Matt Harrigan Forced To Resign For Death Threat Comments Against President-Elect Donald Trump
Matt Harrigan, the CEO of cyber security firm PacketSled, has been forced to resign after commenting that he would assassinate President-Elect Donald Trump. During the election, Harrigan participated in a private Facebook discussion. While the discussion was private, someone invited to the chat took screenshots of his comments and posted them publicly. TechSpot reported that Harrigan has come out and claimed that the comments were a joke, but reading the comments in their original context reveals no humor in his remarks.
“Going to kill the president. Elect,” Harrigan stated.
Someone responded, “Can but shouldn’t.”
“Next you will have the FBI o… [truncated],” another warned.
Matt shook off the warnings by saying, “Bring it. Bring it Secret Service.”
By themselves, his initial comments seem more belligerent and angry than serious. Alone, the comments could be taken as off-the-cuff remarks by someone who was shocked and angered by the direction the election had taken. However, Harrigan didn’t stop there.
— 🌺 Gigi 🌺 (@LovelyGigi33) November 14, 2016
When someone suggested that he just needed to get high, Matt doubled down by saying, “Nope, getting a sniper rifle and perching myself where it counts. Find a bedroom in the whitehouse [sic] that suits you [expletive]. I’ll find you.”
Even if he were not serious, remarking on an actual plan of assassination is not something to joke about or take lightly, which is the likely reason that someone took screenshots of the comments. Joking or not, Matt Harrigan committed a serious crime when he made those comments.
According to the Legal Information Institute, the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000 forbids threats against the lives of the President or President-elect of the United States. The offense is a class E felony and carries a penalty of a fine and up to five years in prison if convicted, as listed under Title 18 Section 871 of the law.
TechSpot reported that after the screenshots had been made public, Harrigan issued a public apology on the PacketSled website.
“My recent Facebook comment was intended to be a joke, in the context of a larger conversation, and only privately shared as such. Anyone who knows me, knows that I do not engage in this form of rhetoric with any level of seriousness and the comment most certainly does not represent my real personal views in any regard. I apologize if anything that I said was either taken seriously, was offensive, or caused any legitimate concern.”
However, his apology was not enough to spare his job. Even a CEO has to answer to a board of directors, and it is apparent that the board of PacketSled was not amused with his “joke.” On November 14, the company placed Harrigan on administrative leave. On the following day, PacketSled accepted his resignation.
Matt Harrigan is not the only person to have voiced violent sentiments over the hotly contested election.
Telegraph and Guardian columnist Monisha Rajesh tweeted, “It’s about time for a presidential assassination.”
After being bombarded with tweets condemning her words, she deleted her Twitter account, but not before someone had taken a screenshot and informed her employers.
“Monisha Rajesh is an infrequent freelance contributor, not a staff writer, and the Guardian cannot take responsibility for comments expressed by her in a personal capacity.”
There is a legal difference between what is considered free speech and what is considered assault. According to legal definitions listed at the Legal Information Institute, statements that put another in “reasonable apprehension” of harm are considered assault. The Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000, further reinforces that definition by making it explicitly illegal to threaten harm to the President or President-Elect. As a citizen of the United Kingdom, Monisha Rajesh is outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law. However, Matt Harrigan is not. While it is unlikely that he will face any charges, both he and Rajesh have been sent a message by their employers that such speech is not funny or appropriate.