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O'Reilly vs Churchill - The Battle Rages

Reported by Marie Therese - February 10, 2005

Yesterday (2/9/05), Bill O'Reilly devoted his Talking Points Memo and the first two segments of The Factor to the Ward Churchill matter, which represents a huge chunk of FOX airtime. Here are transcripts of the three, posted in separate installments, as I get them typed up.

BILL O'Reilly (Talking Points Memo): Hating America. That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo. Last night in Boulder, Colorado, radical Professor Ward Churchill held court in front of more than a thousand people, many of whom support him. Churchill once again stated that America is responsible for killing innocent people all over the world and that's why 9/11 happened.

VIDEOCLIP of Ward Churchill, Feb. 8, 2005: "What I said is, when you treat people this way, when you kill their babies as a matter of course and say it has no consequence, when you demonize, 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 9/11." (Loud cheers.) [End clip.]

O'Reilly: Churchill would not back off from his statement that some Americans murdered on 9/11 were nazis, but he did rationalize.

VIDEOCLIP of Ward Churchill, Feb. 8, 2005: "I did not call a bunch of food service workers, janitors, children, firefighters and random passers-by "little eichmanns." [Tape splice.] "I was not talking about these people. I was talking about some very specific technical cadre who make this particular system hum and I'm gonna come back to that in a second. But the people at issue - and these are the only people who have been raised - ." [End clip.]

O'Reilly: The only people, huh? So in the world according to Churchill, if you sell bonds, insurance or anything that furthers capitalism, you're a nazi. For this kind of reasoning, the University of Colorado is paying the guy almost $100,000. Now, some said Churchill should be charged with treason or sedition. We'll examine that in a few moments. But, clearly the man has some constitutional protections. Where he is vulnerable is in the competency area. As we mentioned last night, he wrote a book saying that Israel is perpetuating a holocaust against the Palestinians and that Hitler's government did not have an institutional plan to exterminate European Jews.

Both those statements are false. Provable. Just like 2 + 2 = 5 is false. If a math teacher put forth that equation, the math teacher would be fired. If an Ethnic Studies teacher denies the Third Reich had a policy of Jewish mass murder, that teacher has to go. So, say goodbye to Churchill. I predict he'll be fired for incompetence by early March.

Now, I could be wrong. And, even if I'm right, the ACLU will sue on his behalf. That'll be a fascinating case. But, in the end, for controversial speech, every day of my life someone attacks me because I'm outspoken. There's little I can do but absorb the slander, libel and defamation that comes my way. And so it will be with Churchill.

He will pay a big price for his hatred of America and his cruelty to the 9/11 families. But the price should be fair and reasonable. And that's the memo.

Now for another view of this national controversy, joining us from Denver, law professor at CU, Paul Campos, and author of the book "The Obesity Myth." What's the mood of the camp - I just can't imagine - ya' got - you know, you heard the applause after Churchill is sayin' this kind of crazy stuff, but does that reflect UC Boulder?

[COMMENT: Paul Campos, a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News, is one of the leading advocates against Churchill.]

CAMPOS: No, I don't believe it does. I've heard form hundreds of people in the last few days in regard to this issue. I've not heard one word of support from a CU faculty member in regard to the substantive claims Churchill makes in the 9/11 essay or indeed in this other work. I've heard from people who are concerned, of course, about the effects of this on academic freedom and freedom of expression, as they ought to be concerned, but, I hadn't heard at least from anybody on the CU faculty, any support for Churchill's views per se.

O'Reilly: Alright. Who are these people applauding then? I mean, ya' know, who'd be applauding this?

CAMPOS: Well, you know, someone like Churchill, who is a charismatic figure, who has this sort of little cult of personality around him, is going to be surrounded by impressionable undergrads, who may be quite naive and easily swayed and so it's not unusual, it's not an unusual situation. It's something that we see in lots of places besides the University of Colorado.

[COMMENT: See my post How to Drive a FOX News Host Batty for a sample of these "impressionable" undergrads. Not!]

O'Reilly: I agree with that, but a thousand of them?!! You know, I just - to me there's something wrong at Boulder. And maybe I'm wrong for saying that, but something seems to be wrong at the school, Professor.

CAMPOS: Well, I [indecipherable]

O'Reilly: It doesn't seem to be - look, I'll give you an example. If that were Boston College or Notre Dame, no way this guy Churchill ever would get that kind of reception. Wouldn't happen!

CAMPOS: Well, that's undoubted - I mean, I assume that's probably true, but I want to emphasize here that there's lots of great things goin' on at the University of Colorado. We have a terrific university with Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Prize winners and ...

O'Reilly (interrupts): Well, how did he get to be the head of the Ethnic Studies Program, when he denies that the Third Reich had a mass murder program targeting European Jews? How could that possibly happen?!

CAMPOS: Well...

O'Reilly: How could that man, who wrote in a book that he didn't believe Hitler was targeting Jews in a systematic way get to be appointed the head of ANY department?!!

CAMPOS: Well, that's being looked into right now and rightfully so. My position on this from the beginning has been that that 9/11 essay was so appalling that it should have led to an investigation ...

O'Reilly: Yeah!

CAMPOS: ... of what other things this person was saying and whether they brought into question his professional competence and in fact there are now some very serious accusations that, in fact he has engaged in what essentially looks like basic academic fraud and indeed also charges of plagiarism. And so ...

O'Reilly (cuts him off): Well, tell us about that. Let's go to the fraud thing first. What's the academic fraud?

CAMPOS: Well, for example, a professor of sociology, Thomas Brown, has written an article in which he points out that Churchill has apparently fabricated a historical incident that never took place, accusing the US Army of intentionally spreading a smallpox epidemic among the Mandan Sioux in 1837 by handing out smallpox-infected blankets to them. Now there's no documentary evidence that anything like this took place. There was a smallpox epidemic among the Mandan Sioux, but historians, who have studied this have all concluded that it came from a steamboat that came down the Missouri River that had some people who had smallpox on it.

O'Reilly: OK. So, so he may be - it wouldn't surprise anybody that he'd be revising history that way. I hear ...

CAMPOS: Well, not only that - yeah.

O'Reilly: ... that he may not even be an African - uh - a Native American. Is that true?

CAMPOS: Well, there - there's apparently no evidence that he in fact has any Native American ancestry. And this, I think, is a very serious potential situation in regard to Ward Churchill, because he has made a career by cl - around claiming to be a Native American. If in fact, some of the hiring and tenuring decisions at the University of Colorado were affected by his claims of being a Native American - which I don't know whether that was the case - but, if it was, and it turns out that there's no documentary evidence at all that he has any Native American heritage whatsoever, then I think that brings, again, into question the - uh -

O'Reilly: Well, of course. Is this an open question about his Native American - um - background or is he simply not a Native American? Do we know for sure?

CAMPOS: Well, of course, it's extremely difficult to prove a negative. You're never gonna be able to absolutely, definitively prove that at someplace, somewhere, far, far back in his ancestry he might have had a Native American ancestor. But, I think what's really revelatory here is to be a member of the Cherokee nation, you just have to prove that you have one Cherokee ancestor. If you can prove that, then you can enroll as a member of the Cherokee nation. Ward Churchill has never enrolled as a member of the Cherokee nation, even though he claims to be a Cherokee ..

O'Reilly: OK.

CAMPOS: ... and the reason seems to be pretty clear, because he can't demonstrate that he has any Cherokee heritage.

O'Reilly: Maybe. I mean, I don't want to go beyond the evidence. Last question. Do you agree with me that the Board of Regents will probably fire him based on competency? I think that's where they'll get him!

CAMPOS: I don't have a good sense of that at this point. I, I believe that, given what I know and given what I've learned by studying the situation vis a vis Ward Churchill that that would be the appropriate decision, although it's not my decision to make. But, the politics of this are extremely complex and, unfortunately, I think that there may - there's a significant chance that he will not be fired, simply because I think he now has a pretextual - he can claim [that the Board of Regents is saying] "hey, we're firing you because of your political opinions ..."

O'Reilly: Yeah [?] he can claim it.

CAMPOS: "... not because you're professionally incompetent."

O'Reilly: He can claim it. And the ACLU will help him with that. But, you gotta do the right thing, Professor. You can't be backin' away from these people. We appreciate you comin' on very much.

[Teaser for next segment] Is Churchill guilty of treason? SImple question. We'll try to get to the answer.


[N.B. The interview with the JAG officer will be posted later today.]


I'm going to let fellow News Hound Judy, who is a professor of Ethnic Studies at at major university, answer Paul Campos and O'Reilly. Here, verbatim, is what she wrote to me in response to my sending her a copy of Campos' original column against Churchill, published in the Rocky Mountain News (2/8/05), in which he set forth the same arguments against Churchill that he used during this interview.

SUBJECTS: Thomas Brown, Plagiarism and Paul Campos

Thomas Brown is a sociologist, not an historian, let alone an historian of Native American studies. One of the sources he cites is from 1945, for crying out loud. For an assistant professor of sociology to declare that he can "set the historical record straight" in an eight-page essay quoting scholarship that is decades old is ridiculous. The matter of genocide as it pertains to Native Americans is a contested issue among historians. They disagree with each other. It is hardly academic fraud to hold one viewpoint instead of another.

Nevertheless, Indians then and now blame the military for deliberately spreading smallpox through infected blankets. In a speech on the day he died of smallpox, Mandan chief Four Bears blamed whites for the disease and told his people they should "rise all together and not leave one of them alive," even though the Mandans had always had peaceful relations with them. There has to be some reason why the Indians in the U.S. died at much higher rates of smallpox than did those in Canada, where the government aggressively encouraged smallpox vaccination among tribes. Brown says Congress appropriated money for vaccination, but he doesn't say how effectively any such program was implemented.

b. I am handicapped by not having read Churchill's entire work. I don't trust
Brown to quote accurately and within context from it. Churchill's critics
certainly did not do so with the 9/11 essay and I suspect they are not doing it
here, either. I would caution any reader to withhold judgment until the full
essay appears.

c. Plagiarism as grounds for loss of tenure? Didn't happen to Doris Kearns
Goodwin a few years ago when she admitted taking a passage from someone else for one of his books. Didn't hurt the reputation of Stephen F. Ambrose, who also was accused of it before he died. If Churchill committed plagiarism, it
certainly is not grounds for dismissal. Plagiarism need not be lifting an
entire passage from someone else's book. It can merely mean using someone's
idea, rephrased in your own words, without including a footnote.

d. The title "Truth Tricky for Churchill" says a lot about the agenda of Paul
Campos and the rest of the right-wing lynch mob chasing Churchill now.
Historical truth has become tricky for everyone, not just Churchill, because
increasingly scholars see what we have been taught about our past to have been shaped and twisted by ideology. In trying to identity that ideological gloss,
scholars risk attack by those who want to confer sainthood on our ancestors,
ignore the mistakes of past American policy, and continue living the fiction
that everything America has done, is doing, or ever will do is right and just
and anyone who opposes our policies is evil and must be destroyed.

e. In short, the attack on Churchill is morphing into another front in the
"culture wars" from which the right can attack affirmative action (he "lied"
about being an Indian), as well as recent scholarship (last 20 years or so)
that departs from the white-man centered view of America the Great.

SUBJECT: Indian Identity

1. Indian identity: Determining who belongs to what race is extremely difficult
because race, as we all know, is not a biological concept, but a social one,
defined by many factors besides biology. The "one drop rule" of southern
states, which defined was black anyone with a single drop of black blood, is an
example of such social rules that determine race. Indian racial identity is even
more complicated, and Cherokee identity is one of the most complicated of all.

One can be Indian by birth, if one has Indian parents, of course, but tribes
often adopted people into their tribes and considered them "Indian" regardless
of their biological heritage. Some black slaves of Cherokee owners were adopted
and considered fully Indian by the tribe, despite biology, and were raised as
Cherokee, spoke Cherokee, and so on. Yet someone with a Cherokee mother raised by a white father in white society might never have considered himself Cherokee and neither would his or her descendants. So it is complicated even on a biological basis.

Furthermore, the federal government complicated matters with the General
Allotment Act of 1887, which tried to identify all Indians and give them each
80 acres of land so that the rest could be sold to whites (that's how Oklahoma
became a state.) But the law's rolls of Indians were incomplete, some people
were left off who considered themselves and were considered by others to be
Indians. Nevertheless, some people use these so-called Dawes Act rolls as
"proof" of Indianness and Indian ancestors. They are especially useful for
people who want to show that someone does not have an Indian ancestor.
Actually, being on the rolls is only proof that the federal government
considers one an Indian.

The federal government added another layer of complexity in the 1930s, when
tribes were encouraged to adopt constitutions. Sometimes the constitutions
defined everyone living on the reservation at the time as full tribal members,
so many people were grandfathered in who biologically may not have been from
that tribe. Furthermore, some tribes require that a parent consent to enrolling
a child as a member. A child with an Indian mother and a white father cannot be enrolled in some tribes. Or a child with two Indian parents and a father who
refuses to fill out the paper will be left off the rolls.

In short, there is no simple way to determine who is an Indian. As sovereign
nations, tribes do not like relying on federal laws to determine their
membership. Personally, I don't think they should have to. If someone considers themselves an Indian, holds traditional Indian beliefs, and is accepted by other Indians as one of them, that is good enough as far as I am concerned.

N.B. This post was updated 2/11/05 to show that the response to Campos came from my fellow News Hound, Judy. Her tremendous knowledge and expertise is appreciated.

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