Governor, Legislature turn up heat on CU professor for Sept. 11 comments
DENVER – Gov. Bill Owens urged the University of Colorado on Wednesday to fire a tenured professor who compared some of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious leaders.The state House passed a nonbinding resolution calling Ward Churchill’s comments “evil and inflammatory,” and a similar measure was awaiting action in the Senate.Owens said he told CU President Elizabeth Hoffman the school has legal grounds to fire Churchill, even though he is protected by tenure.”He doesn’t have an entitlement to taxpayer money to support an attack on the United States of America,” Owens said at a press conference.He offered no specifics about the legal basis for dismissing Churchill. His spokesman, Dan Hopkins, said the governor asked his attorneys to research the matter.Hoffman’s spokeswoman, Michele McKinney, said Owens and Hoffman had discuss Churchill Tuesday night. She said Hoffman welcomed the call but declined to comment further.The CU regents planned to discuss Churchill’s future at a special meeting on Thursday.Churchill did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday.His essay and a follow-up book characterized the 2001 terrorist attacks as a response to a long history of U.S. abuses.He said those killed in the World Trade Center collapse were “a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire” and called them “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate European Jews.The House resolution, passed unanimously, said Churchill’s essay had struck “an evil and inflammatory blow against America’s healing process.”The resolution also proclaimed support for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”I want to make sure this body stands firm in support of the victims of 9-11,” said the sponsor, Rep. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch.Some lawmakers called for the Legislature to cut funding for Churchill’s department, Ethnic Studies.”Maybe if his funding goes away, he will as well,” said Rep. Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs.Churchill resigned as department chairman on Monday but retained his position as a professor.Churchill’s writings attracted little attention until his planned appearance Thursday at Hamilton College in New York state triggered protests. The college canceled the appearance Monday, citing death threats against Churchill and school officials.In a statement released Tuesday, Churchill said was not defending the Sept. 11 attacks, “but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned.”The Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is not involved in the case because no official action has been taken against Churchill, legal director Mark Silverstein said.”Certainly the First Amendment protects his ability to write freely and speak freely, especially when the writing in question occurred outside his classroom duty,” Silverstein said.
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