Fired Professor Ward Churchill Files Suit Against University of Colorado

Published July 26, 2007

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This is a rush transcript from "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 25, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GERALDO RIVERA, "BIG STORY" GUEST HOST: A "Big Development" on a saga we've been following on FOX for more than two-and-a-half years now. The University of Colorado has finally fired the most controversial person on its staff, tenured ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill. But the saga, though, is far from over. The man who compared some 9/11 victims to a Nazi leader says he's not going anywhere and is striking back. "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy just spoke with Churchill's attorney. So, Doug, what's going on?

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, "BIG STORY" CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Geraldo, the next battle is going to be a court battle. Just moments ago, as you mentioned, I got off the phone with Churchill's attorney. He says he has already filed papers, claiming the university violated Churchill's right to free speech.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do we have a motion, please?

KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): The vote was quick.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All in favor of the motion signify aye.

GROUP: Aye.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dissention?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

KENNEDY: And nearly unanimous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The motion passes 8-1.

KENNEDY: After nearly three years of innuendo and investigations, the University of Colorado's Board of Regents voted to fire Ward Churchill, sending supporters of the ethnic studies professor on the war path.

Churchill's lawyer David Lane calls the vote a relief. He says taking the controversial college professor off the defensive.

DAVID LANE, WARD CHURCHILL'S ATTY: Well, now we are on offense. Now that's where we go from here. We go to Denver district court tomorrow morning.

KENNEDY: To sue the University of Colorado for what Lane says is a blatant violation of the Constitution.

LANE: This is retaliation for First Amendment free speech.

KENNEDY: In 2005, Churchill thrust himself onto the national stage by comparing bond traders who died in the World Trade Center to "little Eichmanns" and calling American financial foreign policy unjust. In investigating the comments, the university says it discovered a pattern in Churchill's public research that included fabrications, misrepresentations and plagiarism.

HANK BROWN, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO PRES: This case was a very clear example, not of mistakes. This was a very clear example of an effort to falsify history and fabricate history.

KENNEDY: As an example, the university says Churchill has no evidence for an assertion that the U.S. Army purposely provided American-Indians with blankets used by smallpox victims in order to create an epidemic. Churchill himself had only one complaint: that the firing was done behind closed doors.

WARD CHURCHILL, FMR UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO PROFESSOR: I've not so much agreed as demanded that the process be open for public review today.

KENNEDY: His students were a bit more vocal, carrying signs and voicing support for his teaching methods.

DEVIN SHEARER, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO STUDENT: And he was one of the best professors I've ever had, one of the most thought provoking, by far, of almost any professor I've had at this university. It was to the point where people in the class, no matter what their political beliefs were, would just say, you leave class and you're able to be like, that guy just makes you think.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY: And David Lane told me Churchill stands by all his statements. He says he has historical evidence to back up every one of his disputed claims. And he says Churchill's even standing by the remark about the little Eichmanns. So clearly, Geraldo, he is not backing down.

RIVERA: You know, I think he's a loathsome character, really low character. And I think the real story is how hard it is to fire tenured professors.

KENNEDY: It's very difficult to fire a tenured professor, so these guys really took a risk in doing all this investigative work.

RIVERA: But how broad is his support? Obviously he could always find students, you know, kids to it sometimes just to spite the "establishment." Is he a popular guy?

KENNEDY: The University of Colorado is a pretty conservative institution, so he is not popular with any of the administration there.

RIVERA: I thought it was like the, what do they call it, the "People's Republic of Boulder"?

(LAUGHTER)

KENNEDY: Well, that may be the case. I mean, you know, this is a university and college students often have radical ideas and like to be provoked into thought and that's the way they view this guy. A lot of students think hey, he's just making statements to make us think a little bit more.

RIVERA: Well, what about — if I were representing him, I would say, you know, that it's for the First Amendment and not for the plagiarism...

KENNEDY: That's exactly what they're saying.

RIVERA: But do the plagiarism charges look legit? I mean, did they hold up? I mean, is he really a cheater, aside from being a despicable person?

KENNEDY: You've got a woman from the '80s who says that she wrote something that he put his name on. But they're really not on great ground in terms of saying that it's not the freedom of speech...

RIVERA: I agree with that. I hate to think that the guy could win though. Doug, thanks.

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