Will Colorado's Governor Intervene in the Ward Churchill Matter? Gov. Bill Owens Talks with O'Reilly

Published March 29, 2005

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This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Mar. 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, as we reported last week, the University of Colorado is ducking the Ward Churchill issue. It says it will not fire Churchill over his unbelievable comments comparing some 9/11 victims with Nazis.

But there are issues about plagiarism and resume questions concerning Churchill, issues that the university are still investigating, is still investigating and will not clarify.

Joining us now from Denver is the Governor of Colorado, Bill Owens.

What can your office do to the University of Colorado? Do you have any power over these people?

BILL OWENS, COLORADO GOVERNOR: You know, Bill, not very much. Under the rules of tenure at the University of Colorado, in order to fire Ward Churchill, they have to go through a procedure. And the procedure is what they've now started. I disagree that they can't put as part of that — part of the issue — what he actually said.

But what they've done at the University of Colorado is, they have started the process that I believe will ultimately lead to his firing. Unfortunately, they can't do it quickly. It takes a little bit of time.

O'REILLY: Why? Why? I mean, people around the country are going to go, "Look, you're the governor. This is a state-funded institution. Can't you just tell the chancellor to sack the guy and basically fight the rear guard action the ACLU (search) will throw up against you? Can't you do that?"

OWENS: You know, Bill, if it were up to me, I'd do exactly that, but it really isn't. He has a property right to this job in the sense of tenure, and you have to follow the rules to take it away from him.

If we — if we don't follow those rules, he's going to be a very wealthy professor...

O'REILLY: All right. I got it.

OWENS: ... if he wins back in court what he — what we took away from him.

O'REILLY: It's the judgment that you fear. Now, can you remove the chancellor? Can you fire him? Can you fire the president of the university? Can you yourself do that?

OWENS: No, I can't. For most of the other universities, I actually appoint the regents. For the University of Colorado, they're elected by the people of Colorado.

I do have some budget authority over the budget. I have some bully pulpit authority. And that's why I said he should be fired from day one.

Now they're involved in the process that I think will ultimately lead to him being fired, but in a way that's going to be able to stand up in court.

O'REILLY: OK, but it's...

OWENS: Frustrating but true.

O'REILLY: It's taken so long. I mean, Churchill himself was out in San Francisco over the weekend at the Anarchist Book Fair. Perfect, right?

OWENS: Perfect.

O'REILLY: yes. Where they have games like "pin the Molotov cocktail on the cop car," very nice.

And Churchill said, "I will be leaving C.U.," but he's going to do as much damage as he can to the university and to the state of Colorado, because, as you know, this is embarrassing to your state. It's embarrassing to the university. I get letters every day saying that.

He's going to do that. And he's Mr. Socialist. He's holding out his hand. He wants the biggest settlement possible. This in the face of the University of Nova Scotia (search) already completing its investigation, saying the guy plagiarized.

So I'm not understanding why it takes so long. If the University of Nova Scotia is going to step up, and they have, and say the guy stole from our professor, why does it take two years for you guys to get him out?

OWENS: Well, it would take two years for the University of Nova Scotia to fire a tenured professor, even though they found plagiarism. I think we're going to find plagiarism, and I think it's going to take more time than you and I believe it should take.

It should take a month or two to make this review...

O'REILLY: Yes.

OWENS: ... and then make the decision. It shouldn't take two years. Unfortunately, this university put rules in place which — which will extend out that process.

Here's the point I'd like to make, though. He wanted a buyout. We're not giving him a buyout. And for the next two years, I think other universities around the country ought to look at their own tenure rules. They ought to look at their own procedures and live and learn from Colorado's example.

Let's look at all of our universities so that you can not have happen at your own university what we're seeing happen at Colorado.

O'REILLY: OK. So...

OWENS: I think that ultimately it's going to work to our benefit, those of us who believe...

O'REILLY: Maybe.

OWENS: ... I think as we do, and because this guy is a perfect poster child for what we don't want to have happen elsewhere in the country.

O'REILLY: Yes. Irresponsible people being protected by the University of Colorado. You know, Governor, there's a lot of sympathy for this guy.

One more question for you. You have basically a strategy, and I want to get this right. You're not going to pay him off, so he's not going to get the big bucks. You're going to go through the lengthy process to prove that he did something that you can legitimately fire him [for], and then he goes — "See you."

OWENS: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. That process is starting. I think it will ultimately result in him being fired.

O'REILLY: All right, Governor. We appreciate you coming on, as always.

OWENS: Good being with you, Bill.

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