Why Should Churchill Keep His Job?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Feb. 3, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The University of Colorado regents met behind closed doors last night to determine the fate of Professor Ward Churchill (search). As you may know, Churchill published some controversial comments about 9/11 victims, calling them little Eichmanns. The regents decided to launch a 30-day investigation into the professor, then decide whether he should keep his job.

Joining us now from Denver are two of his students at C.U., Chris Maes and Dustin Craun. Mr. Craun was arrested at a protest yesterday.

So let me start with Mr. Craun. Since you were arrested, you get to go first.


GIBSON: Why do you think Churchill should keep his job?

CRAUN: Really, this is a First Amendment issue. And Professor Churchill should have the right to speak the things that he believes, especially as a university professor, as long as he can back those things up with facts.

GIBSON: You might have stepped on a slippery spot there, but let me go to Chris Maes first.

Chris, why don't you tell me why you — I take it you do think he should keep his job?

CHRIS MAES, WARD CHURCHILL'S STUDENT: Yes, I do. I believe Professor Churchill's a wonderful, wonderful man. He's taught a lot of students a whole lot of things. And to have his name slandered...

GIBSON: How's he being slandered? If he's being slandered, it's by his own words.

MAES: Well, the quotations the media repeatedly reports take the whole essence of his book out of perspective. It doesn't get a fair representation whatsoever. And I believe in my own opinion the chancellor showed that by not giving any fair representation of him to the statements they made yesterday.

GIBSON: Well, wait a minute. Now you know, I've spent some time reading from my own book the Web sites and the newspapers in the Middle East. I mean, what he said was straight out of the jihadi Web sites. This is Al Jazeera (search), Al Arabiya stuff.

MAES: That's your opinion, sir.

GIBSON: Well, it is my opinion. And that's why I want to ask you about it. What — from our point of view, what possible reasonableness is there in blaming the victims of 9/11?

MAES: Well, I'm not going to really try to speak for Professor Churchill, but I believe that any American that's interested in reading his paper or his essays read themselves and make up their mind up for themselves. We don't need the media or the government...

GIBSON: All right, Mr. Craun, what is it that he's teaching you?

CRAUN: What is it that he's teaching me?

GIBSON: I mean, if he's into things — if he's saying these things, why shouldn't I assume that he's teaching you, Mr. Maes, the same sorts of things? Maybe he has free speech, but he might be fired for incompetency if this is what he's teaching?

CRAUN: If you look at Professor Churchill's writings, which are more than 25 published books, you'll see that he is in no way incompetent. He brings about the history of the United States and shows our history of continuous warfare since 1776, and the ideology that if you continue to kill people's children, then things are going to come back to get you at some point. And that's what breeds terrorism in the United States.

GIBSON: He said blamed — he blamed the victims of 9/11. He said they were essentially killers by proxy. What possible explanation of fact there for that?

CRAUN: He's saying — here's what I believe Professor Churchill is saying is he's saying that all Americans who allow their government to do these things that it's doing throughout the world currently in Iraq and Afghanistan can expect that people will one day be upset and in some cases push back.

GIBSON: Well, what would Professor say — I mean, I haven't heard, what did the professor say about eight million people coming out to vote in the Iraqi elections?

MAES: We haven't seen Professor Churchill much this week. And I can't tell you what he said.

GIBSON: Well, Mr. Maes, boy, you're smiling about it. I mean, is that something to be derided?

MAES: No, I believe you're asking a question we can't possibly answer. You have to speak to Mr. Churchill about that.

GIBSON: Well, I'll ask you. What do you think about it? If you endorse his views, and you think he has the right to compare the people who were killed on 9/11...

MAES: I'm not endorsing anything. I'm endorsing my First Amendment right. I'm endorsing academic freedom.

GIBSON: Well, wait a minute. You are here to defend Professor Churchill.

MAES: Yes, I am.

GIBSON: Does that mean you won't defend his right, what he wrote?

MAES: I do defend what Professor Churchill wrote. That is his opinion. That is his entitlement. And coming to a public university, he's entitled to present his views. And I'm entitled as a student to get that view and make up my own mind. I don't need the government or anybody else to....

GIBSON: Well, did you make up your mind about it? What did you think?

MAES: This isn't about me. This is about academic freedom.

GIBSON: You don't want to say what you think?

MAES: I think his essay tries to pinpoint or show why there's hatred in the world against us. I'm not agreeing with anything or disagreeing, but I think he's entitled to express his opinions to why he thinks....

GIBSON: But Mr. Craun, let me put it this way. This is a very, very emotional and raw subject. Could Mr. Churchill be so disconnected from reality as to not expect this kind of reaction if he wrote something like that?

CRAUN: Are Americans so disconnected from reality that...

GIBSON: No, come on. Let's not play rhetorical games here. Have you got an answer to the question?

CRAUN: I'm not — I'm saying are we so disconnected to reality that we won't expect that if you kill a half million Iraqi...

GIBSON: Mr. Craun, give me a break.

Do you think Mr. Churchill expected this reaction? If he did, then tell me why I shouldn't think he did it on purpose in order to get this reaction, in order for the regents...

CRAUN: Well why did take the media three years to find — this essay's been written for three years. How did it take you so long?

GIBSON: I have no idea. You know what? I don't go Google Ward Churchill every day, but it has come to our attention. And it does seem to be a despicable thing to say. Why did he say it?

CRAUN: He said it because he's being very patriotic in that he's hoping that no more terrorist attacks happen in the United States. He's trying to explain why terrorist attacks have happened in the United States. And he's hoping that no more will happen.

GIBSON: OK, why...

CRAUN: But as our government continues to move forward with policies like it does in Iraq, it's going to continue to happen.

GIBSON: ...do you think either Mr. Maes or Mr. Craun, why do you think he has taken the line that that is the exact line that we have heard from Usama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, we hear on al Jazeera every day, we hear from all the jihadis on their Web site. Why has Mr. Churchill aligned himself with the people who declared war on this country?

MAES: I don't believe he's aligned himself with them.

GIBSON: He's parroting their views.

MAES: His job is to cause discourse and cause debate. As a professor, he's supposed to make students think and make up their mind up for themselves. Every day...

GIBSON: I'm trying to get to that, Mr. Maes. Tell me what you think about what he said.

MAES: I think his statements are his own way of trying to explain what it's like. He's trying to...

GIBSON: You think he's right.

MAES: It doesn't matter what I think.

GIBSON: Yes, it does because he's a teacher and you're a student. What happened to you listening to his teachings?

MAES: I have a right to decide for my own. But that's not a...

GIBSON: You're dodging the question. He's polluted both your minds. And for that reason, he should be fired.

MAES: That is not true, sir.

GIBSON: Mr. Maes, Mr. Craun, thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

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