Nicholas De Genova has previously held positions at Kings College London and was a visiting professor at Stanford University.
De Genova created controversy March 26, 2003 during a teach-in when he made a statement protesting the impending Iraq War. De Genova said that he hoped U.S. soldiers would experience “a million Mogadishus,” a reference to the bloody losses U.S. troops suffered in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. He also stated that “U.S. patriotism is inseparable from imperial warfare and white supremacy” and that “The only true heroes are those who find ways to defeat the U.S. military.” (1)
This drew sharp criticism from a variety of sources including Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, who said that “Under well-established principles of the First Amendment, this is within a person’s right to free speech” also stated that “Not for a second, however, does that insulate it from criticism. I am shocked that someone would make such statements. I am especially saddened for the families of those whose lives are now at risk.” (2)
Arizona Congressman J. D. Hayworth wrote that “De Genova’s comments are not only seditious, they are racist. They bring shame not only on him, but also on one of America’s great institutions of higher learning.” Hayworth also submitted a letter, signed by 103 Congressmen, to Columbia President Lee Bollinger urging him to fire De Genova. Hayworth added that “the issue is not whether De Genova has the right to make idiotic and hateful comments – he surely does – but whether he has the right to a job teaching at Columbia University after making such comments.”
Students held a rally at Columbia University to support U.S. soldiers in Iraq, demonstrators and speakers sharply criticized De Genova and The Chronicle of Higher Education subsequently dubbed De Genova as “The most hated professor in America.”
The U.S. Military Veterans of Columbia University wrote a letter addressed to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger stating that De Genova’s comments were “unacceptable” and demonstrated “his contempt and disregard for human life,” and called on the University to “issue an official condemnation of Professor De Genova’s comments and issue him a letter of reprimand or similar administrative punishment.” De Genova later stated that Bollinger “has set himself up as an apologist of war crime and apartheid,” and called upon Bollinger to resign. (4)
De Genova responded to this is an op-ed in the Columbia Spectator, where he wrote that “imperialism and white supremacy have been constitutive of U.S. nation-state formation and U.S. nationalism” and called for “repudiating all forms of U.S. patriotism” and urged “the defeat of the U.S. war machine.” He also stated that “my rejection of U.S. nationalism is an appeal to liberate our own political imaginations such that we might usher in a radically different world in which we will not remain the prisoners of U.S. global domination (5)
De Genova has also made controversial remarks on the Middle East. At a Columbia teach-in he told students, “The heritage of the Holocaust belongs to the Palestinian people. The State of Israel has no claim to the heritage of the Holocaust. The heritage of the oppressed belongs to the oppressed, not the oppressor.” (6)
- Ron Howell, “Radicals Speak Out At Columbia ‘Teach-In,’” NewsDay, March 27, 2003.
- President Bollinger’s Recent Statement on Assistant Professor De Genova’s Comments by Lee Bollinger, Columbia News, (Columbia.edu), April 3, 2003.
Professor Mogadishu by Matthew Continetti, National Review Online, March 31, 2003.
3) The Most Hated Professor in America by Thomas Bartlett, April 18, 2003, Chronicle of Higher Education
4) MilVets respond to Prof de Genova, April 2003
5) Letter to the Editor by Nicolas De Genova, Columbia Spectator, March 27, 2003. (reprinted in The History News Network).
6) Hate Speech at Columbia is Academic by U.S. Congressman J.D. Hayworth, Center for Individual Freedom, April 10, 2003.