Katherine Dettwyler lost her job as a professor at the University of Delaware after she wrote on Facebook that Otto Warmbier “got exactly what he deserved.” Warmbier died last week at age 22 after spending over a year in captivity in North Korea.
Dettwyler, an adjunct anthropology professor, wrote in a post that has since been deleted that she believed Warmbier had the “typical mindset of a lot of the young, white, rich, clueless males” in her class. She added that Warmbier “got exactly what he deserved.”
Warmbier was a Cincinnati native who was in North Korea in January 2016. The University of Virginia student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster from a hotel wall. After almost 18 months in captivity, Warmbier was finally released, but was in a coma. The cause of his coma remains unknown. The North Korean government said he took a sleeping pill and had botulism, but American doctors couldn’t prove that. Warmbier died six days after he returned to Ohio.
Here’s what you need to know about Dettwyler.
1. Dettwyler Thinks Warmbier Got ‘What He Deserved’ & His Parents Are to Blame for His Mindset
The Wilmington News Journal first reported on Dettwyler’s comments, which were posted on her personal Facebook page, on June 23. The Facebook page has since been made private.
Dettwyler wrote that Warmbier “got exactly what he deserved.” She continued:
“These are the same kids who cry about their grades because they didn’t think they’d really have to read and study the material to get a good grade … His parents ultimately are to blame for his growing up thinking he could get away with whatever he wanted. Maybe in the US, where young, white, rich, clueless white males routinely get away with raping women. Not so much in North Korea. And of course, it’s Ottos’ [sic] parents who will pay the price for the rest of their lives.”
The News Journal also notes that Dettwyler wrote a similar post in the comments section of a National Review article.
2. The University of Delaware Won’t Re-Hire Dettwyler After Her Comments
The University of Delaware first issued a statement after Dettwyler’s comments caused an outrage on social media. The statement read:
“The comments of Katherine Dettwyler do not reflect the values or position of the University of Delaware. We condemn any and all messages that endorse hatred and convey insensitivity toward a tragic event such as the one that Otto Warmbier and his family suffered. The University of Delaware values respect and civility and we are committed to global education and study abroad; therefore we find these comments particularly distressing and inconsistent with our values. Our sympathies are with the Warmbier family.
On June 25, the university announced that it will not re-hire Dettwyler to teach another class. UD added that Dettwyler was not employed by the university when she published those comments online.
3. Dettwyler Once Asked Students on a Test If Donald Trump ‘Expressed… Cultural Believes That Are Diametrically Opposed’ to Morals of the U.S.
The UD Review reports that Dettwyler became known for injecting political beliefs in her two anthropology courses.
One student showed a page from a test where Dettwyler asked if it was true that President Donald Trump and his supporters “have expressed… a variety of cultural beliefs that are diametrically opposed” to the morals of the U.S. The only response on the page was “True,” with “False” not listed. The student told UD Review that Dettwyler’s comments on Warmbier were “the most Kathy think I’ve ever seen.”
In an interview with UD Review, Dettwyler defended her test question, saying she never penalized a student for not answering it.
“A couple of students complained about my comments in class about Trump, when what I did was talk about statements he himself had made, and lead the students through and analysis of the underlying cultural beliefs they reflected.” Dettwyler told the site. “This is part of my job as an anthropology professor.”
4. Dettwyler Has Published Several Books on Anthropology
Dettwyler is a published author, with several books available on Amazon. Her books include Dancing Skeletons: Life and Death in West Africa< Cultural Anthropology & Human Experience: The Feast of Life and Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives. A couple of these books now have a multitude of negative reviews, referring to her Warmbier comments.
According to her Amazon author bio, Dettwyler has a B.S. in Anthropology from the University of California, DAvis and an M.A. and PhD in Anthropology from the Indiana University, Bloomington. She also taught at the University of Southern Mississippi and Texas A&M.
Dettwyler has three children.
5. Warmbier’s Doctors Still Don’t Know What Really Killed Warmbier
Warmbier died on June 19, just six days after he came back from the U.S. His cause of death is still unknown, although the North Korean government claimed Warmbier’s coma was caused by botulism and taking a sleeping pill.
On June 16, CNN reported that Warmbier’s doctors couldn’t find evidence to support this claim. His doctors said that he was in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness,” or a persistent vegetative state.
Warmbier’s cause of death will remain a mystery for the time being because Warmbier’s parents have asked that an autopsy not be performed.
“No conclusions about the cause and manner of Mr. Warmbier’s death have been drawn at this time as there are additional medical records and imaging to review and people to interview,” the Hamilton County Coroner’s Office in Ohio said in a statement.