Interview with Kenneth Hearlson

November 30, 2001

Fox News’s Hannity & Colmes

COLMES: Welcome back to HANNITY & COLMES. I’m Alan Colmes.

Coming up, does the CIA rely on disguises and trickery when it infiltrates enemy territory during war?

And will you accept Usama bin Laden on a magazine cover as person of the year? But, first, four Muslim students at Orange Coast College complained that their government professor, Kenneth Hearlson, insulted and accused one of them of being a terrorist. Professor Hearlson was suspended pending an investigation.

He joins us in silhouette because of alleged threats on his life. His attorney, Michelle Reinglass, joins us as well. You can see that she’s not in silhouette.

Kenneth, let me begin with you. And is it that severe that you cannot physically be seen on HANNITY & COLMES?

PROF. KENNETH HEARLSON, ORANGE COAST COLLEGE: Well, sir, I — it’s not that severe, I don’t think, but it was a threat, and I am — had fears for my family and my children, grandchildren, et cetera, and many of the news reporters from “The New York Times,” “The L.A. Times” have asked me for photographs, and I just have not given anyone a photograph and a picture of my face.

COLMES: What…

HEARLSON: It’s not because I’m old and ugly. It’s just because — and I am old and ugly.

COLMES: What did you say — what did you say and what did you do that incurred the wrath of Muslim students in your class, I believe it was, September 18?

HEARLSON: That’s correct, sir. I raised an issue in the classroom, and I…

It’s an open-forum classroom, and I tell all students from the get-go that “Every opinion is correct.

I want to hear from every student. You’re free to speak up in this classroom because it’s a protected classroom.”

I raised the issue on September the 18th of why do Muslims condemn the terrorist attacks against America but refuse to condemn the terrorist attacks against Israel and the Jewish people.

I also brought up the subject of the Sudan and mentioned that here is genocide to — by Muslims in the Islamic Republic of Sudan against the two most beautiful tribes in Africa.

COLMES: Now let’s go to the case here, though. Many students believe — or a couple of them believe that you were talking specifically to them and accusing them individually of the atrocities visited upon America, correct?

HEARLSON: That’s correct. That’s what they alleged.

COLMES: And Attorney Reinglass, what kind of legal cases are here?

MICHELLE REINGLASS, ATTORNEY: Well, number one, we have defamations.

Number two, with regard to his employment status, the university — or the college has violated its own policies putting him on suspension, and that has furthered the defamations, these false allegations that have been made.

Fortunately, some students have made tapes of the class, and the accusations are clearly proven to be incorrect.

COLMES: All right. We have a transcript of that class. I just want to put it up here for a second.

You have a female student saying, “Do you know what’s going on here?”

The professor says, “Let him speak.”

A male student says, “I’m trying to restate something you said earlier. You said that you attacked,” blah, blah, blah, “That person did not attack”…

Professor: “No, that person did not.”

The male student says, “I know. I just wanted to correct you.”

And you say, “Absolutely. I’m just talking about Arab nations.”

It goes on and on. “The point is you’re talking about nations, not individuals.”

You have that on tape, Attorney. So that’s your proof right there, right?

REINGLASS: Absolutely. Among others. I mean, there are —

What happened is, in the initial stages of the lecture, he made comments about the terrorists being stupid and comments about the historical aspects of the Nazis, you know, and things of that nature, and some of the allegations that showed up in print in the media was that Professor Hearlson had accused these students of being Nazis and being stupid. Now…

HANNITY: Now…

REINGLASS: Things of that nature.

HANNITY: Professor, let me go back to you a second. I spent a lot of time reading — first of all, why did you have a transcript? I mean, do you tape every single class because this…

HEARLSON: I can — allow the tapes to — to be — my class to be taped by the school, but I allow students to tape if they don’t quite understand. I have a large number of international students, and a young lady…

(CROSSTALK)

HEARLSON: She, in fact, taped the class and brought the tape to me, who I gave to my attorney.

HANNITY: Right. Now I read it very closely, and you couldn’t have been more clear that no opinion is wrong, that you wanted — they could write an opinion in favor of Usama bin Laden, you even said, or Adolf Hitler, but — and they wouldn’t be graded because of their opinion, just the way they put it together, correct?

HEARLSON: That’s correct.

HANNITY: And you also, Professor, changed the format of your show in light of the events of September 11, so you were trying to make the class relevant to students and engage them.

HEARLSON: That’s correct, sir.

HANNITY: OK. Then i want to — I need to know this. After reading the transcript — and — and let me tell you you have a lively class, by the way. I’m trying to understand…

HEARLSON: Thank you.

HANNITY: … specifically where in this transcript — and I’ve read through it — did you make the allegation about that student. Do you know where? Do you know where they’re citing, what page?

HEARLSON: I did not make the allegations.

HANNITY: What?

HEARLSON: There was no allegations made. I told the school that on September the 19th — Bob Dees, the vice president — that these were false allegations. They were fabricated.

HANNITY: Right. All right. So…

HEARLSON: They did not believe me.

HANNITY: Now I — look, I’m reading — some of — some of this — I couldn’t read it totally because it was a little smudged, so I just — I was asking if there’s anything I’m missing here, but everything…

HEARLSON: No, there is not.

HANNITY: … that I read — you were engaging the students. You seemed to be trying to provoke thought.

Now you had also — this is a part of the story that hasn’t come out in any of the printed reports. You were threatened last year. I assume it was last year. That was my take on it, right?

HEARLSON: Spring semester.

HANNITY: Tell us about that.

HEARLSON: Well, I was threatened in a class where I raised the issue of terrorism again against the USS Cole. I put a overhead picture — it’s a large classroom, 200 students — of the 17 young men and women that died and was giving kind of a eulogy of how they were heroes and they were great Americans…

HANNITY: Right.

HEARLSON: … et cetera, and I had Muslim students in the back of the classroom stand up and say that Usama bin Laden should have killed more Americans and they supported Usama bin Laden.

They got so belligerent and angry I had to kick them out of the classroom. They in turn, as they left the classroom, said, “We’re going to come back after class and beat you up.” HANNITY: All right, but now — and it goes even further…

REINGLASS: Can I just add…

HANNITY: What — wasn’t there anti-Semitism on a poster by a group that identified themselves as a Muslim group? Is that true?

HEARLSON: That’s absolutely true. In October of 2000, they had a rally on campus that was by the Muslim student association that was a hate rally against Jews.

HANNITY: Are you Jewish, sir, because…

HEARLSON: No, sir.

HANNITY: … because there seems to be… HEARLSON: I’m a born again Christian.

HANNITY: Yeah. Because it seemed to be a lot of anti-Semitism on this campus. I mean, a lot. And —

Well, anyway, Attorney — Counsel, you wanted to weigh in?

REINGLASS: Yeah. Just a couple of comments. First of all, with regard to these — the threats, there were two teachers’ aides who overheard these students leaving the classroom, making the threats, and they brought security in. I mean, that’s how serious this was. And Professor Hearlson was — it was recommended that he not even go back into the classroom, but he defied that and said, “I’m going to go in and teach.”

COLMES: All right. REINGLASS: This was during a break. And…

COLMES: OK. Hold it. OK. Just finish your sentence. We’re going to come back in a moment.

REINGLASS: OK. So — and it was a significant threat. COLMES: All right. We’re going to come back. We’ll pick it up right there.

And you will hear more about this incredible story, which we will be following.

And then, you’re going to be introduced to a former CIA agent, a master of disguise. He could have been sitting next to you on the bus this very morning.

And how does Usama bin Laden compare to Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt? You’ll find out, and you’ll be surprised. That debate coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HANNITY: And we continue now on HANNITY & COLMES.

We go back to Professor Kenneth Hearlson. I want to ask you specifically — now there’s administration bylaws, university bylaws. You’re describing this case. You have an entire transcript. Did they know that you would get a transcript and there was a tape available prior to them putting you on suspension without a hearing?

HEARLSON: No, they did not know that.

HANNITY: Oh, so — so now they do know, don’t they?

HEARLSON: Well, they were given — they were — had the opportunity to have a tape on September the 27th, and a student offered them one, and – – with his testimony. He was in the class that night. And they rejected that tape. They didn’t want to hear from him. They never called him back until the investigation was over.

HANNITY: But — but what’s so outrageous about this is — from my standpoint — they never gave you a chance to tell your story, to present your case, correct?

HEARLSON: That’s — there was no due process period.

HANNITY: Yeah. Now, I guess, Counsel, that raises a lot of questions. You mentioned the word “defamation” before. Is — is it your plan or —

Professor, we’ll start with you. Professor, is it your plan to sue for defamation the students? Do you think they purposely went out there to malign you?

REINGLASS: Well, I think we’re dealing with two issues here. Number one is, you know, the students’ actions, but, right now, his career is at stake. We’re taking this one step at a time.

Our first and foremost goal is to get him back in the classroom where he belongs. The longer that he’s out, you know, it raises this appearance of guilt, you know, and they need to get him back…

HANNITY: What does the university say?

REINGLASS: They have not responded to the request to put him back in the classroom, so…

HANNITY: Yeah.

COLMES: By the way, I meant to say earlier the transcript we have is provided by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. We thank them for that.

Mr. Hearlson, you’ve been there 28 years. This is an amazing — it’s outrageous that you’ve been treated like this, without due process, without a hearing. Has the administration — let me go to your counselor on this.

Counselor Reinglass, has the administration at all acknowledged that they were in the wrong here? They’ve got the tape. You’ve got the transcript. No due process.

REINGLASS: Well, no. What they did — the — they did one thing right, which was to hire an investigator to investigate this matter. The investigation has been going on for quite some weeks.

But what they should never have done is taken him out of the classroom because that was adjudging him guilty without having any evidence whatsoever, as you have pointed out, and, again, it’s contrary to their policies.

They have four students out of a class of approximately 200. So based on four students — and I’m not sure we even have all four who have complained — we know of two. Based on that small minority of people complaining, they removed this man, yanked him out of the classroom, as if he is some threat, as if…

COLMES: Professor, you had a student last spring who said it’s OK to shoot their eyes out in Israel, referring to Muslims. So it’s OK for a student to say and have free speech in a class, but I guess not for a professor.

HEARLSON: Well, I guess not.

COLMES: Double standard, right?

HEARLSON: I encourage free speech. I have one policy. Free speech is free speech. There’s no other speech but free speech. In my classroom, everybody is right in the marketplace of ideas, and I do not judge anyone in the classroom based on religion, liberal, conservative, et cetera, although I teach as a Christian conservative, which I am, and I — I’m very firm in my belief and my support for conservative causes.

HANNITY: Professor — and the transcript is there. Anybody can read it for themselves. And you say that in that class that day, and it’s a good thing they have that tape. I have a funny feeling you’ll be back in that classroom soon.

Thank you, sir.

HEARLSON: Thank you very much.

HANNITY: Counselor, thank you.

REINGLASS: Thank you.

HANNITY: And coming up on HANNITY & COLMES, we’ll introduce you to a master of disguise who will take us inside the shadowy world of international espionage and the CIA. That’s all coming up.

And should be Usama be named man of the year?

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Schools: Orange Coast College Cases: Orange Coast College: Suspension of Professor Without a Hearing for Political Science Lecture