This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, August 22, 2002. Click here to order the complete transcript.
Watch The O'Reilly Factor weeknights at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET and listen to the Radio Factor!
JOHN KASICH, GUEST HOST: Our "Top Story" tonight, the trials and tribulations of Dr. Sami Al-Arian. He's the University of South Florida professor accused of having ties to terrorists. Al-Arian was put on paid leave after Bill O'Reilly confronted him about his questionable relationships during an appearance on this program in September. We will show you that interview just a little bit later.
Now the president of the University of South Florida wants to fire him outright. She says she can prove the accusations against Arian, that they're true, and she's asking the state judge to rule on whether firing him would violate his rights.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY GENSHAFT, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: I believe that Dr. Al-Arian has abused his position at the university, and is using academic freedom as a shield to cover improper activities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KASICH: Well, today, the professor defended himself against terror charges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMI AL-ARIAN, SUSPENDED UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA PROFESSOR: I'm a minority. I'm an Arab, I'm Palestinian. I'm a Muslim. That's not a popular thing to be these days. Do I have rights, or don't I have rights?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you regret going on the O'Reilly show and would you do that again?
AL-ARIAN: No, I wouldn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KASICH: Joining us from Tampa, Roy Weatherford. He's the president of the Faculty Union at the University of South Florida. He has been speaking in defense of the professor. And joining us from Tampa is Tom Gonzalez, an attorney for the university in terms of filing their lawsuit yesterday.
Mr. Weatherford, let me just lay the case out quickly. Mr. Arian basically operated two think tanks. One think tank employed a man who then went on to become the head of the Islamic Jihad. For those that don't know what that is, it is a terrorist organization bent on destroying Israel, supports suicide bombing, and wants nothing to do with resolving the issue in the Middle East.
The second think tank that he had employed a man who provided ABC an interview with Usama bin Laden. But it gets better than all of that. The man used to hold conferences using the University of South Florida offices to book conference rooms. He had conferences with people like Sheikh Rahman. Sheikh Rahman was the man who is in jail today for planning to blow up tourist sites here in New York.
And in a rally to Cleveland -- this guy Al-Arian was at a rally and he was identified, first of all, as the head of the Islamic Jihad wing. He said in Cleveland, "Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling, rolling to Jerusalem."
Then, of course, he put out a fund-raising letter literally one week after Bill Clinton froze all of the assets of Islamic Jihad. I think we can get a look at that letter. "The latest operation carried out by the two mujahidin... " and these are two people who blew up 21 Israeli soldiers in a terrorist attack, here they were, he was urging them to give more money "in the face of Arab and Islamic collapse before the Zionist enemy."
This man was sending letters out saying give more money so we can have more suicide bombers. I mean, in the name of academic freedom, how in goodness gracious name, sir, could you defend him?
ROY WEATHERFORD, PRESIDENT, FACULTY UNION, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: Well, we are not, of course, defending what Al-Arian said or did. We have no brief for his political agenda at all. We are defending due process, the contractual agreement, and the rights of all faculty under the principles of academic freedom.
Those things that you mentioned were all many years ago. They were investigated thoroughly by the FBI and by the university, and both bodies concluded that there was not grounds there to dismiss the professor.
KASICH: Do you know that the FBI said that he's still under investigation? Did you know that, sir?
WEATHERFORD: Yes, we did. It was actually...
KASICH: OK, so that is not resolved yet.
Let me raise another point with you. The American Association of University Professors has a principle, and I think you admire them. They're people who really do fight for academic freedom, which, by the way, I support and believe in.
But you know that the American Association of University Professors says that there are exceptions, that people associated with the university have to exhibit restraint, that they can't go around chanting, you know, things like death to Israel and employing people who go on to lead terrorist organizations and raise money for terrorist organizations.
It violates the whole principle of what the AAUP stands for, so why don't you say, Not only do we condemn these acts, but there is no excuse for keeping him on the faculty?
WEATHERFORD: Well, we have a similar provision in our collective bargaining agreement. We also agree that faculty have to be responsible and one should be aware of the consequences of their action. But under the system of American justice and the system of American labor relations, the burden of proof is on the administration. If in fact he is guilty of something horrible, and if they prove it, then they can fire him.
All we're saying is that they have to go through the process, through the procedure, give him his legitimate rights and then if they prove he's guilty, they can hang him.
KASICH: Let me say to Mr. Gonzalez, tell us about the suit you filed yesterday and how you feel about his actions in light of the university president saying he has been beyond a disruptive force inside the university faculty and the university community.
TOM GONZALEZ, ATTORNEY FOR UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: Well, John, the president has and attached to the lawsuit is a notice of her intention to terminate based on his associations and activities on behalf of these groups, and the president's ready to go. Roy, who does a great job of representing the faculty, is right, there is a process. We're trying to start the process.
The problem here is that there are external forces such as the AAUP, which has come in from outside and said if you go through the process, we're going to censure you, no matter how the process…
KASICH: But they're violating their own principles in this case, they're violating the principles that they spell out in their own code, which is a person like this should show restraint.
GONZALEZ: I agree. And what we hope this lawsuit will do is, this is an opportunity, and we hope Dr. Al-Arian and the union if they want to will join in to ask the court to say, OK, if you have these concerns about academic freedom, let's get them somewhere, let's start the process and have somebody look at it. And we...
KASICH: Mr. Weatherford, aren't you concerned that hiding, you know, sort of, I think, hiding behind legalisms of some contract that I think his actions violate the spirit of any contract you'd want to have with the university and academic setting in the United States, aren't you in danger of marginalizing yourself?
In other words, this academic freedom was designed for professors to do research, to be able to say unpopular things. It wasn't designed to protect people who are committing all kind of acts in support of terrorism. Aren't you in danger of really making your union and your actions really very extreme?
Do you worry about that?
WEATHERFORD: I don't worry much about that. I'm a union leader for the same reason that I was a member of the United States Army during the Vietnam War. I believe in defending the principles that our country is founded on. I believe in due process and I believe in individual rights. I participated in the civil rights movement for that reason. I have been supporting those principles all my life.
The important thing is that the time to support the principles is when it's painful, when the individual is unpopular, when everybody in the crowd says, Hang him, hang him, that's the time for the rule of law to say, No, you have to try him first.
KASICH: You know, Mr. Gonzalez, I, again, I understand academic freedom. I actually have taught at a couple of universities, and am there now, but this business about toleration doesn't get to the point where people are, for example, supporting organizations that blow up universities in Israel.
I mean, this isn't the purpose of academic freedom, isn't it? The purpose of it is to protect legitimate thought, not the act of terrorists.
GONZALEZ: Absolutely, John. It never has been about that. That's one of the major points that the lawsuit would be involved in, and that's what we hope that Dr. Al-Arian will join in trying to get this thing resolved as quickly as we can and get this process going.
KASICH: Mr. Weatherford. I appreciate you coming on and I appreciate your position, but frankly, I think in this case you're out of line. But thank you.
Click here to order the complete transcript.
Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2002 Fox News Network, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2002 eMediaMillWorks, Inc. (f/k/a Federal Document Clearing House, Inc.), which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon Fox News Network, Inc.'s and eMediaMillWorks, Inc.'s copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.