Churchill takes stand in lawsuit to reclaim University of Colorado job
DENVER, Colorado ” Former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, assailed for likening Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi and fired for alleged plagiarism, testified in court Monday that the 2001 terrorist attacks were “perfectly predictable.”
Churchill took the stand in his lawsuit seeking to get his job back at CU, where he was a tenured professor of ethnic studies.
“I’m not in favor of terror” in any way, Churchill said while explaining the controversial essay that led to the university’s research-misconduct investigation into his other work.
He said that when he compared the victims in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust, he was arguing that “if you make it a practice of killing other people’s babies for personal gain … eventually they’re going to give you a taste of the same thing.”
Churchill said it was not his object to be hurtful to the Sept. 11 victims.
The only surprise in the Sept. 11 attacks was that “it took so long” for them to happen, he said.
Churchill was dismissed in July 2007 after the university concluded he misrepresented or fabricated evidence and claimed the work of a Canadian environmental group as his own.
The investigation did not include the essay about the Sept. 11 victims but was launched after the university concluded Churchill couldn’t be fired for that essay because of free speech protections.
Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, has said his client was the victim of a “howling mob” looking for a pretext to fire him.
Michael Radelet, CU sociology professor who served on one of the university committees that investigated the research allegations, testified Monday that the inquiry was unbiased and fair. He said the committee took no pleasure in Churchill’s firing.
“Nobody smiled, nobody took any joy,” he said, adding that Churchill was well liked on campus, “but he just cheated.”
Radelet said one of the committee’s conclusions was that Churchill misrepresented sources when he said Capt. John Smith intentionally spread smallpox through blankets to wipe out the Wapanoags Indians in the early 1600s. Radelet said Churchill was “making assertions that were unfounded.”
Lane countered that Churchill simply said there was circumstantial evidence that pointed to Smith and the smallpox epidemic, and that that conclusion was Churchill’s opinion, not a fabrication or a misrepresentation of other scholars’ work.
Former CU President Elizabeth Hoffman testified earlier in the trial that Churchill’s Sept. 11 essay triggered an “all-out” assault on the school by conservatives.
Hoffman said then-Gov. Bill Owens called and asked her to fire Churchill. She said when she responded that she couldn’t, he answered, “Then I will unleash my plan.”
When he testified, Owens denied threatening the university.
“I don’t recall it being in that tenor,” Owens said.