The controversial professor who sparked outrage nationwide received a standing ovation Tuesday evening when he spoke before an audience of 1,000 people at the University of Colorado and defiantly defended his controversial essay. "I'm not backing up one inch. I owe no one an apology or clarification," Ward Churchill said to thunderous applause.The University Memorial Center on campus was packed so tight that some people had to listen outside.Churchill said that his comments comparing World Trade Center victims to a Nazi leader were misinterpreted by the media and others. In his essay, "Some People Push Back," Churchill wrote that workers in the towers were the equivalent of "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who ensured the smooth running of the Nazi system.Churchill also wrote of the "gallant sacrifices" of the "combat teams" that struck America.On Tuesday, Churchill defended his essay, saying U.S. policies that have victimized people in this country and around the world helped pave the way for the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001."When you devalue, demean and degrade others to this point, naturally and inevitably, what you're putting out will blow back on you and that's what happened on that day," he said. He said he weeps for the victims of the terrorist attacks, but not any more than for the children and women who have been killed in Iraq.During his 35-minute speech, Churchill said the essay was not referring to children, firefighters, janitors or people passing by the World Trade Center who were killed during the attacks.Most of the questions posed to Churchill were sympathetic but there were people who were angered by his essay who spoke up during the rally."Where do you get the gall to call the victims of the September 11th attacks technocrats when you get a $90,000 paycheck from the government you purport to hate?" an audience member asked."I am not innocent and I am subject to the same penalty, and that is the answer to your question," Churchill responded.A longtime American Indian Movement activist, he said he is as culpable as his government because his efforts to change the system haven't succeeded."I could do more. I'm complicit. I'm not innocent," he said.
Churchill said it's his job as professor to speak his mind and say what may be unpopular. Security was tight at the event -- about two dozen police officers were scattered inside and around the ballroom. Although the crowd was loud and mostly supportive of Churchill, it was peaceful.The speech originally had been canceled for safety concerns, but university officials decided to allow it to go on after meeting with students.Churchill had also filed a lawsuit asking a judge to force the school to let him speak after the state-funded university threatened to cancel his address.CU's board of regents has launched a 30-day review of Churchill. They're examining his writings and speeches to determine whether he's violated his tenured status at the university. Churchill has already resigned from his position as head of CU's department of ethnic studies.Gov. Bill Owens has called for Churchill to be fired."I don't answer to Bill Owens. I do not answer to the Board of Regents in the way they think I do. The regents should do their job and let me do mine," Churchill said."I do not work for the taxpayers of the state of Colorado. I do not work for Bill Owens. I work for you," he said.The Boulder Faculty Assembly, which represents professors at the Boulder campus, has said Churchill's comments were "controversial, offensive and odious" but supports his right to say them based on the principle of academic freedom.Churchill said he believes the controversy over his remarks will strengthen the state's largest academic institution.His essay and follow-up book attracted little attention until he was invited to speak last month at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., which later canceled his talk out of security concerns. "I've read some of Ward's work," said 26-year-old Vinita Laroia, an environmental studies major. "I think what he has to say is true and interesting. I wanted to hear his actual voice say what he's thinking."The ACLU issued a statement defending Churchill's right to speak out and called on regents, legislators and the governor "to stop threatening Mr. Churchill's job because of the content of his opinions."David Horowitz, a champion of conservative causes who has long accused American universities of overstocking their faculties with leftists, has said firing Churchill would violate his First Amendment rights and set a bad precedent.He called instead for an inquiry into the university's hiring and promotion procedures to see how Churchill managed to rise to the chairmanship of the school's ethnic studies department.
Many in the packed auditorium gave Ward Churchill a standing ovation after his speech.
- To read Churchill's complete essay, "Some People Push Back," click hereTo read what Churchill has to say in his defense, click here. To read Gov. Owens' letter, calling for Churchill to resign click here.To read CU's rules for dismissal of a tenured professor, click here.
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