Lecturer Under Fire for 9/11 Conspiracy Belief


July 25, 2006 — -- Wisconsin lawmakers are demanding that a University of Wisconsin-Madison lecturer be pulled from his fall teaching position because of his belief that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were not carried out by terrorists, but by the U.S. government.

Kevin Barrett, who is scheduled to teach the course "Islam: Religion and Culture," said during a recent talk-radio show appearance that the attacks were carried out by the government to start a war in the Middle East.

His comments drew widespread criticism, including action from 52 Wisconsin state Assembly representatives and nine state senators.

The lawmakers signed a letter last week expressing strong disapproval of Barrett's teaching position.

The letter demands that Barrett be released from his lecturing post immediately and says his 9/11 conspiracy theory is "dishonest."

The letter was delivered to Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and University of Wisconsin-Madison officials on Monday.

Barrett maintains, however, that he will not present only his views in the classroom.

"I present what I consider to be interesting and/or defensible positions, and urge the students to come to their own conclusions," Barrett said in an e- mail to ABC News. "I try to present ideas that I absolutely detest with as much enthusiasm as those I love, and often succeed."

Barrett said his views on the 9/11 attacks should not come as a surprise to anyone.

"I've been saying these things for three years, on local and national radio and TV, while teaching at UW-Madison and Edgewood College of Madison," he said. "Nobody even complained before, least of all the students."

Last month, University of Wisconsin provost Patrick Farrell launched a 10-day review of Barrett's course syllabus and reading materials, and examined previous student's evaluations.

"Mr. Barrett's statements regarding the events of Sept. 11 have raised some legitimate concerns about the content and quality of instruction in his planned fall course," Farrell said in a statement.

Ultimately, Farrell's investigation concluded that Barrett would be a qualified instructor.

"There is no question that Mr. Barrett holds personal opinions that many people find unconventional," Farrell said in the statement. "These views are expected to take a small, but significant role in the class."

Barrett is co-founder of an organization called the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance.

The organization says on its Web site that it is "dedicated to uniting members of the Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths in pursuit of 9/11 truth."

Barrett said that at most, 5 percent of his course would focus on the Sept. 11 attacks. Still, critics such as Republican Rep. Steve Nass are calling for his dismissal.

"When 61 legislators condemn a decision by UW-Madison and demand the dismissal of Kevin Barrett, the leadership of the UW System operates at its own peril if it continues to ignore views of the taxpayers," Nass said.

"This isn't a fight about academic freedom. It is a fight about fact versus fiction. It is a fight about whether the taxpayers can expect high standards in the classrooms and administrative offices of the UW system," Nass said.

Barrett has challenged Nass to a public debate.

It appears he is not alone with his controversial Sept. 11 conspiracy theories. According to a March 2004 Gallup poll, 53 percent of those surveyed said they thought the Bush administration was covering up pre-9/11 intelligence.

Barrett, who received his Ph.D. from UW-Madison in 2004, is only set to teach one semester for a salary of $8,247.

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