DENVER A University of Colorado professor who likened World Trade Center victims to a notorious Nazi said his essay was a “gut response” to the terrorist attacks, but refused to apologize for the words that have touched off a public furor and an investigation that could lead to his dismissal.
Meanwhile Wheaton College in Norton, Mass., has canceled plans for CU professor Ward Churchill to speak there, and Eastern Washington University canceled plans for him to speak about Native American issues in April, citing public-safety concerns. Eastern Washington President Stephen Jordan declined on Feb. 4 to say whether specific threats had been made.
Last week, an e-mail that circulated among Eastern Washington faculty warned that donations to the school might be withheld if Churchill spoke.
Churchill’s phone number is unpublished, and he could not be reached for comment by the Associated Press.
Churchill said in an interview published Feb. 5 by the Rocky Mountain News that he would add more to the treatise he wrote soon after the Sept. 11 attacks.
The essay compared those killed in the World Trade Center to “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate European Jews.
“This was a gut response opinion speech written in about four hours. It’s not completely reasoned and thought through,” Churchill said.
He told CNN’s Paula Zahn in an interview broadcast Feb. 4 that he didn’t believe he owed an apology and dismissed as propaganda claims that he had called for the deaths of millions of Americans.
The furor over Churchill’s essay erupted last month after he was invited to speak at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. The college’s student newspaper reported on the essay by the American Indian Movement activist that characterized the terrorist attacks as a response to a long history of U.S. abuses abroad, particularly against indigenous peoples.
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has called for Churchill’s dismissal. The Colorado Legislature, meanwhile, has passed nonbinding resolutions calling the tenured professor’s comments “evil and inflammatory.”
On Feb. 3, CU regents announced an investigation into his work to see if it’s constitutionally protected free speech or grounds for dismissal from his job in the ethnic studies department. He resigned Jan. 31 as chairman of the department.
Churchill, who has said he’s received death threats, defended his essay, noting that others have written that the attacks shouldn’t have been a surprise because of U.S. policies. He said hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children died from starvation and illness because of sanctions imposed after the Gulf War and U.S. military operations.
Given the chance, Churchill told the Rocky Mountain News, he would have expanded his comments about Eichmann by referring to Hannah Arendt, who wrote Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.
“He’s everyman. There’s nothing special about Eichmann,” who probably thought he did nothing wrong, Churchill said.
“None of those people in (the World Trade Center) were deliberate themselves, locking (an Iraqi) child in a room and depriving the child of food and starving him or her to death,” he added.
Churchill said he would sue if he were dismissed.
More of his comments have come under scrutiny after a report in the early editions of yesterday’s Denver Post quoted a magazine article in which he said more attacks like Sept. 11 might be necessary and called for the United States to be “out of existence.”
The interview was last April with Satya, a Brooklyn-based magazine that promotes vegetarianism, environmentalism and social justice.
“It’s amazing that the more we look at Ward Churchill, the more outrageous, treasonous statements we hear from Churchill,” Owens told the Post.
In the Satya interview, Churchill was asked about the effectiveness of protests of U.S. policies and the Iraq war. “One of the things I’ve suggested is that it may be that more 9/11s are necessary,” he replied.
In a discussion about changing society, Churchill said: “I want the state gone: Transform the situation to U.S. out of North America, off the planet. Out of existence altogether.”
He said he envisioned “territoralities (sic) of 500 indigenous nations imbued with an inalienable right to self-determination, definable territoralities which are jurisdictionally separate.”