A University of Wisconsin instructor under fire for his view that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks said Thursday he was confident he would keep his job.
Kevin Barrett also told The Associated Press he was elated the controversy has given his cause long-sought publicity.
"If these idiots had just kept their mouths shut, nobody would have ever heard of me," Barrett said of his critics. "I've been trying to get publicity for years."
Barrett, active in a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth, is among a small group that believes the attacks were carried out by U.S. government officials, not al-Qaida terrorists. He came under fire after he spoke on a Wisconsin talk show last week and acknowledged he presented the theory to his students in the past.
After the appearance, UW-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell launched a review into Barrett's past performance and whether the content of the course on Islam he is scheduled to teach this fall is appropriate. The findings are expected to be released Friday.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green demanded on Thursday that Barrett be fired for his views before he speaks Sunday at a forum on social justice at UW-Milwaukee.
"His views on the worst terrorist attack on American soil are casting a negative shadow nationally on the university system and our entire state," Green wrote in a letter to UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley. He said Barrett should be fired before his talk on Sunday "gives any more unwanted publicity to the university."
The gathering of activists at the Midwest Social Forum features a discussion by Barrett and another 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Barrett said they will argue that the attacks were a covert operation "involving top U.S. officials, including Dick Cheney" designed to launch a 50-year war in the Middle East.
The president of the UW System Board of Regents, David Walsh, called Barrett's views "stupid and irrational" but slammed Green and other politicians for "threatening to fire people because of their ideas."
"No one is saying that Mr. Barrett is right but he certainly has a right to present it as a possibility so long that he provides a balanced presentation," said Walsh, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. "Students learn by challenging and discussing these ideas. That's what our mission is about."
Doyle, however, also questions whether Barrett is competent to teach at UW, said spokesman Dan Leistikow, given his "outlandish views."
Barrett said he met with Farrell on Monday and promised he would keep his personal views, which he acknowledged were inflammatory, out of the classroom. However, he said he would present a theory that is similar to his as well as the accepted wisdom that terrorists carried out the attacks.
He said he was confident he would be allowed to teach this fall but worried the university would not renew his contract in future years. He is set to earn $8,247 in the fall semester for the part-time appointment.
"Professors have all sorts of ideas about all sorts of things. Many of those ideas sound completely crazy to other people," Barrett said. "If you fired every professor with a crazy idea, you'd lose half of the academy."
He said he also teaches at Edgewood College in Madison, which was well aware of his activism when he was hired. A spokesman for Edgewood, a small liberal arts college, confirmed he was scheduled to teach a course on Islam this fall.
Barrett said Republicans who had fueled the story helped give his views publicity around the country. He had harsh words for Green, who he compared to Communist-hunting former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.
"I think his McCarthyist tactics are casting an ugly shadow on our state," said Barrett, 47, of Madison.
Green's campaign manager, Mark Graul, called Barrett an unqualified "nutjob."
"We shouldn't be wasting one dime of tuition or tax dollars on this guy's completely inaccurate and irresponsible theories," he said.