Favorite Professor?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 30, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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RICK LEVENTHAL, HOST: In “The Factor” follow-up" segment tonight, as you may know, University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill has come under heavy fire for comments he made comparing some 9/11 victims to Nazis. Once the spotlight was on him, charges surfaced of plagiarism and lying about his Native American heritage. -- The university is investigating these allegations.

But now students at CU voted him their favorite professor.

Joining us now from Denver is David Harsanyi, a columnist for The Denver Post.

David, is this vote a surprise?

DAVID HARSANYI, THE DENVER POST: A little bit, I would say. However, only 2,000 people voted, and it was an online vote, so I'm not sure how much it holds.

LEVENTHAL: Out of how many students?

HARSANYI: Many more. I would say it's around 5 percent of the students.

LEVENTHAL: So the people who voted, the people who logged on and voted, were people who are his supporters?

HARSANYI: I would think so. I mean, they found — they had some comments attached to the votes, which said that he was just this thought-provoking professor. So I'm assuming that most were his fans.

LEVENTHAL: What about off campus and others on campus, in Boulder and beyond? Is he a favorite of the town? Is he a favorite of all students or just a small group of students?

HARSANYI: I think a small group of students. Boulder, however, he may be pretty popular there. The rest of the state, I wouldn't say so.

LEVENTHAL: Why do you think that is?

HARSANYI: Which part? The Boulder part?

LEVENTHAL: Yes. Why is he popular? Why does he maintain his popularity despite these very inflammatory comments that he made?

HARSANYI: Well, because of the inflammatory comments. There are many people who agree with him, who think of America in the way he does, unfortunately, and many of those people happen to be in the city of Boulder.

But overall, I would say even in the school he's not very popular, and not many — you know, I mean, when you're calling people Nazis and that sort of thing, obviously some people are going to get a kick out of it, but overall, I think everyone will get over it pretty soon.

LEVENTHAL: David, there have been these charges leveled that he misrepresented himself as part American Indian, that he threatened fellow professors and others, and that he may have plagiarized some work during his career.

What's the status of the investigation into all that?

HARSANYI: Well, he's come up with some creative excuses for the plagiarism part. He claims that he wrote these things initially, gave them to these other professors, and then plagiarized himself. I think it's pretty laughable.

As far as his Indian heritage, I would say that that's a dead end, because it's very hard to prove that Ward Churchill didn't think he was an Indian. I don't know how we'd even go about doing something like that.

LEVENTHAL: But is it hard to prove that he is or isn't?

HARSANYI: I suppose you could prove he isn't. I mean, most people seem to believe he isn't, but maybe he thought he was. You know, it's hard to say.

LEVENTHAL: What are the odds and what's the feeling around your parts whether Churchill keeps his job or not?

HARSANYI: Well, I think that Churchill has undeniably broken many rules of academia, so — but I'd still be surprised if he was fired. I think what'll happen is either he'll be suspended, he'll leave, he'll be bought out. Something else will happen. I just — it's very unlikely that he'll be fired outright, I think.

LEVENTHAL: So they have this poll for your most favorite professor, and the students vote Ward Churchill number one, and there's a prize associated with that. I believe it was $500. But the university is withholding the prize because of this ongoing investigation, correct?

HARSANYI: Well, not the university. It's an alumni group that's withholding it, and they have every right to withhold it while the investigation's going on, because he may very well be plagiarizing all his speeches for all they know, and there's no reason to give him the award, I don't think. There's also a plaque that goes with it.

LEVENTHAL: Is this much ado about nothing or is this something a lot of people in Boulder are talking about?

HARSANYI: I think this is much ado about nothing. David Lane (search), Ward Churchill's lawyer, has threatened to sue the alumni organization, but then again he's threatened to sue almost everyone in the state at some point. So I don't think much can be lent to what he says.

LEVENTHAL: Do you think — do you think most people in that area consider Ward Churchill an embarrassment to the school, an embarrassment to the community? Or do they think of him as a free thinker who deserves to speak his mind?

HARSANYI: I think, because of the plagiarism aspect of things that most people in the school, at least, consider him an embarrassment, even professors now.

You know, initially I think it was a little different, but once the plagiarism stuff started to come down, I think professors are proud of their profession and this is — this is a big no-no for them. So that's what I feel is happening in the school.

As far as Boulder itself, it's hard to tell.

LEVENTHAL: All right. Mr. Harsanyi, thanks so much for joining us tonight on “The Factor."

HARSANYI: Thank you.

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