Ward Churchill Axed

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," July 24, 2007. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: This is a FOX News Alert, just a few minutes ago, the University of Colorado decided to fire embattled professor Ward Churchill. The university's governing board voted 8-1 to fire the professor after charges of plagiarism, falsification and misconduct. You will also remember that Churchill drew enormous heat after an essay he wrote that compared the victims of 9/11 to a Nazi leader.

Joining us now from Colorado, Ward Churchill's attorney, David Lane. David, welcome back to our show.


COLMES: What is your reaction and his reaction and your next line of action here?

LANE: Well, my first reaction is, you're wrong, they didn't just decide to fire him a few minutes ago. They decided two-and-half years ago to fire him and we've been playing out the scripted performance for the last two-and-a-half years. Now we're on offense and we will file in Denver District Court tomorrow morning, First Amendment retaliation speech, that the University of Colorado has retaliated against him for his 9/11 essay. And we will let a jury of citizens decide this case, not a stacked deck composed of University of Colorado tools.

COLMES: Now is this about the 9/11 essay where he called the victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns," or is this about the charges that include the accusation, for example, that he manufactured events in which European-Americans intentionally spread smallpox to kill Indians, he claimed the United States adopted a formal racial code to identify Indians, similar to a code by the Nazis to identify Jews, and the accusation is that he said those things and that there was no empirical evidence to back them up.

LANE: Well the pretext that they're using is that he committed academic fraud and scholarship misconduct and plagiarism. Those were the allegations. We can refute each and every one of things, and we will in a courtroom in Denver. That's the excuse they used. The reason they fired him is because they did not like his 9/11 essay where in part he blasted American economic and foreign policy, American military policy which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and compared some of the victims of the 9/11 blast to little Eichmanns.

COLMES: Well, David, I'm very concerned that academic freedom is at stake here and the ability to say very controversial, very upsetting things that I find despicable, but I must support on free speech grounds. However, these other charges, separate from the issue of the little Eichmanns accusation having to do with a plagiarism, the allegation, for example, that he published an essay on water issues in Canada resembling a pamphlet by a Canadian environmental group, borrowed work on fishing rights.


COLMES: Scholar. Those are the accusation, along with the ones I mentioned just a few moments ago. Are you saying those are not true?

LANE: I am saying that those are not true. In 2007 America, employers and universities are too sophisticated to simply say, we do not like your speech, you're fired. That they know they can't get away with that. So they spent two-and-a-half years trumping up charges basically that they are now using as a pretext to fire him. My mission in Denver District Court is going to be to prove that to a jury. I'm more than happy to take on that burden. I'm not on offense with Ward Churchill.


COLMES: So he did not talk about racial codes being used by the United States? He did not talk about events in which European-Americans intentionally spread smallpox to kill Indians? He didn't talk about those things?

LANE: No, he did talk about those things, and he stands by every statement he made about those things. He has stated, for example, that the U.S. Army intentionally inflicted smallpox on Native Americans. He stands by that. And we are prepared to prove that in court.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Hey, first of all, he should have been fired for his comments and here is why, David. Not because he doesn't have academic freedom or free speech rights. If he wants to be ignorant, and your client is an ignorant man, and I've debated him, that's fine, but you know what, academic institutions similarly have the right to hire the best possible professor for their schools, for their kids. And the point is his comments about the people that were murdered and killed on 9/11 not being innocent is reckless and irresponsible, intellectually — you know, he has proven himself to be a lightweight on many occasions. His comparisons — his calling them little Eichmanns is mean and vicious and hateful. And the bottom line is the school can do better. I think he should have been fired for those comments straight up.

LANE: Well, you know what, even the right-wing University of Colorado does not take that extreme position. They believe his comments are protected by the First Amendment. I agree with that. They are protected by the First Amendment, that is why they had to trump up charges to fire him, because they couldn't fire him for his comments.

HANNITY: So we can't do better than a teacher that says that they weren't innocent people that were murdered on 9/11 or comparison to little Eichmanns? You are saying that a university could not find a better professor than Ward Churchill? Because I know a lot of gifted people that could do a better job with students that are as — not quite as insensitive, mean, hateful, and ignorant.

LANE: You know, the First Amendment lives in a rough neighborhood, OK? Being insensitive, ignorant, mean and nasty is not...


HANNITY: Doesn't make you a good teacher and professor. And the point is you can get a better professor.


LANE: Tenure job, getting a better professor is not the issue. The issue is, he is a tenured faculty member, you may not like him. You may think he is stupid, ignorant, mean, whatever.


HANNITY: Well, it's also they've determined he's a plagiarist.

LANE: . but the First Amendment — this is a government institution, this is a government institution. The government cannot retaliate against you because they think you are mean and nasty. The First Amendment tolerates mean and nasty speech.

HANNITY: Well, but that is not — listen, but that is not why he was removed, he was removed for being a plagiarist. He was removed for.

LANE: Well, I guess that's what a Denver jury is going to decide.

HANNITY: Writing essays — he was removed for writing essays under the names of other people.

LANE: No. That is the excuse.

HANNITY: and then citing them as independent sources to make his.

LANE: That is the excuse they use.

HANNITY: Extreme liberal points.

LANE: That is the excuse they used to remove him. I'm more than happy to prove to a Denver jury — let me ask you, you will respect a jury verdict, won't you? I mean, I will respect any verdict this jury comes to in Denver. If they say.


HANNITY: I don't even think.


LANE: He shouldn't have gotten fired.


HANNITY: I think this should be.


LANE: I'm all for it.

HANNITY: I don't even think this case is even worthy of going before a jury. I don't — you see.


LANE: Now you want to take the jury trials, is that the deal?

HANNITY: Your — no, it's not — it's not a matter of that. Your client, based on the meanness and insensitivity.

LANE: Your authoritarianism is showing.

HANNITY: If you let me finish, of attacking innocent victims on 9/11 is not qualified to be a rofessor anywhere. On that alone, I think that he could be fired, because better people are available.


LANE: Just because you disagree with him, does not mean he is not qualified. You know, just because you disagree with him doesn't mean he's not qualified.


LANE: You don't want to take away jury trial, do you, Sean? You don't agree — you don't disagree that he has a right to take this to a jury in court, do you?

HANNITY: No, I think you and him — I think you are both a bunch of publicity hounds and your 15 minutes are up. But Churchill claimed the United States.

LANE: Well, why are you covering this, man? Why are you covering this story if I'm publicity hound?

HANNITY: Churchill claimed the United States adopted.

LANE: OK. Why are you having me on your show?

HANNITY: A formal racial code to identify Indians similar to those codes used by the Nazis to identify Jews. U.S. law included no such code. Don't you think it's a responsibility of a teacher, a professor before students to get such simple things like that right or is that too much to ask from him?

LANE: You know what, he is right. He stands by it. You know what, have you ever heard the expression, there are two sides of every story, your side is that side, his side is the other side. He can back it up.


HANNITY: Well, the regents and every legal scholar says it's not true.

LANE: The point of academic freedom — no, you are absolutely wrong. The university's people say that it is not true. They fire him because he did not live up to their version of what is true.


LANE: So I am willing to let a Denver jury decide this issue. You know, is this a trumped up charge or is it a real charge?

HANNITY: But 8-1 they decided that he is a liar and that they got it right that when he claimed.

LANE: Exactly.

HANNITY: That — when he manufactured events in which European-Americans intentionally spread smallpox to Indians.

LANE: Right.

HANNITY: You know, again, scholars all dispute.

LANE: Eight politicians.

HANNITY: Hang on, every scholar that has looked at his work, they have said he has plagiarized, he has made up facts, he has written sources himself and then cited them independently, and that he has done these things repeatedly. And you are saying there is a big conspiracy to get the big, bad Ward Churchill out of the classroom?

LANE: Yes, I'm saying eight politicians today voted politically to get reelected. That's what they did, because the right-wing media has made such a firestorm out of this...

HANNITY: The right-wing media?

LANE: That if they vote against it — I'd like to see what happens to the one voter who dissented from today's vote.


COLMES: Well, he deserves a right to a trial by jury. He deserves a right to appeal.

LANE: Is he going to get reelected?

COLMES: I'm glad it is going to go to court.

LANE: Excellent, thank you.

COLMES: David, thank you very much for coming on our show tonight.

LANE: Thanks for having me.

COLMES: Coming ahead, Frank Luntz will be here to cut through the word from yesterday's YouTube debate. And coming up tonight also, it's a story made for the tabloids, troubled actress Lindsay Lohan's downward spiral got a whole lot worse today, arrested and charged with DUI anddrug possession. The latest on that story coming up as well.


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