Churchill the Liar
by Ari Armstrong, March 6, 2005
It is becoming increasingly obvious that Ward Churchill is fundamentally dissociated from reality. All of the compelling allegations against him suggest that he is dishonest. He is alleged to have lied about his ancestry to advance his career, to have distorted facts in his writings, to have plagiarized the work of others, and to have copied somebody else's art and sold it under his own name. Furthermore, Churchill claims to champion free speech, even though he tried to forcibly stop a Columbus Day parade. He claims to support the "rule of law," even as he has praised terrorists.
The Rocky Mountain News reveals one of Churchill's most recent lies in its March 3 On Point: "At a speech Tuesday in Wisconsin, professor Ward Churchill once again denied he'd justified the 9/11 attacks or called for the slaughter of Americans. How distracted and stupid he must think Coloradans are. In the very essay that provoked the controversy, he writes that terrorists may someday choose anthrax, mustard gas, sarin or a tactical nuclear device and then 'push back' against America. 'As they should,' he adds. 'As they must'."
In a March 2 article for the News, Charlie Brennan reported another lie Churchill told at the same event: "...Churchill lashed out at those seeking to discredit him by challenging his own ethnicity. Critics have said his inability to name an American Indian ancestor make suspect his claims to being as much as three-sixteenths Cherokee. 'This crew can think of nothing worse to call me than a white man,' said Churchill, who is an associate member of the Keetoowah Band of Cherokee. 'And they're all white men. Figure that one out. My elders determine who I am. White journalists don't'."
Churchill knows full well that his statement is a lie. It is not "all white men" who have complained about his alleged fraud in advancing his career via making false claims about his ancestry. The News's archives about him link to several stories that quote American Indians who question Churchill's claims.
For example, in a February 4 article, Stuart Steers writes, "Many non-Indians are now claiming Cherokee ancestry, said Richard Allen, a policy analyst with the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma... Allen has worked for the Cherokee Nation for more than 20 years. He said he has followed Churchill's career for much of that time. 'When it comes to Churchill, I've always thought he was a wannabe Indian,' Allen said."
In a February 12 article, Kevin Flynn writes, "Many of Churchill's Indian critics base their complaints on a belief that he is actually a white man posing as American Indian... 'He's Indian for the purpose of profit,' [Suzan Shown] Harjo said. 'When I met him in 1989, he wouldn't answer my questions about who his Creek people were... You can't have as many white relatives as he does and think you're Indian'." Flynn quotes David Bradley, "He's a white man who earns his living masquerading as an Indian. He's a pseudo-Indian profiteer. He takes opportunities intended for our people, our legitimate speakers, who can honestly speak about the American Indian experience." Flynn cites other American Indians who side with Churchill, even though none has offered evidence that Churchill is part Indian. In a February 5 article, Flynn reviews available evidence about Churchill's ancestry and finds no evidence that he's part Indian.
It's still possible that Churchill will produce evidence that he's part Indian, though so far he has been unable or unwilling to do so. Of course, his ancestry is totally irrelevant to an evaluation of his scholarship. However, it is relevant if he lied about his ancestry in order to get a plush $100K a year job at a top university that's subsidized by taxpayers. Churchill doesn't have a Ph.D., and, as the News reported, he circumvented the usual procedures for tenure. It's obvious that this happened because CU considered Churchill an American Indian. If he hadn't claimed to be Indian, he wouldn't have received the job.
Notice how Churchill plays the race card. He suggests that he's being persecuted by "white" journalists, even though the complaints against him originated with American Indians and available evidence suggests that Churchill himself is white. Yet Churchill dodges the relevant issue of alleged fraud and instead implies that "white" journalists are not to be trusted simply because they are white. Thus, Churchill's view is racist. So, just as Churchill attacks free speech even as he pretends to defend it, so he supports racism even as he pretends to be a victim of it.
There is another twist to Churchill's hiring. Arthur Kane reports in the February 25 Denver Post, "[H]ow Churchill came to win accelerated tenure at CU continued to be questioned. Churchill was never formally offered a job at California State University at Northridge, although CU officials believed he had been when they shortcut the hiring process to give him a tenured position, a Cal State spokeswoman said Thursday. Michael Pacanowsky, head of the CU communications department at the time, wrote on Jan. 10, 1991, that the process to find Churchill a job had to be accelerated because of the competing offer, but Cal State spokeswoman Carmen Chandler said the controversial professor was never officially offered a job. 'We have (records of) every formal offer, and there is no record any formal offer was made' to Churchill, Chandler said Thursday. 'We also don't look at people without a Ph.D'." So why did CU think Churchill had been offered a job in California? That is yet another matter that warrants investigation.
Churchill's "scholarship" is ridiculous. That CU hired Churchill and gave the pretender premature tenure is ridiculous. But what is disgusting is that the left continues to support him.
As the News reports March 1, 200 faculty members of CU placed a full-page ad in Boulder's Daily Camera on February 28 defending Churchill. The News reports, "...Margaret LeCompte, one of the 200 faculty members who signed the ad" said, "There are no formal charges against professor Churchill, and the investigation that's currently under way has been triggered by his exercise of free speech in that essay he wrote." But how can "formal charges" be reached if allegations about Churchill's academic fraud and endorsement of violence are not examined? The investigation was not "triggered by his exercise of free speech." The investigation was triggered because Churchill works for CU, his contract of employment says he must meet minimal professional standards, and serious allegations suggest he has failed to meet those standards. I have argued that his controversial essay by itself falls below professional standards, but certainly proof that Churchill fabricated material or plagiarized the work of others would constitute grounds for his dismissal.
If the academics who signed the ad don't think their work is any better than Churchill's, then they are right to be worried about their jobs. Otherwise, the ability to publish controversial, professional work is certainly not on the line. (I haven't heard any leftist academics stick up for Hans Hoppe of Nevada, though maybe some have. The leftist mantra seems to be, "Academic freedom for me but not for thee." However, Hoppe's case does inspire comparison to Churchill's in evaluating the matter of academic freedom. One professor wrote something the right hates, while another said something the left hates. Nevertheless, I regard Churchill's essay as incompetent, whereas Hoppe's comments, while questionable, are at least debatable. The major difference between the cases is that Hoppe has been criticized only for the content of his statements, whereas Churchill has been accused of fraud.)
In his March 2 piece, Brennan notes that "several hundred people... rose to their feet to give a standing ovation" to Churchill. The Denver Post also noted that people protested outside. It is immoral to praise Churchill, given his sympathy for terrorism, his lies, and the compelling allegations that he committed fraud on several occasions. The point is not that everything Churchill says or writes is wrong; even the least competent commentators are right about some things. But whatever Churchill says that's correct, others have said more eloquently and with more intellectual rigor. Churchill doesn't have to lie about everything in order to be considered a liar; he only has to lie with some frequency, as is demonstrably the case.
And yet it is Churchill who claims to be the victim, even though he has victimized hundreds of thousands of Coloradans whose money he has misused. Brennan quotes Churchill: "In order to nullify the message, you get to the messenger... You make the issue go away by focusing in on the one who brings the issue up." And a March 3 AP story reports, "...Churchill told a crowd of about 200 that the controversy 'is not about me... This is about an agenda to roll back the parameters of political discourse in the academic arena to a preapproved box'." But this controversy is about Churchill. It is about whether an employee of CU can praise terrorists and allegedly lie about his ancestry, his art, and his published work.
In a March 2 letter to the Post, Steven Beckman writes, "I am a tenured associate professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, and given the recent news that Ward Churchill may have based a drawing he sold on a published drawing, I have a confession to make. I have a stained-glass picture I hang in my office and I tell people I made it. However, in fact, I took the design from a book. I never tell visitors this. Given the current climate, I thought I should get this out in the open before some investigative reporter cracked the story." Beckman's letter is complete nonsense. Most significantly, Beckman did not try to sell somebody else's work with his name on it, as Churchill did. Also, Breckman equivocates on the term "made," and he doesn't mention whether the design in the book was copyrighted. We often see people in art museums drawing some famous painting, and that's not a problem.
In its March 2 On Point, the News quotes Emma Perez, now acting chair of CU's ethnic studies department, the position recently vacated by Churchill. Perez wrote, "The general strategy in forcing and then manipulating this 'investigation' of Ward's scholarship shares key tactics with the neo-con sinking of Emory historian Bellesiles in 2001..." Yet Bellesiles's book Arming America is a demonstrated fraud. This is a not a vast right-wing conspiracy: it is simply the application of basic standards of truth. The News notes, "Michael Bellesiles resigned after a panel of scholars from places such as Harvard and Princeton concluded his failure to cite sources for material in his book, Arming America, 'does move into the realm of "falsification"'." It's not exactly comforting that the head of one of CU's departments defends a fraudulent work and voices paranoid conspiracy theories.
So what is going on here? People who are supposed to be among the most intelligent in society are making completely specious arguments in support of Churchill. It's almost as though Churchill's supporters are trying to sound as ridiculous as possible and completely ignore the relevant issues.
Does CU endorse the encouragement of initiatory violence, or not? Does CU endorse plagiarism, or not? Does CU endorse fraudulent scholarship, or not? Does CU endorse fraudulent job applications, or not? Does CU endorse theft of intellectual property, or not? These are the credible allegations that have been made against Churchill. If these allegations are proved true, then CU has a responsibility to fire Churchill. If CU does not take these allegations seriously, then, quite simply, CU has no academic standards, and its leaders should stop pretending they run a university.