University may have fabricated letter to hide $200k Petraeus job offer, says CUNY prof

A well-known political science professor at the City University of New York (CUNY) and a New York assemblyman say CUNY administrators may have fabricated a document in order to deflect reports that they had offered retired General David Petraeus $200k to teach a class this fall.

CUNY professor Corey Robin noticed school officials posted an official letter dated May 29, offering Petraeus a $150K salary to teach at the school, which was $50K less than originally reported.

CUNY professor Corey Robin launched a private investigation earlier this month after school officials responded to the growing scandal over Petraeus’ high salary by producing an official letter dated May 29, offering the former CIA chief $150k, which was $50k less than news reports had indicated.

According to Robin, the letter which appeared on the CUNY site on July 3, was not included in a trove of documents which were obtained by the news site Gawker through a public records request that covered the entire period of negotiations between Petraeus and the school.

After reviewing the documents, Robin said they included no mention of $150k, but multiple mentions of the $200k figure, which culminated in Gawker’s initial July 1, report.

Robin said he also found it suspicious that the university responded to the original Gawker story 2.5 hours later with an email designed to “memorialize” discussions on the lower salary.

Both documents may have been part of campaign by CUNY’s “P.R. machine” to save face after the enormous salary was revealed, alleged Robin.

“One should never underestimate CUNY’s P.R. machine,” he wrote on his blog and in a detailed post on Monday in Salon magazine.

“It’s quite conceivable that someone in the administration...  actually thought that $150K... would hit that sweet spot of a swelling scandal: not too much to seem outrageous, not too little to drive away Petraeus, but just right,” he wrote. “Right enough, that is, to placate the critics.”

“CUNY may be about to learn the hard Nixonian truth of that old Watergate adage: it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up,” Robin added on his personal blog on July 4.

Meanwhile, Republican State Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, has also called foul in a scathing letter to CUNY interim chancellor William Kelly.

“It became clear that there was no written documentation of this [salary] change prior to the publication of the Gawker story,” he wrote in the letter to Kelly. “That’s strange given the fact that there are numerous back-and-forth emails discussing the salary written before the Gawker story.”

Despite multiple requests, neither CUNY, Robin, or Petraeus responded with comment to Campus Reform in time for publication.

In an April 23, New York Times story announcing Petraeus's partnership with the school, however, his lawyer Robert Barnett cited the diversity of CUNY’s students as one reason the retired general had agreed to teach there.  

“He admires its diversity of students, locations and offerings,” said Barnett according The New York Times. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @JosiahRyan