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Targeted student: 'It's hard not to say something'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Targeted student breaks his silence
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chris Armstrong said he has never met blogger
  • He wants gay students to know there is help available
  • Blogger has been banned from University of Michigan

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New York (CNN) -- Chris Armstrong, the University of Michigan's first openly gay student body president, said the recent rash of headlines about gay teens who have committed suicide led him to break his silence about his own hurtful experience of being targeted online and in high school.

"It's hard not to say something," Armstrong told CNN's Anderson Cooper on "AC360" Wednesday night.

For months, Armstrong has been the subject of the blog "Chris Armstrong Watch," which is published by Andrew Shirvell, a lawyer in the Michigan attorney general's office.

Shirvell and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox have both maintained that the blog is Shirvell's personal project, that's done during nonwork hours and without any official resources.

Shirvell, a graduate of the university, has taken issue with what he calls Armstrong's "radical homosexual agenda."

"I try not to focus on what he's done," Armstrong said of Shirvell, adding family, friends and the University of Michigan have helped him get through blog postings, such as one that called him "a RADICAL HOMOSEXUAL ACTIVIST, RACIST, ELITIST, & LIAR." and another with a photo of a swastika superimposed over a gay pride flag and an arrow pointing toward Armstrong.

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Armstrong, who says he has never spoken with Shirvell, said his principal issues as student president have been longer cafeteria hours, gender-neutral housing and lower tuition costs.

After his blog garnered national media attention, Shirvell placed it behind a privacy firewall, making it only available to invited readers. The lawyer late last week took a voluntary leave of absence from his state job. He faces a disciplinary hearing upon his return.

Shirvell also has been barred from the university's campus in Ann Arbor. Armstrong is seeking a personal protection order against him.

Shirvell, who appeared on "AC360 on September 28, defended the postings and acknowledged protesting outside of Armstrong's house and calling him "Satan's representative on the student assembly."

"I'm a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights," Shirvell told Cooper. "I have no problem with the fact that Chris is a homosexual. I have a problem with the fact that he's advancing a radical homosexual agenda."

Wednesday, Armstrong told Cooper that he did not ask to be the subject of Shirvell's attention. "The things that are said about me are not my issues."

But Armstrong, a senior at the university, said he has decided to use the spotlight to try to reach gay teens who may be going through something similar.

On September 22, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.

Two Rutgers students have been charged with invasion of privacy for surreptitiously placing a webcam in a dorm room and streaming online Clementi's encounter with another man.

"I think that case is incredibly heartbreaking," Armstrong said.

He advocated more education about suicide hotlines and stronger support programs in high school and college.

He recalled the name-calling and bullying when he was in high school.

"It was really hurtful," he said.

AC360° Digital Producer Martina Stewart contributed to this report.

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