WaPo column blasts Sasse as ‘affirmative action hire’ despite previously praising him as university president

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The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin denounced Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., after years of previously praising him, for planning to step down and accept a position as president of the University of Florida.

Rubin denounced Sasse on Wednesday in an op-ed calling him “an affirmative action hire if there ever was one” by Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., to “install” in his stead.

“Sasse is the quintessential affirmative action hire that Republicans love to denounce. His selection certainly appears to be based on political identity, not merit. No one can seriously argue that Sasse is the finest candidate in the country for the position. DeSantis might as well have put in the job description: ‘Compliant Republican hostile to liberal ideas,’” Rubin wrote.

Rubin also attacked Sasse, who previously served as president of Midland University, as not up to the task of heading up a “major university.”

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., speaks during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., speaks during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, Pool)

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“If DeSantis wanted a slippery, right-wing politician for the job, he chose well. Sasse has long been considered bright by the standards of the U.S. Senate, but that does not necessarily mean he is up to the intellectual rigor of a major university,” Rubin wrote.

This contrasted with Rubin’s position from years prior when she frequently praised the senator and even pushed him to run for president in 2016 against Donald Trump based on his experience as a university president.

“He is an accomplished man. He has been a university president, worked on the Hill as a staffer and held multiple jobs in the executive branch. He’s actually qualified and knows a lot about health care, to name one topic, from his time working at the Department of Health and Human Services.  He also has private-sector experience,” she wrote at the time.

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin previously praised Ben Sasse as an alternative to Donald Trump in 2016. 

Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin previously praised Ben Sasse as an alternative to Donald Trump in 2016. 
((Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images))

She also lauded him on Twitter with several tweets and articles supporting Sasse.

“Ben Sasse on [San Bernardino shooting],” Rubin tweeted in 2015. “[B]rilliant and far more presidential than anything Obama had done. The best of the GOP.”

Fox News confirmed on Thursday that Sasse is expected to resign from his Senate seat after the University of Florida announced he was the lone finalist being considered by its presidential search committee. The discussion over his nomination will continue in November, but, if Sasse accepts the position, he will likely leave his seat in December and begin his role as president in February.

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Though Sasse was praised by the chair of the committee, Rubin insisted that Sasse represented a way for DeSantis to control state universities.

“DeSantis will almost certainly get his pick. But students, donors and faculties have choices. If they choose to shun an institution that is becoming a pliant accessory to the governor’s political ambitions, chalk one victory up for the free market,” Rubin concluded. “Meanwhile, conservative critics of politicized higher education can be put to the test: Do they favor academic freedom, or just academic freedom for people who think like they do?”

University of Florida students protested the nomination of a Republican senator to be their school's new president. 

University of Florida students protested the nomination of a Republican senator to be their school’s new president. 
(Fox News/Ophelie Jacobson)

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University of Florida students have since attacked their school’s decision to nominate Sasse, with several groups protesting his appearance on campus Monday.

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