Mimi Groves’ Lawyer Contradicts University of Tennessee Over Viral Video: ‘She Was Forced Out’


Mimi Groves is the epicenter of a social media backlash over a three-second video taken three years ago. According her new lawyer, Groves was forced by the University of Tennessee (UT) to withdraw, and the person who originally posted the viral video was her friend.

CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Shanlon Wu, defends college students in university proceedings. He took on Groves as a client this past summer, long before The New York Times released their article on the incident the day after Christmas. The renewed focus centered on Galligan’s role in making the clip go viral.

In an interview with The Tennessee Star, Wu stated that previous reports didn’t reflect the full depth of Galligan and Groves’ relationship. The two were more than high school peers: they were friends. However, Wu shared that Groves doesn’t harbor any ill feelings toward Galligan.

“I think it says a lot about Mimi that she doesn’t have any ax to grind with him,” stated Wu. “She wants no part of the social media backlash that’s come out on him.”

Wu also explained the full context of the video.

“She was 15 years old and expressing her excitement at just getting her driver’s permit. She used a term she’d heard in popular music and culture and she should not have used it,” stated Wu. “She has apologized and is appalled at her behavior.”

Groves’ friends attested in that she apologized for the video “long before it went viral,” and has been remorseful of it ever since.

“She in no way is trying to excuse her conduct. She feels awful that she said that. [But] these sorts of actions need to be put into context,” explained Wu. “That’s the whole point of conduct hearings and investigations. Universities always say there’s an educational component to be gained from something, even mistakes like this. This wasn’t [taken] as an opportunity to grow from something – they panicked and forced her out.”

In his own social media videos, Galligan lip-syncs to rap songs frequently that contain the same racial slur from the video. Galligan has also posted YouTube videos using the same slur. In one clip dated March 2019, he described a drive-through worker serving their drinks as a “n****.”

Groves’ video went viral in the first few days of June. Within 24 hours, Groves was removed from the cheer team and no longer enrolled at UT. The university asserted that they conduct investigations on such matters.

“Anytime the university receives a report, it is reviewed,” stated UT. “Any reports relating to current students will go through existing bias reporting processes. We review and address issues as they come up with the individuals involved.”

When The Star asked what policy guidelines were considered in Groves’ case, Wu said that UT didn’t consider any because they didn’t investigate.

“Our position is ‘none.’ I do a lot of college student defense,” explained Wu. “Normally what happens is, let’s say, a student gets into some trouble drinking, hazing, whatever it is – the university would notify them, and say that there’s an alleged violation, that they’re going to need to respond, investigate, and [have] a hearing possibly. Our primary concern and complaint is that it was a classic rush to judgment. There was an avalanche of social media pressure. [UT] didn’t investigate at all.”

In a statement to The Star, UT said that Groves withdrew voluntarily. Their statement contradicted initial reports that they’d given Groves an ultimatum, following backlash from alumni, students, and the public in general.

But Wu affirmed the initial reports – that the university coerced Groves into withdrawing.

“What really happened, in contrast to the university’s statement – which is very neutral and not too warm and fuzzy for her – [is that they] forced her out,” explained Wu. “They gave her an ultimatum: either you withdraw, or we rescind your offer. And, comments were made along the lines of ‘you won’t be very happy here [at our school].'”

Wu also pointed out that other students were treated more leniently for egregious conduct – namely, student athletes. The attorney cited Jeremy Banks, a UT football player, who was reinstated to the football team this past fall after confronting Knoxville police due to an illegal U-turn and an unpaid parking ticket.

During the encounter, Banks threatened the arresting officers. The UT football player warned the woman participating in the ride-along that Tennessee police are targets.

“You don’t want to be an intern because where I’m from, we shoot at cops,” stated Banks. “I’m from Memphis, Tennessee.”

A week after the incident, Banks issued an apology to UT and the police officers.

The program announced that they were “looking forward to giving [Banks] a second chance” in August – just two months after pushing Groves to withdraw.

Last year, UT faced several racially-related incidents. One group of students was investigated for posting a Snapchat video in blackface. At least one from that group chose to withdraw from the school, though it doesn’t appear that the other students left UT. Another student, an Alpha Chi Omega sorority member, uttered the same racial slur on a Snapchat video; she was expelled from her sorority, and it appears that she transferred to another university.

Wu stated that Groves isn’t seeking a lawsuit at this time. Instead, they are hopeful that UT will investigate the matter properly and offer a suitable remedy.

“[W]hat we’re hoping is that, now that some time has passed, cooler heads will prevail and the university will realize they made a hasty decision, and that they will come about and do the right thing here,” said Wu.

– – –

Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].

Editor’s note: Updated to correct the timeframe attorney Shanlon Wu began representing Mimi Groves. The Tennessee Star regrets the error.






Related posts

13 Thoughts to “Mimi Groves’ Lawyer Contradicts University of Tennessee Over Viral Video: ‘She Was Forced Out’”

  1. Daniel

    You must not have been a part of the University community recently. So you believe that “nothing of merit is any longer taught”‘ ? I disagree. Seems like decency and respect for others are the order of the day. They are being taught in this case.

  2. Dave

    I live in Japan and this story made it over here. I have been expatriated for a while and from the “outside” it appears she was emulating a word which has become commonplace in popular culture through videos, music, etc. Like any 15 year old she was likely trying to act cool and it was obvious the term was used in an expression of happiness (getting her license) and not directed at anyone. Also the person who did this to her seems to use the same derogatory terms. It is really sad to see the U.S. has gone to this extreme level. The U.S. is imploding and does not require any external force (i.e. China, Russia) to do so. They are all just watching this with a sick sense of glee.

  3. D

    I knew better than to do that at 15. In fact I knew better than to do that at 10. Actions have consequences. Freedom of speech is wonderful. Freedom from consequences, not so much. She has learned a lesson here, I hope.

    1. Patrick A MacLeod

      You are so virtuous! Congratulations!

    2. Daniel

      Exactly. Coddling this kind of conduct is why it persists. If he made an equally offensive misogynistic comment, I would say the same thing. Play stupid games, lose hard won rewards. Hardly seems worth it. At 15, she knew better and it was totally avoidable. She created the video and broadcast it on a media platform. Its an expensive lesson that hardly seems worth it now. This should serve as a cautionary tale to others tempted to do the same. Integrity and reputation matters for those who aspire to higher goals. Employers and universities have diverse audience. For those who condone this, its not 1950. People do not have to accept it quietly. Hold her accountable. The conduct is inappropriate for the academic environment. Try the gutter. She squandered a great opportunity, but much is expected of he to whom much is given. Hope she learns that racism can cut both ways and hurt both the perpetrator and the target.

  4. Hugh Brooks

    Where is the President of U-T Randy Boyd on all of this? He very smart and seems like a fair person. After all he spent 25 million dollars in 2018 and traveled from one end of the State to the other telling us how conservative he is and how he will stand up to the liberals!

    Apparently a couple of tweets and E-mails from social justice warriors from New York & California & some mid level U-T staffer caves in.

  5. I hope she takes UT to the cleaners – taxpayer-funded, or not. I would also be wonderful to shut that whole school system down, as many other universities deserve the same fate.

    College is no longer the wonderful opportunity to learn. Nothing of merit is any longer taught. If you want a course on indoctrination, it should be free, You shouldn’t have to fork over big bucks for it. So while the schools dumb our kids down, and big corporations continue to bring in more foreigners to work for them, the future does not look very bright for our country.

    If you have a kid with half a brain, today, you’d be better off funding a start-up with/for them. Depending on others for employment is not the route to take anymore.

    1. Glen

      They still teach Electrical Engineering. I’m pretty sure that’s of merit.

  6. Bob Marsh

    As a country we need to come together and say High School and Middle School is to far back to destroy a person’s life. Let’s just give the Kids a pass. We were all dumb socially when we were kids.

  7. Roger

    I’m glad I’ve been perfect my whole life and never used a bad word or said something derogatory about anyone. It’s both a blessing and a curse to be perfect. If only you sinners could understand how hard life is for us in the Woke crowd.

    1. jamesb

      we do understand. you simply need to wake up.

      1. Deplorable Bay Stater

        Are you unable to recognize such obvious sarcasm?

    2. Re Almanace

      calling someone a sinner is a derogatory statement,