Ex-Professor Fights for Job; Churchill Suit Faults 'Howling Mob' for Firing
Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
DENVER -- Former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill went to court Tuesday in a bid to get his job back, contending that he never committed plagiarism and was instead jettisoned for likening Sept. 11 victims to Nazi bureaucrats when blaming what he called unjust U.S. policy for the terrorist attacks.
David Lane, Mr. Churchill's attorney, argued that the university caved under pressure from the howling mob, which he described as a nationwide conservative smear campaign aimed at destroying Mr. Churchill's reputation.
He cited the influence of conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News Channel political commentators Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly, who had criticized Mr. Churchill in the years before he was fired. He also noted that then-Colorado Gov. Bill Owens publicly called on Mr. Churchill to resign.
It is a First Amendment violation to destroy this man and disrupt his reputation, said Mr. Lane. He's not a fraud, and he didn't plagiarize.
Denver District Court Chief Judge Larry Naves presided over opening arguments Tuesday in the wrongful-dismissal trial, which could last as long as three weeks. A jury of four men and four women was seated Monday.
Attorneys for the university argued that Mr. Churchill was fired solely on the basis of his academic misconduct. Questions about the integrity of Mr. Churchill's writing and research had swirled for years before a university panel launched its investigation in 2005.
Lawyer Patrick O'Rourke said he would provide eight separate examples of what he said was Mr. Churchill's research dishonesty, including inventing facts to support his conclusions and plagiarizing the work of other academics.
Professor Churchill did things an eighth-grader knows are wrong, Mr. O'Rourke said. You don't copy somebody else's work.