, just as appalled at our attorney general, Mike Cox, for not addressing this situation. Mr. Cox's excuses for not doing anything about Mr. Shirvell are weak, to say the least. Yes, there is freedom of speech, but not freedom to slander some college kid because Mr. Shirvell is obviously homophobic. Would Shirvell have been so vigilant in cruxifying Chris Armstrong were Chris not gay? I don't think so.

    I hope citizens in Michigan will send a strong message come election time that this behavior is wrong.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  3. Joseph

    It's a major shame Michigan didn't give Andrew Shirvell a pink slip on day one. How can the attorney general's office hire someone with such obvious hate for his fellow citizens. This has nothing to do with Michigan law and 100% about hate crimes.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:16 am |
  4. Anne

    Good! I think it is important he spoke about it. It would be interesting an analysis of what makes him be stronger than other kids...parents support etc. It is a great opportunity for him to teach parents how to support their kids and teach kids how to be strong, and the beutiful part of it...hold on, things would be better. My blessings.

    October 7, 2010 at 1:07 am |
  5. dwayne

    This Republican Michigan Attorney General Assistant should be tried for Hate Crimes.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:27 pm |
  6. Lisa Foster

    Chris, you are an inspiration to us all for your incredibly positive attitude and show of strength as you seek to defend yourself and others against bullies like Andrew shirvell. What a pathetic human he is. Stay strong and don't allow that stunning smile to fade!!! Kids who are victims of bullying around the country need to know they're not alone and that their lives do have value.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:26 pm |
  7. brandy

    Armstrong, I'm with you 100 percent. Be strong and be the voice of what needs to be heard.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  8. Georgia Andrianopoulos

    We Americans like to think that we are removed from barbaric beliefs and violence- not like the Congo where thousands are raped,or Afghanistan where women are stoned to death, or Egypt where men are instructed the "right" way to hit their wives.. until, right in our living rooms we come face to face with someone like Mr Andrew Shirvell.
    how devastating that this person is the product of the American system! and that he has been able to wage a hate war against a most gracious and charismatic young man. Keep smiling Chris!

    October 6, 2010 at 11:24 pm |
  9. deborah

    Your openness may save other young people who are suicidal. Hopefully others will be spared the anguish of being a victim of suicide. Twice I have dealt with suicide in my immediate family. I continue to suffer the loss and pain.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:22 pm |
  10. jim

    This man is not a private citizen hes a public official. If this states AG wants to keep his job he needs to buck up and fire this man.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:18 pm |
  11. Eva

    Anderson,
    Excellent choice to spotlight this story in the context of bullying, which it also clearly is.
    Another question: in addition to persecuting Jews, Hitler also persecuted gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, and ... gays. So how does Shirvell explain his accusation of "Nazism" towards Armstrong? Shirvell is an obsessed, paranoid and cruel person.
    Good work, AC.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:08 pm |
  12. Ravid Mendelsohn

    I am from Michigan and let me tell you: our governor Jennifer Granholm is not happy with this state official at all. She stated that if he worked for her, that he would be fired right away.

    The state official is assistant to the attorney general who is very creepy (and even flamboyant himself... although theirs nothing wrong with flamboyancy) It's just odd he would go out of his way to stalk such a nice kid and create so many vicious lies about him.

    October 6, 2010 at 11:04 pm |
  13. Benny Young

    Bravo to Chris for speaking out and speaking out LOUDLY in light of the suicides. He's openly gay, and nothing to hide, and a victim of attack. But going on national TV, and in response to the kids who recently have committed suicide is simply a brilliantly wonderful thing to do. In the best spirit of Harvey Milk and generations of LGBT leaders. Those of us who've been through the trenches stand with you and we are very, very proud of you!

    October 6, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  14. sheila kind

    My own reaction to this is harsh. I once had a wonderful gay friend who told me, after he finally came out, that those who fight the hardest against homosexuals often are hiding from their own true nature. They feel a need to make everyone believe that they are straight by bashing homosexual behavior the hardest, making fun of individuals, telling the worst gay jokes, etc. I've witnessed this again and again. In this case it sounds as if it's become pathological.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:59 pm |
  15. karen

    An attorney in a state's Attorney General's office stalking and harrassing a college student online. Pretty nasty stuff. Get him out of the AG's withou pay and investigate possibility of criminal charges. Way beyond acceptable behavior whether or not he's using state resources.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:49 pm |
  16. jeff

    Why do people feel the need to attack gays? what ever happened to love everyone? i think its criminal what she is doing

    October 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm |
  17. Scott

    Chris Armstrong's attitude toward all that has happened since April is something we don't see every day. Instead of being a victim, he has turned Shirvell's whole crusade against him into something positive to help others. Chris is someone to take note of. I see good things for him in his future. When Andy Shirvell grows up perhaps he could take some lessons from Chris.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
  18. Catherine Gallagher

    I’m glad Mr. Armstrong decided to speak up. I’m appalled by the harassment of Mr. Armstrong by Andrew Shirvell. More appalled that the state of Michigan stands silently by as one of their employees assigned to uphold the law, bullies and torments one of its citizen—one of our citizens. Shame, shame, shame on the state of Michigan.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:32 pm |
  19. Leslie

    It is so sad that we have such ignorant and hateful people in this world. My heart goes out to these "targeted" individuals.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:21 pm |
  20. Adrian and Lydia

    ANDERSON- we appreciate you keeping people like this asistant district attorney honest. These people are in a position of autority and they are bullying people. It is a difficult and stressful job to make people of power accountable. We appreciate your bravery and conviction to protecting those who really cant stand alone to people like that. BRAVO! Keep it up!

    PS Loved you on Ellen today!

    October 6, 2010 at 10:19 pm |
  21. Ronnie

    Andrew Shirvell may have the free speech to post his hate blog but as American's we do not have to have these people in office.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  22. melissa

    Andrew Shirvell obviously has some mental problems. He is off his rails. Stalker thats what i call him.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:17 pm |
  23. Michelle

    I say good for Mr. Armstrong! Before I returned to Afghanistan, I saw Mr. Shirvell do an interview on television and the man truly believes that what he is doing is not wrong. I was completely gobsmacked!

    Mr. Armstrong, use the spotlight to shine on all the abhorrent characters like Mr. Shirvell who are pointely targeting gay youth and tearing down their self-esteem one word at a time.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  24. rebecca

    Good job Chris! Stand up for what you believe in and don't ket people bully you. Itks good to see you speak out and not hiding.

    October 6, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  25. Laura Kotting

    Thank you Anderson for bring us the truth. Thank you Andrew for being an incredibly mature and strong human being,

    October 6, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
  26. Katie

    Come on Chris, hang in there – you can take this jerk.

    October 6, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  27. Rob Riley

    I am also a U of M alum and just let me say this: Why hasn't the State A.G.'s office fired this vicious bigot Shirvell?

    October 6, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  28. Scott

    The State needs to subpoena Shirvell's computer and check the "time of day" entries for his "blog". He'd be out the door in a heartbeat.

    So much bigotry, racism and hypocrisy coming from the right wing.

    October 6, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  29. jamie

    keep speaking Chris...Peace to you.

    October 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm |
  30. Ruth

    Shirvell needs help!

    October 6, 2010 at 9:16 pm |
  31. Ruth

    Shirvell appears to be a man filled with hatred and is intolerant. What drives him to such extremes?

    October 6, 2010 at 9:15 pm |