Whistleblower emails reveal partisan rot at Ford Foundation, that gets "nonpartisan" tax perks

I call into question their status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit

After writing an article this summer exposing corruption at the Berkeley Economics Department, I was approached by a group of whistleblowers at the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program to tell their story. To corroborate it, they sent me a trove of archived emails on their private listserv going as far back as 2008. A listserv is a basic tool that gives an organization the ability to send an email to a group of people. Here is a link to a representative sample of their listserv emails that you can download right now as a .zip file.

Maybe I have more emails in my back pocket, that I will release later. Maybe I have worse emails. Maybe I will write a second article. Maybe I still have a smoking gun.


After reading these emails, listening to these whistleblowers speak, and reading about the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program, I was surprised this this is a classified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Here is a link to the IRS Exemption Requirements. To receive its favorable tax treatment, the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization “must not deviate from its purpose or mission”. The Ford Foundation lists “Creativity and Free Expression” as a central part of its core mission, front and center. In practice, the Ford Foundation is one of the greatest enemies of “Free Expression” in the world! I also believe that — if properly investigated — they would run afoul of the regulations regarding “The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests” and “Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct”.

Many in the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program feel betrayed and disgruntled, because in accepting funding from the Ford Foundation many years ago, they believed this society of scholars was open-minded and diverse in their thinking and scholarship. Once again, perhaps they mistakenly believed this because “Creativity and Free Expression” is a core mission of the Fellowship program. These whistleblowers can’t speak up publicly because any Fordie (they call themselves “Fordies”) who dares do anything other than pledge full-throated fealty to the woke party line is systematically harassed, doxxed, and blackballed from academia. If you cross them, their motus operandi is to send your LinkedIn profile to their entire listserv so that everyone may harass your current and former employer. Case in point, when I reached out to them for comment on this article, they responded with an email calling me a “fascist” and a “white supremacist”, before reflexively sharing my LinkedIn with their thousands of members:

Many of the Ford Foundation scholars are avowed communists, and it is common to see Che Guavara or Angela Davis quotes in their email signatures. Support for the regimes in Venezuala, Palestine, and Cuba is the norm. Many of these Fordies make guest appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Democracy Now, NPR, etc. At the vanguard of their listserv are people like Carol Anderson, author of White Rage. Her next book, claiming 2nd amendment was to preserve slavery, is a big hit now. Thank Ford Foundation Fellowship Program for that.

Before I editorialize further, here are the raw quotes from 4 Ford Fellows. I will let them speak for themselves:

The Ford Foundation Fellows 'unofficial' listserv, which is private and only open to current and past Ford Foundation Fellows, consists of academics whose membership in the Fellowship Programs claims to "seek to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students." This couldn't be further from the truth. As a member for over two decades and as someone who has witnessed first-hand the dialogue occurring in this listserv, there is persistent groupthink that is consistent with extreme left-wing ideologies and anyone regardless of their ethnicity or race that dares to debate or push back on the authoritarian grip held by a few extreme members that dictate the dialogue on the listserv, are attacked, ridiculous, accused of "provocation" or "racism", or even doxed at times.

I just want this stuff exposed and the fact this huge nonprofit has some very radical people it is funding and that have penetrated and continue to penetrate academic and political circles. I am hoping you or anyone you may know may help myself and others bring to light this organization, which has LARGELY OPERATED in the shadows for years. On behalf of myself and a few other Ford Fellows that actually want to save our democracy, thank you!

— Whistleblower #1

The Fellows listserv is dictated and captured by a few aggressive and radical left-wing academics that attack conservatives and anyone that does not agree with their tenets. It is a breeding ground for critical race theory and anti-racist ideologies, pushed and promoted by many academics all over the US and funded by the Fellowships Program. If you speak up and people do not like your ideas, you risk being looked up online, on Linkedin, etc. and your profiles are shared with the listserv. This happened recently when someone's Linkedin profile was shared with the listserv, despite that person not being the very individual that was being attacked and ridiculed on the listserv. The usual suspects running the listserv and dictating the conversation all come from post-modern, critical theory disciplines and are the first ones to shut down any dissent. This listserv is a "progressive" authoritarian feeder into society and a major culprit in the recent attacks on our Constitution. 

— Whistleblower #2

After receiving a Ford Dissertation Fellowship, I was added to the Ford listserv and began receiving numerous emails mostly supporting radical left activists in academia, many of whom are also Ford Fellows.   I initially saw this as an opportunity to engage intelligent educated people who disagree with my politics, and have a discussion of the issues of the day.   I engaged … and I was told I had no idea what I was talking about, that I had never suffered because I am white - incidentally I am a white single mother of two, who has plenty of victim credentials, but has decided to be a victor instead - that I was abusing the fellowship by my "hurtful" "ignorant" "racist" words, and that I should be removed from the listserv.   It was even said that I was mentally ill.     

Someone then  NOTIFIED MY UNIVERSITY that I was a racist, and a dear colleague was sent to question me and report back.  I have not been allowed to teach since, and have been passed over for all open positions in Chemistry and Biochemistry for which I am qualified.     I did continue to try to get a rational discussion going, but the abuse was so personal and virulent, I finally quit trying - I was SHUT UP, to my shame.   I just couldn't continue to perform at the high level that my current project demands with the constant stream of personal attacks - it was destroying my self confidence and ability to focus on my work!!!

I believe in the value of diversity, but I honestly believe diversity is less associated with skin color and far more applicable to life experience -   religious, cultural, educational, economic and philosophical experiences - than to the accident of birth into a certain physically distinct population.   The Ford Fellowship is simply ANTI WHITE, and in my view ANTI AMERICAN because they wish to divide our nation according to our skin color, and give power to those who agree with their political agenda.   That is ANTI DIVERSITY and UN-AMERICAN.   I am very sad that American tax dollars go to support this government created, government sanctioned political activist organization.   Ford would turn over in His grave, and the National Academies should rethink the structure, leadership, and mandate of the organization.

— Whistleblower #3

In 2018, a Ford Foundation Fellow (unnamed) was viciously attacked for being conservative. She was called a troll, provocateur, etc. and was harrassed for her views. She left the listserv, and like so many others, self-censored to avoid such attacks. The exchange that happened to this individual should be made public and condemned. This listserv should be exposed and the Fellowships Program left-wing authoritarian agenda should be made public.

— Whistleblower #4

The whole point of this article is to elevate their voices. The fact that these insiders are speaking up says more about the state of the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program than I ever could. These are PhD holders with prestigious jobs, they have a lot to lose. Just think of how toxic and suffocating an organization has to be to get to the point where whistleblowers are coming forth about their role in assisting cancelling academics for dissenting views to woke orthodoxy.

Reading through the email trove was fascinating: these Fordies are the most effete, verbose, pretentious, sheltered douchebags you could possibly imagine… and not half as smart as they think they are. Picture a Key & Peele skit where they play a caricature of goofy CRT scholars. Common themes in their emails include them being being petty, Machiavellian, vindictive, holier-than-though, careerist narcissists.

Here is where I might be tempted to quote Henry Kissinger: “The reason that university politics is so vicious is because stakes are so small.” Unfortunately, in this case, the stakes are the opposite of small. The Ford Foundation endowment is 12.4 billion USD, and they weaponize it as aggressively as they possibly can to crush their enemies. Their listserv is populated mostly by Deans at prestigious universities — at least, that is who is most active, those are their leaders.  They have learned to game the system to get money and power through academic and government positions. They share copies of successful applications for grants, etc. and use their influence to get each other hired/promoted. Certainly they promote people of their own ilk only. The opposite, of course, applies to those who do not agree with their worldview. The most obvious themes of conversation in their emails are exactly what you would expect: nonstop whining about race, diversity, equity, whiteness, blackness, brownness, white rage, white supremacy, white fragility, etc.

They believe riots are good, police need to be abolished, and prisons need to be abolished. Look at this — the Ford Foundation directly has hands in the cookie jar on defund the police, and indirectly by supporting their chosen CRT/Marxists folks through academic funding. Yet Gallup polling says that 81% of black people in America want the same or more police presence in their neighborhoods. Isn't it amazing how different the real world views of the black community are compared to the wokesters of academia who pretend to speak for them?

What I find humorous is that these Fordies view themselves as renegade freedom fighters, fighting against “the man”, when in reality they are close to establishment bootlickers as can be. Try to find a position that they disagree with Disney, Nike, or Unilever on. You can’t. Yes, they may seem delusional, but it all makes sense when you realize that can’t think of them as normal, rational people. To understand what drives them, you must internalize that they are communists. These are the cultural Marxists that your Fox News watching uncle warned you about. They exist, they are real, and they coordinate their agenda in groupchats like this Ford Foundation listserv.

As a group, their views on policy issues are uniformly bleeding-heart-Marxist… so much so, that they are actually pretty boring and predictable. The listserv is mostly them patting each other on the back over how brave and smart they are all. The much more compelling undercurrent in these emails, rather than any particular policy issue, is the clear disdain that they hold for unfettered free speech and scholarly debate. It isn’t just one or two individuals. This problem is endemic to their corporate culture. Here are a few real quotes I cherrypicked from their emails to highlight this. I assure you these are not taken out of context:

  • “I reject these neoliberal invocations of “dialogue” or “understanding the other side”

  • “Why should people with opposing viewpoints be listened to?”

  • “I will not engage such arguments in the name of scholarly civility"

  • “Those who feel compelled to “Hear both sides” is disappointing and intellectually moribund”

  • “I am disturbed that anyone could raise this question”

  • “You ask for discussion and debate but how do we debate when somebody won't acknowledge water is wet? what's the point.”

  • “You seek civil debate and discussion but we must first agree that [my] facts are facts”

  • “I have no interest in this debate that continues to clog my inbox. I will just say this it is an absolute and disgusting abomination that on a list overwhelmingly utilized by Black and Latinx people we are subjected to a racist debate”

  • “We fordies have no obligation AT ALL to engage in so-called "debate"… if your views are causing harm, this platform is not the right forum. Notably, I know that we use the listserv as a safe space, but right now your cantankerous dialogue is causing young fellows who may have identity issues a lot of harm.”

  • “I am a new ford fellow and I do not agree with you. I encourage you to take on counseling.”

  • “the current public discourse (and on this list) we incessantly hear is that "everyone is entitled to their opinion”

  • “[My opponent] trolls the Ford Fellows listserv, These are not serious attempts at dialogue, My perspective is that her messages are to be ignored”

  • “Your call for mutual respect here registers as performative rather than genuine, given your apparent refusal to engage or practice the knowledge established in these works, many of which are the products of Ford fellows’ intellectual labor. Just stop. I don’t want to engage further.”

  • “We especially should not be expected and do not have an obligation to engage in conversations like this”

  • “Sometimes people who ask us to "educate" them do not really want to learn. They want us to engage in a fake debate, where their "opinions" are given the same weight as our informed, evidence-based beliefs.”

  • “I find it appalling that one might raise this question”

  • “I cannot listen in good faith to a person with this viewpoint… I can’t hear you, regardless of who you are”

  • “all perspectives should not be equally validated on this forum, especially ones that would dismantle our fellowship program, are grossly misinformed, or threaten the lives and well being of people of color.”

  • “You refer to a lack of dialogue and acceptance of alternate ideas. When that dialogue is centered around a party that accepts and practices racism I can't get past that to have an active dialogue. You seem to be really focused on getting heard and having respect for both sides.”

Cut out the tongues of anyone who dares question you. Typical communist mindset. Are you starting to understand yet?

Their typical next move in any debate is to talk about how their opponents need to be “educated” with the proper viewpoints, or to harp on how their opponents don’t have the proper “life experience” to even have this discussion in the first place. One weird thing I notice is that they constantly talk about “reclaiming my time” and seem to think this is a strong argument for some reason. “I am reclaiming my time!” they proudly cluck to one another. It’s glaringly obvious that this “reclaiming our time” line is nothing but a sassy in-group dogwhistle that they bust out whenever they don’t have a substantive retort handy. If you don’t say it, you can’t be in their club. You can’t sit with them at recess. They are schoolchildren.

Paradoxically, they constantly prattle on about equality and how everyone is equal, yet they clearly consider themselves to be fundamentally better people than anyone without a PhD. They love appeals to authority and credentialism — the exact type of people that smugly include ", PhD" after their names on Twitter. No, these are not the working class. They would not be caught dead sharing a bowl of Froot Loops with a highschool educated opioid user from Appalachia. They feel much more comfortable rubbing shoulders at a snobby Georgetown thinktank, or discretely doing bumps of cocaine at a swanky Manhattan fundraiser. The Ford Foundation Fellows want you to think they are the proletariat, when, really, they are the bourgeoisie!

Last year the President of the Ford Foundation, Darren Walker, wrote a reasonable essay called “In Defense of Nuance,” which is about exactly what it sounds like: a milquetoast defense of nuance in modern discourse. For this crime — defending nuance — communist legend Angela Davis herself organized a protest outside of the Ford Foundation offices, and over 100 former and current Ford Fellows released an open letter admonishing Walker. They hate nuance — they have a binary worldview, and see everything in black and white. They are the good guys, you are the bad guys. They are Captain America, and you are Thanos. They are Harry Potter, you are Voldemort.

In their email trove I found one perfect such example of shutting down nuance. In December 2020, a Professor at University of Chicago department of Geophysics released a YouTube Video where he said the following:

“Let’s support women in science by treating women and their scientific ideas with respect,” he said. “Let’s fight bias in science by working hard to reduce bias, not by introducing it. Let’s treat each applicant for conferences, fellowships, and faculty positions as an individual worthy of dignity and respect. Let’s treat all applicants fairly by judging them only on the basis of their ability and promise as scientists.”

— Dr. Dorian Abbot

He was speaking out against affirmative action and the dangers of eschewing meritocracy — which, whether you agree with him or not, is a perfectly acceptable thing to debate the merits of. Universities exist for these debates to be had! Despite this, a grad student in his department weaponized the Ford listserv, urging them to sign a petition saying he “threatens the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the [Geophysical Sciences] department and represents an aggressive act towards research and teaching communities.” This petition also “enumerates 11 demands, many of which would serve to ostracize and shame Prof. Abbot, while stripping him of departmental titles, courses, and privileges. The signatories further demand that the Department of Geophysical Sciences formally and publicly denounce Prof. Abbot’s views, and change hiring and promotion procedures so as to prioritize DEI.”

Taking the high road here might involve me redacting the names of the student in this screenshot in order to ensure she is not subjected to the same treatment as Dr. Abbot. However, sometimes the only way to fight fire is with fire, so here is a beautiful headshot of Maria Hernandez Limon (she/her). Hire this person at your own risk:

I found Ms. Limon to be a particularly gross because she is a walking, talking, slap in the face to University of Chicago’s widely heralded “Chicago Principles,” which outline the “University’s commitment to a completely free and open discussion of ideas” that “guarantees all members of the University community the broadest possible latitude to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn.” This is widely considered the academic Gold Standard for the commitment to free and open inquiry in academia. She should be ashamed to attend UChicago, she belongs in Berkeley. Or better yet, behind a counter at the DMV.

The pro-Abbot counterpetition put it best:

The notion that Prof. Abbot’s opinions represent acts of aggression and threaten anyone’s safety is hyperbolic and absurd. It is unsettling to see such linguistic distortions being used by a graduate student. The plain purpose of such extreme rhetoric is to stifle debate by dishonestly casting reasonable disagreement as violence and harassment.

— Change.com petition

Fordies represent everything that is wrong with higher education. They have been educated from a young age to be angry victims, then they have been told that America and white Americans are the reason for their victimhood, and, in the case of Ford Fellows and other academics, they then received high paying positions and even a modicum of fame for whining and blaming continuously in the public forum.   In a word, they have been trained to be squeaky wheels, exaggerating their hardships, minimizing the hardships of others, and pretending that government and money are the answers to human problems.

One thing that is interesting to understand is *how* an organization like the Ford Foundation became so woke. Established in 1936, the Ford Foundation was created with the mission of “scientific, educational and charitable purposes, all for the purposes of public welfare.” This was a nice sentiment, but unfortunately the wording was much too broad. This quixotic mission has since been bastardized/hijacked, and the organization has fallen victim to Robert Conquest's second law of politics: Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing. This is a long march through institutions, which raises up the most mediocre and steps on the creative and exceptional. 

To counter this article, this is what they will say: “He seems to believe that this listserv is more connected to the Ford Foundation itself than it actually is,” or “it is incorrect to say that listserv posts are representative of the politics of the entire fellowship.” To that I would answer: it does not matter because this is tyranny of the minority, and even if 90% of the people don't respond in the way that these far-left extremists do, these far-left extremists control the entire listserv and rule it with an iron fist. Everyone else just self-censors or behaves in preference falsification so they are not doxed like so many others before them. Don't let these radicals fool you that they are about "love and peace and diversity." They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I reached out to the Ford Foundation Fellowship for comment, so I will allow them to have the last word:

We call ourselves "Fordies" for a reason. It's a term of affection and pride for the many fine and rewarding professional and personal relationships that have grown from our affiliation with other Ford Fellowship recipients over the years. When you do your article, Chris, please count all the congratulations offered among us for achievements in writing and professional growth.  Please note all the encouragement offered when Fordies face challenges in their personal lives and professional careers. Please note all the honor shown to outstanding scholars who have walked on, our elders in pursuit of intellectual excellence. Please note all the calls for collaboration or help in endeavors that might be of mutual interest,  and note all the job and publishing opportunities shared. Please note the pedagogical and mentoring advice shared. The Ford Fellows' listserv seeks to create bonds that help all us make contributions to a better world.  Tell that truth.

— Kathryn Shanley, Professor at University of Montana