NEW YORK – The controversy over a Columbia University assistant professor who called for the bloody defeat of U.S. troops in Iraq refuses to die, with critics heaping scorn and supporters saying he has gone into hiding after receiving numerous death threats.
A graduate student told the Columbia Spectator that Nicholas De Genova and his wife were "fearing for their lives" after receiving some 1,000 threatening phone and e-mail messages. The threats led De Genova to nix his two classes on Tuesday, according to the student newspaper.
De Genova told a campus "teach-in" last Wednesday that he wanted to see the U.S. defeated in Iraq and suffer "a million Mogadishus" — a reference to the 1993 Somalia ambush that left 18 Americans dead.
"The only true heroes are those who find ways that help defeat the U.S. military," he said at an anti-war event attended by students and faculty.
A school senior whose father is an Army colonel serving in Kuwait was among those who slammed De Genova's remarks.
"A Columbia professor wished death upon the father of a Columbia University student and possibly [on the parents of] other students," William Pratt told the New York Post, adding he was "appalled and devastated" by De Genova’s harsh remarks.
"What really pushes me over the edge is when a professor basically wishes for the slaughter of U.S. military men and women who gave him the right to free speech and to make those disgusting comments," Pratt told the Post.
University President Lee C. Bollinger released a statement distancing himself and the school from De Genova, who was apparently a last-minute add-on to the teach-in lineup.
"I am shocked that someone would make such statements. Because of the university’s tradition of academic freedom, I normally don’t comment about statements made by faculty members. However, this one crosses the line and I really feel the need to say something. I am especially saddened for the families of those whose lives are at risk," Bollinger said in his Friday statement.
The university has not publicly said if De Genova’s job as an assistant professor is in jeopardy over the scandal. De Genova does not have tenure.
Though most university officials and trustees declined to comment on the controversy when contacted by Fox News, one said he supported Bollinger’s statement.
"My mind turns with admiration to the deaths and wounds and countless other sacrifices suffered by tens of thousands of brave U.S. military people to establish and protect American rights of free speech ... even free speech as outrageous, insensitive, thoughtless and offensive as that reportedly uttered by Professor De Genova," said attorney Stephen Case.
Some students defended the professor. About two dozen of his students took part in a silent protest on Tuesday, as they sat quietly outside in the rain to show their support of De Genova and their displeasure with the university’s handling of the matter.
"We feel that the university has failed to protect Nick," anthropology grad student Ayca Cubukcu told the Spectator.
Fox News’ Melanie Schuman contributed to this report.