UW-Madison lecturer Kevin Barrett will talk Sunday at the university about his controversial belief that the U.S. government was complicit in the 9/11 attacks, prompting two elected officials on Tuesday to again call for his termination.
Barrett, a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, will appear with another member of that group, James Fetzer, on Sunday at Van Hise Hall.
The talk, titled "A Folklorist Looks at 9/11 'Conspiracy Theories,'" is sponsored by the UW-Madison's Folklore Program. Fetzer, a professor at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, will talk about "9/11: What We Know Now That We Didn't Know Then." The talks are scheduled from 2 to 4:30 p.m., with the room to be announced.
State Rep. Steve Nass, R- Whitewater, repeated his calls for Barrett to be removed as a university lecturer. Nass also criticized the university's sponsorship of the lecture, which is non-financial. U.S. Rep. Mark Green, Republican candidate for governor, echoed Nass' call for the university to terminate Barrett, calling his views "absurd and slanderous."
"The taxpayers of Wisconsin and the tuition-paying families aren't interested in supporting the University of Wingnuts in Madison," Nass said in a prepared statement, calling Barrett's employment by the university "embarrassing."
UW-Madison Provost Phil Farrell this summer had advised Barrett not to use his university position as a forum for his controversial views.
"So far the evidence of what's happening in his course (Islam: Religion and Culture) is ... that he has been able to separate his personal opinions from what he's teaching in the class and what the students are expected to learn," Farrell said.
He said Barrett was giving his talk as a member of the 9/11 group, not a university employee. Farrell added that once a department has decided to sponsor a lecture based on its academic value, "Speakers are pretty much free to say what they like. We don't control what they say."
UW-Madison Folklore Program director James Leary said the talks would focus on the "legends and rumors and so-forth that circulated at the grass-roots level" about 9/11 and how they "depart from the official pronouncements of institutions like government and so forth."
"This is an important and legitimate issue to discuss from a number of different perspectives," Leary and, "so my feeling is, in the interest of free speech and broad exchange, why not allow this?"
Barrett agreed, saying, "If the university is not the place to be thinking about the most important event of the 21st century, where is?"
He added that Nass' repeated calls for his resignation were becoming comical. "I'm starting to feel like Bugs Bunny and Nass is Elmer Fudd."