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. Michelle

    Free speech means that the government wont prosecute us for what we say, not that we can say anything without consequence. I absolutely believe the AAG has a right to post his blog. I also believe that the Attorney General can fire an employee who acts like an immature moron and brings embarrassment to the office.

    September 30, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  2. Jan Holtzman

    How can Mike Cox have an "assistant" with Andrew Shirvell's views about the citizen's of michigan (and humanity) to make substantive decisions or recommendations that may effect the judicial process?

    What kind of assistant's is he relying upon?

    It really raises very serious concerns about Mike Cox.

    September 30, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  3. Misty Eichengreen

    Anderson, perhaps we should begin to empathize with people like Shirvell. After all, it seems most who are so vehemently preying upon those who are openly gay are just questioning their own sexuality and do not have the support system to be able to explore who they are. Maybe I'm naive, but, other than exposing these people (which I applaud), there seems to be no positive effect toward tolerance.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:40 am |
  4. Laura Kotting

    As a life long resident of the great state of Michigan, I am appalled that my tax dollars are going towards the salary of both Mike Cox and Andrew Shirvell. Mike Cox I think you can kiss your job good-bye next time you are up for re-election.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:37 am |
  5. Irene

    Advancing a radical homosexual agenda = trying to get a minority recognized as having the same rights as every other American citizens/human being.

    Sometimes I really wonder about the human race.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  6. Tad Pole

    I am all for free speech, and this person is certainly *free* to slander whomever he wishes on his own time. What I question however is that his actions show a definate bias against a certain group of people that he might be forced to work with, or in his job, work for. I would be curious if someone were display similar acts towards a race, rather than a gender preference, if one would say it was just *Freedom of speech*, or if it would be viewed as something that might actually inhibit this man from performing his duties as a PUBLIC SERVANT accordingly. I for one, tend to think the latter.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:30 am |
  7. PAPilot

    Slander and Defamation are not protected by the 1st Amendment.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  8. Doug

    I am shocked a public figure can harass a citizen and the state allows this.. Shame on the state of Michigan, why would the let this go on.. Disgusting !!!! What is happening here in America, this guy did nothing wrong. the guy working for the state should be fired.. Why hasn't he ?

    September 30, 2010 at 5:21 am |
  9. James

    It is embarrassing for the boss to defend these kind of behavior. If this guy is a professional athlete we all will be screaming for his head.NBA suspended few players because they got traffic ticket.

    September 30, 2010 at 5:02 am |
  10. Gil Silberman

    Give me a break. The employee should be fired immediately. There is no first amendment protection that would allow employees to engage in stalker-ish behavior or bigoted public pronouncements. On the contrary, permitting this behavior endorses it.

    September 30, 2010 at 4:23 am |
  11. John Bassett

    If the AG is truly shocked, then he should do something about it.

    September 30, 2010 at 3:00 am |
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