A week after he apologized for jokes that targeted Catholics and others, the president of Ohio State University announced he will cancel a speech at a Catholic high school's graduation.
President E. Gordon Gee was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at St. Francis DeSales High School on the North Side, but he offered to withdraw this afternoon, a university spokeswoman said.
The school accepted.
"It's a very important, very seminal moment for the young people and so he really wanted to ensure that the appropriate focus was kept on the young people who are graduating and their families," OSU spokeswoman Gayle Saunders said.
Gee made the comments in question at a December meeting of the OSU Athletic Council. He referred to "those damn Catholics" and said priests at the University of Notre Dame were holy on Sunday but "holy hell" the rest of the week.
He apologized for those comments and others last week, but DeSales officials still questioned whether bringing him would polarize the community. Before they made a decision, Gee called the school's principal this afternoon and offered to cancel.
"In light of really the climate of intense coverage of the graduation, we felt it would detract from the kids," Principal Dan Garrick said. "The students and faculty and administrators of our high school certainly accept the apologies of Dr. Gee for the comments that were made."
The school has not decided who will replace Gee at commencement, but officials are working with the student council to find a new speaker. The student council initially helped pick Gee, who spoke at the school during his first term at OSU.
Gee's comments at the Dec. 5 meeting also targeted schools including the University of Louisville, along with the Southeastern Conference. He has called the comments poor attempts at humor in subsequent apologies.
He is now on a "remediation plan" drawn up by the university board of trustees. Along with making apologies, he must hire a "coach" to help with his job and the trustees have asked him to accept fewer speech invitations.
Gee cancels speech to Catholic high school graduates