MEXICO CITY — The United States ambassador to Mexico was accused of bullying after he lashed out on Twitter at a college student who suggested that his analysis of Mexican people was basic.
Ambassador Christopher Landau’s belligerent response generated headlines across Mexico and demands that he apologize. Landau, who has been floated as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, has instead doubled down. He tweeted pictures of the student’s message even after she deactivated her account following a flood of hate messages.
“The ambassador overreacted. It would have been much more advisable for him to ignore the message or say ‘I don’t agree,’” said Javier Oliva, a professor of political science at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). “He didn’t take into account an environment in Mexico where violence against women is justifiably a huge issue, and any criticism turns into a much bigger deal.”
Landau’s Twitter account is largely a collection of enthusiastic musings on Mexico’s beauty, food, and his diplomatic trips, dotted with images of American and Mexican flags. He also has a penchant for posting about drug busts.
The exchange between the student and Landau started benignly.
“The social media networks of the ambassador say a lot about his perception of the people he seeks to please,” wrote Mariana Braojos, the student, on Twitter, tagging the ambassador in her post. “He perceives us as rudimentary. He believes that we praise any white foreigner that eats our food and doesn’t look down on ordinary people. The worst is that he isn’t in error."
Landau responded and escalated the exchange. “Apologies if I’m not sufficiently sophisticated for you, with your degree in international relations. Obviously, your great education and knowledge of the world would allow you to do diplomatic work much better than the ‘rudimentary’ communications of this ‘white foreigner.’”
Landau’s message was retweeted thousands of times with aggressive and intimidating comments toward Braojos, a student at the prestigious College of Mexico. She closed her account.
But Landau didn’t back down. Twitter users wrote misogynistic messages asking to see the tweet that set him off, and Landau, who has 260,000 followers, reposted pictures of the student’s tweet.
An organization of university students condemned Landau and demanded an apology. “In response to a legitimate criticism of the U.S. embassy’s communication strategy in Mexico, the ambassador responded violently against our colleague. We condemn the use of power to humiliate and harass those who disagree,” wrote Unidas Colmex, which describes itself as defending the rights of women in the student body. It said that by responding to misogynistic tweets, “the ambassador validated and encouraged the cruel behavior and harassment of Mariana.”
To date, Landau has neither apologized nor taken down his tweet criticizing the student. A spokesman for Landau didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, a fake Twitter account has emerged purporting to be the student, along with her picture. It posted an apology saying her comments “were stupid and infantile.”
Braojos didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Named ambassador to Mexico in August 2019, Landau practiced law in Washington, D.C. for 30 years. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1989 and clerked for former Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Earlier this month, the White House released a list of potential Supreme Court candidates to fill any vacancies. Landau was among them.