Larry Summers: Harvard's Fallen Star

ByABC News
June 24, 2006, 6:04 PM

June 25, 2006 — -- Embattled Harvard University president Larry Summers expressed regret over the controversial statements that led to his abrupt resignation from one of the country's most prestigious posts, telling ABC News' George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive TV interview, "The signal that got sent from those remarks that many people took from that was totally different from what I intended or believed.

"People took the impression away that somehow women couldn't be scientists," Summers told "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." "Nothing could be further from what I believe. So that signal shouldn't have been sent."

In a January 2005 address to a conference on diversifying the science and engineering workplace, Summers suggested that men outnumber women in scientific fields because of men's "intrinsic aptitude" for such jobs. The speech was made public, and by March the members of Harvard's faculty of Arts and Sciences narrowly passed a "lack of confidence" vote against Summers.

Summers came to Harvard first as a graduate student, after entering the elite Massachusetts Institute of Technology at only the age of 16. He quickly went on to be the youngest fully tenured professor in Harvard's history at age 28, leaving to become President Bill Clinton's second treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001.

Returning as the distinguished university's president, the years Summers has held the post have been the most tumultuous of his highly successful career.

In his first television interview on the subject, Summers told Stephanopoulos he's not the victim of political correctness.

"I think that's too simple a characterization," Summers said. "There are a lot of things that went on here. I do believe that it's enormously important that universities like this one be open-minded to every perspective, be prepared to take on every subject, be engaged with the challenges that our country faces, including the security challenges that our country faces."