Beaver Co. state rep. will continue to teach at Pitt after tweeting he would ‘not stop’ his car for protesters ‘with negative intentions’

As Democrats criticized Aaron Bernstine, a university spokesperson said Pitt “supports free speech and expression.”

Aaron Bernstine with state capitol
Kumar Appaiah/Flickr ; Facebook page of state Rep. Aaron Bernstine
Sarah Anne Hughes

Updated, Sept. 19, 2 p.m.

Aaron Bernstine, a Republican state representative from Beaver County, will continue to teach at the University of Pittsburgh after he tweeted Saturday that he would not stop his car for protesters “with negative intentions” who were blocking a road.

“The University supports free speech and expression and an educational environment in which these rights are respected and people of all views can participate in civil discourse,” Pitt spokesman Joe Miksch said by email.

When asked directly if Bernstine will continue teaching at Pitt, Miksch said he was “unaware of any changes to his teaching status.”

As protests raged in St. Louis following the acquittal of a white, former police officer who fatally shot a black man, Bernstine tweeted early Saturday, “If anyone EVER tries to stop my car on a highway with negative intentions… I will not stop under any conditions.”

He then doubled down on the statement in a series of tweets.

The freshman lawmaker, who represents Pa.’s 10th District, took a slightly different tack in an email to his House colleagues, writing that headlines claiming he condoned hitting protesters “misconstrued” his words.

“Taking my comments to that extreme is just absurd,” he wrote in an email published by PennLive. “My intent was simply to let people know that I, along with what I believe are many others, have grown tired of those who are committing crimes and acts of violence in the name of peaceful protest.”

As John Hamilton of The Pitt News pointed out, this is not the first time Bernstine has tweeted about not stopping for protesters blocking a highway.

Bernstine’s office did not immediately respond to The Incline’s request for comment.

He is teaching one class, Principles Of Selling, this fall at Pitt’s College of Business Administration. In the spring, he taught three courses, according to online records.

Beyond the national attention Bernstine’s tweets attracted, state Democrats used the opportunity to call on the Republican to apologize for his comments.

“Representative Bernstine should not have to be reminded that the right to peaceably assemble is so fundamental to our democracy that it is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution,” Pennsylvania Democratic Party spokesperson Brandon Cwalina said. “His statement is not fit for a state representative — let alone any decent person — and he must apologize immediately.”

Two Democratic state reps. — Donna Bullock of Philadelphia and Leanne Krueger-Braneky of Delaware County — also condemned Bernstine’s comments in separate statements.