The University of Colorado said Thursday a professor who compared the victims of the World Trade Center attacks to Nazis doesn't reflect the views of the school but that he has a right to express himself.
Ward Churchill, chairman of the ethnic studies program at CU, has been invited to speak next month at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., where news of his visit ignited protests.
CU-Boulder interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano said Churchill's views don't represent the opinions of faculty, students or others affiliated with the university.
"While I may personally find his views offensive, I also must support his right as an American citizen to hold and express his views, no matter how repugnant, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution," DiStefano said in a written statement.
In "Some People Push Back," a treatise written shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Churchill said the 3,000 people killed in the Twin Towers collapse weren't innocent victims. He said they worked for "the mighty engine of profit" but chose to ignore their role.
Churchill, an indigenous issues expert, also described the World Trade Center victims as "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who carried out Hitler's plan during World War II to exterminate Jews in Europe.
He called Eichmann a technocrat who "crunched numbers" and made the trains that carried Jews to death camps run on time. Churchill said Thursday that those in the Trade Center were technocrats whose work was just as deadly and said he would not back down from the topic when he delivers his speech next month.
His essay argued that the Sept. 11 attacks were in retaliation for the Iraqi children who were killed in a 1991 bombing raid and for economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations following the Persian Gulf War. He also argued that the hijackers who crashed jumbo jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were "combat teams," not terrorists, and the people who were killed inside the Pentagon were "military targets."
Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., said Churchill's hate-filled words are a disgrace to CU and the state of Colorado and has urged him to resign.
"As a proud alumnus of the University of Colorado, and the father of three graduates and one current student of the university, I'm sickened by the recent claims made by CU Professor Ward Churchill in regards to the victims of the 9/11 attacks. The utter and callous disregard shown by Churchill towards the family members of those who lost their lives on 9/11 is beyond comprehension. Churchill's hate-filled words are a disgrace to a great university and the state of Colorado, and bitterly rekindle the agony of 9/11 felt by every American and eternally seared in the hearts of family and friends of the 3,000 innocent victims of that manifestation of evil."
"Unfortunately Mr. Churchill is a tenured professor who is apparently immune from any kind of sanctions from his employer," Beauprez said. "If he had any respect for the University of Colorado, he would immediately tender his resignation and offer an apology for his outrageous comments."
Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., also said Churchill should apologize.
James Giaccone's 42-year-old brother, Joseph, worked for Cantor-Fitzgerald and died in the World Trade Center. Giaccone said he was outraged the college would invite Churchill to speak.
"I'm all for free speech but there has to be some responsibility that goes along with that," said Giaccone, of Long Island. "The college shouldn't be a lightning rod for this kind of a nut case."
Churchill's wife, fellow CU ethnic studies professor Natsu Saito, said her husband is popular with students. She said his statements sometimes make people uncomfortable but also force people to confront truths they would rather ignore.
"He does it because he really cares about all people, and everyone's kids, and their well-being. He has a very big heart, and I think that's what motivates his work. Because he tells the truth in a straightforward way, that is perceived as harsh," Saito said.
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