DENVER – A former University of Colorado professor, assailed for likening Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi leader and fired for alleged plagiarism, testified in court Tuesday that pressure from the news media helped lead to his ouster.
Ward Churchill took the stand for a second day in his lawsuit seeking to get his job back at the university, where he was a tenured professor of ethnic studies.
"I'm not in favor of terror," he said early in his testimony while explaining the essay on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that thrust him into the national spotlight. Public outrage over the essay erupted just before the university launched a research-misconduct investigation into his other work.
Churchill was dismissed in July 2007 after the university concluded that he misrepresented or fabricated research on Native Americans and claimed the work of a Canadian environmental group as his own. The investigation did not include the essay about the Sept. 11 victims.
Churchill denies the allegations and claims the university was looking for a reason to fire him.
"From day one this was handled in the media," Churchill said. He said the university posted one investigative report about him on its Web site before he could read it.
Churchill said that when he compared the victims in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the Holocaust, he was arguing that "if you make it a practice of killing other people's babies for personal gain ... eventually they're going to give you a taste of the same thing."
Churchill said it was not his intent to be hurtful to the Sept. 11 victims.
The only surprise in the Sept. 11 attacks was that "it took so long" for them to happen, he said.
During cross-examination, university lawyer Patrick O'Rourke asked Churchill whether he thought it was right to compare the World Trade Center victims to Eichmann. Churchill said some of the Sept. 11 victims had acquiesced to the practice of chaining 13-year-olds to their work stations in Indonesian sweatshops.
"That's the point that I was trying to make, is that you need to look at what you're doing in the world," he said.
Churchill's attorney, David Lane, has said his client was the victim of a "howling mob" looking for a pretext to fire him.
Michael Radelet, a CU sociology professor who served on one of the university committees that investigated the research allegations, testified Monday that the inquiry was unbiased and fair. He said the committee took no pleasure in Churchill's firing.
"Nobody smiled, nobody took any joy," he said, adding that Churchill was well liked on campus, "but he just cheated."
Former CU President Elizabeth Hoffman testified earlier in the trial that Churchill's Sept. 11 essay triggered an "all-out" assault on the school by conservatives.
Hoffman said then-Gov. Bill Owens called and asked her to fire Churchill. She said when she responded that she couldn't, he answered, "Then I will unleash my plan."
When he testified, Owens denied threatening the university.
"I don't recall it being in that tenor," Owens said.