University of New Mexico: Censorship of Professor After Joking About Pentagon Attack

Category: Free Speech
Schools: University of New Mexico

University of New Mexico Professor Richard Berthold addressed the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 in his Western Civilization class, remarking, "Anyone who can bomb the Pentagon has my vote." Berthold apologized for the statement, and his speech was protected under the First Amendment, but University of New Mexico President William C. Gordon still nonetheless announced he would "vigorously pursue" disciplinary action. Although FIRE protested and the case drew national media attention, Berthold was found guilty of violating the standards of "professorial responsibility" and was banned from teaching freshman classes for a year, amongst other measures.

  • My Five Minutes of Infamy

    November 25, 2002

    Prior to 11 September 2001 I was simply a professor of classical history, popular on the campus but essentially unknown beyond the confines of the second-rate university where I have taught for the last thirty years. Then, on that day, while preparing to leave for an eight o’clock Western Civilization class, I watched in amazement as two airplanes flew into buildings in New York City. A bit later in front of perhaps one hundred students I then uttered the remark that brought me my fifteen minutes of fame – or better, infamy: “Anybody who blows up the Pentagon gets my […]

    » Read More

  • FIRE’s letter to President Gordon

    October 23, 2001

    October 23, 2001 President William C. Gordon President of the University of New Mexico Scholes Hall 160 Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131 Dear President Gordon: As you can see from the list of our Directors and Board of Advisors, FIRE unites leaders in the fields of civil rights and civil liberties, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of liberty, legal equality, freedom of religion, due process and-in the case of Professor Berthold-freedom of speech and academic freedom on America’s college campuses. Our web page,, will give you a greater sense of our identity […]

    » Read More