So how come?

So how come?

by Dani Newsum February 26, 2005

“Critics are alleging that embattled University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill doesn’t brush his teeth.” “One of Ward Churchill’s colleagues, who didn’t want to provide her name, says she?s observed the fiery CU ethnic studies professor walking a poodle.” “He just flipped man, he started talking Vietnamese, shooting his rifle in the air. He said he was Crazy Horse,” says a vet who did kitchen duty with Churchill in Vietnam in 1967. “He was just a horrible dancer”, claims Mary Alice Smith, who says she attended the Elmwood Community High School junior prom with CU Professor Churchill in 1964. Okay, I made up those quotes. But they’re no more ridiculous than the inane stories published over the last three weeks by The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News about Ward Churchill. I know Churchill from community and civic work, but couldn’t call him a friend. I’ve got no reason to sing his praises, or lead a witch hunt either, unlike the press. Guns cocked and ready, they’ve been firing rounds relentlessly. No petty rumor, professional or family feud, or self-interested C.Y.A. has escaped these news hounds. They’ve attacked his writings, speeches, academic credentials and award of tenure. Groveling in the gutter, they’ve challenged his claims to “Indian Blood,” all the while completely oblivious to the racist nature of the question. Exactly how Irish/German/Mexican/African/Chinese are you? Still hanging out in the gutter, the press has also published:

  • one-sided details of Churchill’s feud with a former sister-in-law;
  • quotes from other self-identified Indians with long-standing grudges against Churchill who are thrilled to tell anyone who will listen that behind the shades and the beads the CU prof is just another white man;
  • fancy genealogy charts supposedly proving that Churchill’s a liar (all they really illustrate is that the editors who approved them are in need of a serious lashing);
  • the allegations of a professor who claims Churchill threatened to punch her lights out;
  • a ridiculous story about the inability of the University of Illinois to locate Churchill’s masters thesis (the clear implication being that he didn’t write it, instead of that the university might have lost it.)
  • stories raising doubts about the nature of his actual service in Vietnam: did he drive a truck, walk point, or write army press releases?

And the newspapers have given plenty of ink to Colorado Governor “Big” Bill Owens, who like so many political bosses in Colorado history, is calling for Churchill’s head and threatening CU if he doesn’t get it. Now, Ward Churchill can fan flames with the best of ’em – he can fight his own battles. But why are the papers helping the governor fight his? Which brings me to my final point. The Post and News have seen fit to publish the most half-baked, self-interested, and just plain stupid allegations against Churchill, and are giving mega space to the heavy-handed invective being tossed about by Owens. But they won’t publish a word about the allegations and rumors swirling over our governor in the hallways of the state capitol, in downtown offices, in suburban restaurants, at cocktail parties and basketball games. Everyone knows what I’m talking about. The governor’s separation from his wife, and worse. Rumors? Maybe. Substantiated? Who knows? The papers won’t publish anything. Normally that kind of intimate information should remain private, even for elected officials. But when the politician at issue is someone who regularly preaches to others about morality and immorality, denounces same-sex marriage and affixes himself to the noxious “family values” cabal currently running amok over our private lives, I say let the games begin. How come Owens gets a pass, but every Tom, Dick and Sally who wants to throw some dirt on Churchill, gets a welcome mat and big black ink at the Post and Rocky? Just wondering.

Dani Newsum, a former civil rights attorney in the Colorado Attorney General’s office, appears weekly on KBDI Channel 12’s “Colorado Inside Out” (8 p.m. Fridays)

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