US Energy Secretary Rick Perry weighed in on the student body election of his alma mater Wednesday, questioning whether Texas A&M's first openly gay student body president legitimately earned the title.
In an op-ed for the Houston Chronicle, the former Texas governor said he was "deeply concerned" by the school's decision to disqualify the winner of the popular vote and declare junior Bobby Brooks president.
At best, the school "made a mockery of due process" in the name of diversity, he said. At worse, the election was "stolen."
"It is difficult to escape the perception that this quest for 'diversity' is the real reason the election outcome was overturned," Perry wrote. "Does the principle of 'diversity' override and supersede all other values of our Aggie Honor Code?"
The allegations prompted a swift repudiation from the school. Meanwhile, critics wondered if Perry didn't have better things to do with his time as energy secretary than pen an 851-word op-ed on college politics.
Robert McIntosh, the son of a prominent Republican fundraiser, earned 750 more votes than Brooks, an openly gay student.
McIntosh was disqualified for failing to disclose campaign expenses -- specifically, a receipt for glow sticks used in a campaign video, according to school judicial court records.
Another charge of voter intimidation was dismissed based on lack of evidence. But the school court upheld the disqualification "with no consideration given to whether the punishment fit the crime," Perry wrote.
"The desire of the electorate is overturned, and thousands of student votes are disqualified because of free glow sticks that appeared for 11 seconds of a months-long campaign. Apparently, glow sticks merit the same punishment as voter intimidation."
Perry goes on to say that every Aggie should ask themselves if the outcome would have been the same if McIntosh had been a "minority student" instead of a white male, or if Brooks had been disqualified.
"Would the administration and the student body have allowed the first gay student body president to be voided for using charity glow sticks? Would the student body have allowed a black student body president to be disqualified on anonymous charges of voter intimidation?" he asks.
"We all know that the administration, the SGA and student body would not have permitted such a thing to happen. The outcome would have been different if the victim was different."
Perry's detractors noted that McIntosh is the son of Dallas-based Republican fundraiser Alison McIntosh, who campaigned for President Donald Trump.
The school said it was "surprised" that Perry had chosen to weigh in. It "respectfully" disagreed with his assessment and defended the integrity of the election.
"The disqualification of the leading vote-getter resulted in the certification of Bobby Brooks as the next Student Body President effective April 21, 2017. To suggest that the same decision of disqualification would not have been made if the roles were reversed is to deny the Texas A&M of today where accountability applies to all," university spokeswoman Amy Smith said in a statement.
"Bobby Brooks, in this role, represents all students of all backgrounds. I know that he takes this responsibility seriously and we look forward to working with him. We are also grateful to the other students who ran for the office and who will undoubtedly continue to be leaders on the campus."