George Ciccariello-Maher
Ciccariello-Maher has made his Twitter account private since receiving backlash for his tweet on 'white genocide'Screenshot

A university professor in Pennsylvania is under fire after tweeting about "white genocide" and then refusing to apologise. George Ciccariello-Maher, an associate professor of politics at Drexel University, tweeted late on Christmas Eve: "All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide."

Ciccariello-Maher's tweet was condemned by Drexel, which called it "utterly reprehensible" and "deeply disturbing". "While the University recognises the right of its faculty to freely express their thoughts and opinions in public debate, Professor Ciccariello-Maher's comments [...] do not in any way reflect the values of the University," it said in a statement.

Drexel added that it had reached out to Ciccariello-Maher to arrange a meeting.

In an email to The Associated Press (AP) on Monday (26 December), Ciccariello-Maher said the statement "sends a chilling message". He claimed that the tweet was meant to be satirical and that he was mocking the "imaginary concept" of white genocide, which he said was an invention of white supremacists.

"It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I'm glad to have mocked it," he said.

But according to the AP, Ciccariello-Maher followed up the tweet by praising the "massacre" of whites in Haiti during the island nation's slave uprising more than 200 years ago.

According to Inside Higher Ed, more than 3,500 people, including scholars, have signed a petition supporting Ciccariello-Maher and urging Drexel to defend him.

"Preserve academic freedom (and wit and intelligence and anti-racism) in this nasty new era of living in the United States of internet trolls," the petition says.

"Support George. Let Drexel know–in the midst of the deafening, organised troll-storm–that racist trolls deserve no platform in dictating academic discourse, let alone the off-duty tweets of academics. They are being VERY noisy; we can't be silent."

Ciccariello-Maher's twitter account, which has more than 10,000 followers, is private. He lists himself as a writer and "radical political theorist" on his website. He has written several books on Venezuela, including We Created Chavez: A People's History of the Venezuelan Revolution and Building the Commune: Radical Democracy in Venezuela.