The American Heart Association has removed Roberto Bolli, a University of Louisville cardiologist, as editor-in-chief of its journal Circulation Research since “hate speech” he sent to a local ballet has come to light, according to Medscape.
Bolli, a professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at the Kentucky university’s School of Medicine, reportedly sent an email in March 2018 to the Louisville Ballet after receiving a promotional flier for the show Human Abstract. The flier depicts two men holding hands in ballet leggings with the text, “If you love someone, let him go.”
In a redacted email published on the blog Art Writing is Dead and allegedly sent from Bolli’s personal account, he told the dance company, “You have reached a new low. Your company is now promoting sodomy and homosexuality,” and demanded the ballet’s “minions of Satan” stop sending “this filth” to his home. The blog posted a response from Bolli confirming that he sent the email, saying that his comments have been “distorted and misrepresented,” and asserting, “My personal religious views on homosexuality have NOTHING to do with my treatment of queer patients.”
After the email surfaced, the American Heart Association (AHA) removed him from journal editorship. “The American Heart Association has a zero tolerance policy with respect to personal conduct that conflicts with its guiding values and its commitment to an environment that embraces diversity and inclusion and values cultural, racial, gender and other differences to help it succeed in achieving its mission and goals,” says Greg Donaldson, a senior vice president for the AHA, in a statement, according to Medscape.
Circulation Research will have a temporary editor-in-chief until later this spring when Jane Freedman of the University of Massachusetts Medical School takes up the post as planned previously.
Bolli has not been removed from his faculty post, though an email from the University of Louisville Provost Beth Boehm and School of Medicine Dean Toni Ganzel condemns the letter without naming Bolli, reports The Courier Journal. “The message appears to be a personal one; the faculty member did not mention the university or use his title in the email,” they write. “Still, his words have proven hurtful to many of our faculty, staff and students, particularly those in the LGBT community.”
The cardiologist has been involved in another controversy in recent years regarding a collaboration with cardiac stem cell researcher Piero Anversa, whose lab has been accused of fraud. According to the Retraction Watch database, one of their shared papers has been retracted and another issued an Expression of Concern. The retracted study had been published in Circulation Research, which recently pulled 10 of the Anversa lab’s papers. Bolli has not been accused of wrongdoing, and in a 2015 interview with The Scientist, he insisted the problematic work was conducted in Anversa’s lab, not his.