Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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The Gee flap

Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee has stepped in it again, and we are all supposed to be shocked, shocked. But Mr. Gee has earned two adjectives that are rare in any walk of life: colorful and competent.

Mr. Gee gaffed at a meeting last December of OSU’s Athletics Council. Referring to the University of Notre Dame, he said: “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell the rest of the week … You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday.”

This isn’t Mr. Gee’s first gaffe. He famously compared other college football teams to the Little Sisters of the Poor.

President Gee is larger than life and unbuttoned. His remarks about Catholics were not funny, although he meant them to be. Still, no one who knows his record or background (he is a Mormon) would call him a religious bigot.

But almost everyone would agree that Mr. Gee is very good at what he does. His is 69 years old and has been running universities since 1981.

It’s well reported that Mr. Gee’s annual base salary at Ohio State is $802,125, within a total compensation package of $1.6 million. Less publicized is that he gives a large chunk of it away. Time magazine once called him the best college president in the country.

When Mr. Gee gets in trouble, it is because he is unguarded, often refreshingly so, in our uptight, politically correct age. His comments are sometimes silly, but they come from candor, not the arrogance of power.

He always apologizes and takes responsibility for his missteps. This time, he said: “The comments I made were just plain wrong, and in no way do they reflect what the university stands for.”

After his Little Sisters comment, Mr. Gee came to the Sacred Heart Home in Oregon, asked forgiveness, and sent a check. The mother superior forgave him.

So should we. Americans are way too quick to take offense. We need to lighten up and judge people on the totality of their work and character.

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