Ward Churchill: The Tenured Tonto
Moving from D.C. to Denver meant less traffic, more sunshine, and a few breathless walks up and down the stairs as my lungs acclimated to the mile high atmosphere. It also put me at the heart of a national tragedy -- the academic fraud known as Ward Churchill. Or as Dennis Miller glibly calls him, "the tenured Tonto."
Naturally, the far left is rallying to his side. Again. And if you need another reason to distrust that side of the ideological aisle, here it is:
Churchill, a former Ethnic Studies professor at the University of Colorado, had his 15 minutes of infamy when word leaked of an essay he wrote after the 9/11 attacks. Referring to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, Churchill called those who died in the Twin Towers "little Eichmanns," because they supported the wicked system known as the U.S.A. Churchill wasn't fired for these monstrous comments, but that's more an indictment of modern academia than anything else. He received a pink slip some time later, after the university investigated his academic bona fides and discovered he had fabricated his credentials, along with other serious misdeeds.
Some news stories never die, and Churchill is making headlines again with his lawsuit against the University of Colorado. He claims he was unfairly canned in July 2007, and blames the media maelstrom surrounding his essay for his termination. Academic fraud? What academic fraud?
Denver residents can't hide from the latest trial accounts. A fine local radio show, "Caplis & Silverman," has been checking in with the case on a daily basis. Even co-host Craig Silverman, a reasonable left leaner who cordially battles with his conservative sparring partner, Dan Caplis, can't muster a defense for Churchill. The program is but one of many local media outlets giving residents the latest information on Churchill's case. It's like a traveling O.J. Simpson trial hit Colorado, but without the Dancing Itos or Kato Kaelin.
Churchill wraps himself in the invisibility cloak known as free speech, but if he had uttered anything offensive to a protected group he would have been fired without a hint of protest. What if he had penned something offensive and indefensible, like claiming high black crime rates indicate a genetic inferiority within the race? His time at the university would have ended the minute that news hit the wires. But if you work in academia, assaulting the U.S. on any level is not only accepted, it's common practice.
Naturally, the hard left can't help but rally to his cause. After all, conservatives led the outrage parade against Churchill early, and you know how evil they are. And Churchill is a first-class America basher, which makes him enormously appealing to the "blame America" contingent. Heck, he's a folk hero to them.
The usual suspects surfaced to defend Churchill once the initial news blasts hit including CommonDreams.org, The Progressive, unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, and attorney Lynne Stewart, famous for passing messages between one of her clients and a terrorist organization. With friends like these ...
In a recent trial-related column, the Denver Post's new liberal columnist, Mike Littwin, wasn't angry with Churchill for his many educational sins. Instead, he blamed the university that fired him: "But however guilty Churchill may or may not have been, he was never as guilty as the University of Colorado." He ended his pro-Churchill column with this golden thought: "Even if a witch hunt turns up an actual witch, it's still a witch hunt."
Churchill's academic fraud and hateful rhetoric has been swept under the academic rug. Free speech is complicated. Reminding people they can't yell "fire" in a crowded theater is easy to digest. But employers have a right to fire people for offensive statements. Heck, hockey player Sean Avery was banned indefinitely by the NHL for making derogatory comments about his ex-girlfriend, Elisha Cuthbert.
The worst you can say about the left's embrace of Churchill is that it goes against some of its core values. The left treasures diversity and the protection of minorities. Churchill falsely claimed he's of Native American descent. So he actually took a teaching slot that could have been given to another minority. And his academic fakery is a blow to those who hold up academia as one of our culture's most cherished strengths.
It's a miracle Churchill was allowed to keep his job following his hateful comments. But once the professor's full portrait was revealed, there shouldn't have been a soul out there willing to stick his neck out for him.
Churchill must be taking comfort in the knowledge that he'll always have a home on the far left.