The following originally ran in the September 2, 2008 issue of The Claremont Independent.
When independent filmmaker Peter Musurlian produced a YouTube video critical of a CGU lecture of Turkish Diplomat R. Hakan Tekin, the last thing he expected was a call from Paul Silvio Berra, a high-priced Santa-Monica-based attorney retained by CGU telling him to take it down.
The lecture, "The Role and Challenges of Turkey in a Globalizing World," took place on June 10 and was open to the public; Musurlian, who filmed the talk for a local news network, felt he had every right to be there. "I was filming openly and even asked a question," Musurlian said, calling the experience "very pleasant." "I never expected to be intimidated by CGU's attorney."
But intimated he was. After a stern conversation with Berra, Musurlian created a website, Claremontgenocideuniversity.com, where he put up all of his correspondence with the Santa Monica lawyer, the promotional material used before the lecture, and an open letter to President Klitgaard reminding him of the press freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment.
According to claremontgenocideuniversity.com, Berra called Musurlian on June 23 and said that he "had no authority to post the video" and informed him that CGU had contacted YouTube to take it down. (YouTube eventually put the video back up on July 10 after it found that it didn't violate their policies.) Berra did not return phone calls after repeated requests.
According to Musurlian, Berra told him that filming the students constituted "harassment" and demanded that Musurlian blur out the faces of the students he filmed, citing the potential privacy concerns of the students present. Musurlian complied, though he doubted the legality of the harassment charge, and felt that he didn't have to under the law. Musurlian says that no student objected to his filming, and Claremont Independent inquiries into concerned students yielded no returns.
The story, covered first by this author on The Claremont Conservative and later by the press, eventually made it to the Society of Professional Journalists and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a foundation dedicated to individual rights in higher education.
Luke Sheahan of FIRE does not think Musurlian was guilty of harassment at all and sees the censorship as part of a larger effort on college campuses to silence politically sensitive speech. "Real harassment is a serious crime, and every time it is misused by a college or university it cheapens the experience of those who are true victims of harassing behavior," writes Sheahan on FIRE's blog, The Torch.
Adds Azhar Majeed, also of FIRE, "For conduct to qualify as harassment, it must be so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it interferes with, and effectively bars, one's equal access to educational or work opportunities."
A History of Censorship on Claremont's Campuses
The harassment argument is often used to censor speech that politically correct groups find unattractive on the Claremont Colleges, even though censorship, including on private colleges or universities, violates California's so-called Leonard Law. Passed in 1992, the Leonard Law safeguards students right to freedom of speech "and other communication" and allows students to file civil action lawsuits to seek injuctive or declaratory relief from private or public colleges.
In 1995, Stanford Law student Robert J. Corry and eight other Stanford students sued Stanford over a speech code and won. The Superior Court of Santa Clara County found that "a private university student has the same right to exercise his or her right to free speech on campus as he or she enjoys off campus." Speech codes that seek to protect minorities over the First Amendment were "overbroad" and could not stand. The court specifically found that Stanford's speech code was content-based, "selecting for special treatment certain disfavored topics."
Given that most of the speech restrictions at the Claremont Colleges - so-called "bias-related incidents" - are specifically content-based, this case raises interesting questions for the administrations of the 5Cs. What authority do the Claremont Colleges have to police bias-related incidents?
Sadly, Claremont McKenna is no stranger to the Leonard Law either. In 1997, Brad Kvederis sued Claremont McKenna after he refused to attend sensitivity training for publishing an obviously satirical newsletter under the pseudonym Johnny Gestapo. The profanity-laced newsletter poked fun at the drinking culture on campus and took quotes out of context to make them more humorous. According to Kvederis, three girls - only one of which was mentioned in the newsletter - filed harassment complaints with the administration; "probably fearing a lawsuit," the administration kicked him out until he attended a sexual harassment seminar.
Geoffrey Baum, then assistant vice president for marketing and public relations, argued that Kvederis had gone too far. "From our perspective this was a sexual harassment issue," Baum said at the time. "We are required to provide an environment free of sexual harassment." Just why the college, which doesn't have any of the due process safeguards or resources as an actual court, is required to do so is an open question. During the proceedings, the school undoubtedly violated Kvederis's right to fair trial when it admitted into evidence a conversation that Kvederis had had with one of the girls who he had offended. Unbeknownst to Kvederis, she had recorded the entire conversation in direct violation of California law.
But Kvederis's attorneys from the ACLU disagreed and argued that Kvederis's speech was protected. Initially CMC won, but Kvederis appealed and the parties settled out of court for an undisclosed sum several years after Kvederis had left campus.
Since the Kvederis lawsuit, it has become standard on the Claremont campuses to threaten harassment charges when the speech offends.
In 2003, The Claremont Portside retracted a story that accused CGU professor Harry V. Jaffa of harassment and accused him of saying that homosexuals should be shot. He said no such thing and the Claremont Institute, for which he worked, threatened a lawsuit unless a retraction was printed. It was, but it established a nasty precedent where the school newspapers and campus radicals would conduct witch hunts in their quests to unearth what one girl from The Student Life, Pomona's weekly newspaper, has called "the racism all around us."
FIRE and the White Party
Last semester, the Claremont Independent covered the story of the Scripps College Dean of Students, Debra Carlson Wood, who sent a heated letter to Claremont McKenna Dean of Student Jeff Huang and the Scripps student body in which she called Claremont McKenna's class of 2010 racist and sexist for promoting on her campus a "White Party," in which members arrive dressed in all white. The party fliers featured DJ Timbo, the DJ of the party, dancing with two bikini-clad black women.
Although Wood, who is white, did not claim this in the letter or afterward, many Scrippsies and campus feminists saw the images as furthering jezebel or blackploitation stereotypes. But when one of the dancers said that she found it liberating to dance, that charge soon fizzled, as did allegations of racism when it was revealed that one of the party's promoters was black. Excepting The Student Life and the Voice (Scripps), which apologized for Wood, she was condemned across campus and the party was highly attended. Creepily, in language reminiscent of thought police, Wood suggested at the Motley that students who didn't believe what she did were in need of further "education."
After Wood's debacle, FIRE sent an open letter to all of the Claremont consortium presidents reminding them of their commitments to freedom of speech and academic freedom. The letter was also addressed to Staci Buchwald, Associate Dean of Students at Scripps and Jeanne Noda, Vice President and Dean of Students at Harvey Mudd.
In the March 18 letter, FIRE's director for Individual Rights Defense Program, Adam Kissel, detailed several "bias-related" incidents that have appeared on campus. In addition to the Wood incident, FIRE documented the following two other incidents involving Ms. Buchwald and Ms. Noda.
On February 7, after the election results of Super Tuesday had come in, Harvey Mudd College Dean of Students Jeanne Noda e-mailed all students to note that someone had written "Hillary is a foxy lesbian" on a whiteboard. According to Noda, "It seems that the student residents wrote this message as part of a joke, without thinking about the impact it might have on others. It refers to a prominent public figure. The message has been erased. Campus Safety has been notified."
On March 10, Scripps College Associate Dean of Students Staci Buchwald e-mailed all students that "a person wrote a cultural epithet and offensive drawing on the write and wipe board of a student's room." Buchwald asked students to provide information about the "perpetrator." She added, "We are a supportive, caring community and bias related incidents will not be tolerated. Any time a community member becomes aware of a racist, sexist, heterosexist bias incident on our campus, a potential bias incident or hate crime, or any other type of crime, they are urged to [take] appropriate action to combat the incident."
Interestingly, Ms. Buchwald also said that there was "a binder of incidents" available in her office and that "persons wishing to review this binder may do so during regular office hours." I took Ms. Buchwald up on her offer, only to find the so-called binder was filled with her very own email, and nothing else.
FIRE ended its letter by encouraging the schools to honor their commitments to free speech as expressed in all of their handbooks and reminded them of the Leonard Law.
No one at the Claremont Colleges responded to FIRE's letter, but local press featured a statement from Barbara Jefferson, a Claremont University Consortium spokeswoman, who said, "FIRE has threatened with litigation. We have no comment." But according to FIRE, they did nothing of the sort. In fact, FIRE does not even litigate cases at all.
Distorting for the Cause
Often in the campus-wide quest to take stands against racism, homophobia, etc., campus radicals distort the actual nature of the events to serve their agenda. Since FIRE's letter, numerous other "bias-related" incidents have been investigated by this author, only to find them lacking of bias or any real hate.
The most recent of these prevarications is an article written by Lindsay Mullen, "Pomona Begins Investigation Over QRC [Queer Resource Center] Bias Incident," which reported that Associate Dean of Students Daren Mooko was "heading an investigation," "interviewing witnesses," and "working to develop a charge sheet." Even though there was no permanent damage and nothing was stolen, Mullen reported that a flag was stolen from the QRC. In fact, the door had remained locked the entire evening.
Examining the police report from the incident confirms that nothing was stolen, despite claims from Joshua Harris, QRC Interim Coordinator and Graduate Advisor, to the contrary. "Regardless of the intent…the people who work and use this space can't help but feel violated and threatened," Harris told the TSL.
Ironically, Harris disregarded the common sense observation that if one is going to make the claim that hate crimes exist, intent clearly does matter. Incidentally, the "incident" was later found to be the work of drunken students, not of hateful vandals.
But this belief that the intent doesn't matter - only the feelings of the aggrieved - is a mockery of justice, as several Pomona football players know well. These students were called into the office of Marcelle Holmes, Acting Associate Dean of Students and Dean of Women, after someone reported their breakfast conversation. The gentlemen were talking about an alleged hate crime - the QRC "attack" - and they were giving their opinion. It wasn't a hate crime, they said, but a bunch of students drinking in Walton Commons.
As they were leaving Frary, they were greeted by a campus safety officer and Dean Holmes. According to two of the boys, who asked that their names be kept out of any articles, Holmes said that someone overhearing their conversation had reported them for "hateful language." She argued that in the wake of Virginia Tech, they had to check all suspicious behavior before it became a threat; further, they said that the boys were "identifiable white males" so they could understand why "some people" would feel threatened.
All this for having a private conversation. When I asked by email if Dean Holmes would comment, she said no, and, ironically, added that she didn't speak about private conversations.
The privacy of their conversation didn't stop Pomona's The Student Life from "reporting" on that conversation in their security briefs section in its February 22, 2008 issue, with a concocted statement. They "reported" someone overhearing one of the students say, "If I want to take out my frustrations, I would go to the QRC, and if I want to kill someone, I would go to the QRC." The students, of course, deny saying any such thing.
A Double Standard
But the harassment charge and campus-wide emails are rarely applied evenly. This past year, John Swanson PO '10 had his room repeatedly vandalized when he put up political material supporting John McCain for president.
His sister, Ellie PO '04, an Obama supporter, explained in a Facebook note, "Pomona students have thus far poured coffee on John's bumper stickers, ripped off his McCain stickers from his door, stolen his McCain sign from his window, and written "F**K U" on his (new) McCain sign."
Contrary to the many supposed bias-incidents that occur on campus that can be easily cleaned up or erased off white boards, this one resulted in real damage of property.
And yet this most serious of offenses went unnoticed by the Pomona community. No campus-wide email went out to the five college campuses.
For those who choose to fight the political correctness on campus, it's often a lonely struggle; but ultimately, it is worthwhile. Peter Musurlian wrote to Berra, CGU's high-priced attorney, "My paternal grandfather's five young sisters, buried in the Syrian Desert during the Armenian Genocide, already represent Musurlians victimized by bullies."
Now there's something to think about the next time campus radicals try to pressure you from speaking your mind.
Charles Johnson is a sophomore at CMC and an assistant editor of the CI.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
The following originally ran in the September 2, 2008 issue of The Claremont Independent.
I interviewed John Doggett, the founder of the Black Student Union, for The Claremont Independent as part of a series I am doing on notable Claremont alums.
Here's the link to Part 1 and Part 2. I've reposted it all right here.
The Claremont Independent will be interviewing a number of CMC alumni in the coming issues to hear about their time at CMC and some of their life stories. The first interview in this series is with John Doggett '69, a founder and president of the Black Students Union. His political views evolved as he went through CMC and Yale Law, until he came to conservatism. Doggett was an acquaintance of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for whom he testified at the infamous Anita Hill hearings. This interview is split into two parts, and was conducted by Charles Johnson, an assistant editor of the Claremont Independent.
PART I: LA public schools, CMC, and liberal racism
Tell us a little bit about your time before Claremont.
I entered CMC in the fall of 1965. It was a time when race and class were at the forefront of my life.
I am a product of the public school system of Los Angeles. Each year, my class was the last one to have more white students than blacks, Asians and Latinos. While most of my teachers didn't care about our skin color, a small minority of my white teachers resented this growing "dark cloud" that was befouling their campuses. They yearned for the good-old-days where the only thing they worried about was having too many Jews in their class. Sadly, these hateful teachers spared no effort in trying to convince us that we would never amount to anything because of our skin color.
When one of my high school classmates asked the college advisor at Los Angeles High School for a SAT application, she refused to give him one. She said that he didn't need to take the SAT to attend a Junior College. When he said that he wanted to attend a four-year institution, she told him that she would only give him a SAT application if both of his parents came to the high school to meet with her. My friend's name is Lorn Foster. Dr. Foster has been a Professor of Politics at Pomona College for more than two decades.
Los Angeles High School was very unusual in that it had a private, million-dollar endowment that allowed it to offer special programs for their best students. One program was designed to encourage LA High students to study physics in college. It sent the top ten physics students on a trip to UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Livermore Research Laboratory. To qualify for this trip, you had to have one of the top ten scores on the AP Physics test.
When I took the AP Physics test as a senior, my score was the 6th best in my class. That so upset those who were opposed to fairness for black students that they changed the rules. They said that for my class, besides having the top AP Physics test scores, you also had to have the highest GPA. When they combined the two, I fell out of the top ten and was disqualified from the trip. My parents complained, but they allowed this ex-post-facto rule change to stand and I stayed home.
I entered CMC in August of 1965. President Johnson was escalating the Vietnam War, they replaced student draft deferments with a draft lottery, the Black Power Movement replaced the Civil Rights Movement and the Watts Riots had just torn Los Angeles apart.
My generation was asking questions that were unthinkable when our parents were young. Why, we asked, did our classmates have to die in Vietnam to prop up a government that seemed corrupt and incompetent? Why, we asked, were blacks denied the right to vote, own property, or marry whomever they loved just because of their skin color? Why, we asked, should we trust people over 30?
Just weeks before I became a student at CMC, the Watts Riots ripped through south-central Los Angeles. At its peak, the violence was so extensive that it spread from Compton in the south to the campus of USC in the center of LA. The elected leaders of Los Angeles became so fearful that the rioting would spread to the rest of Los Angeles that they asked the State to declare martial law. Soon after that, National Guard troops entered the riot zone, and the LAPD started arresting thousands of black citizens who had the misfortune to be outside at the time.
I learned this all too well when they arrested me for the "crime" of being outside on the night they declared martial law. Fortunately, Bill Johnson, a black juvenile probation officer who lived in Claremont, recognized what it meant for me to be admitted to CMC. He helped me survive two weeks of martial law confinement until my parents' lawyer could find me and bail me out. Two weeks later, I was at CMC.
When I entered CMC in 1965, I was a member of the largest number of black students ever admitted to the Claremont Colleges at once. There were five of us. We joined three other blacks to make a grand total of eight black students at the Claremont Colleges in 1965.
How did Claremont McKenna influence your political and economic thinking?
CMC was a very special place in 1965. For the first time in my life, I was in an educational environment where the faculty didn't care about my skin color. They were only concerned about what I said in the classroom, what I wrote in my papers and how I participated in the community. I loved being at CMC so much that I only went home when they closed the dorms.
The first CMC professor who changed how I looked at life was a Polish Count who taught my first-year Introduction to International Relations course. He had fled Poland in 1956 when the communists cracked down on the Polish freedom movement. During an office visit, he asked me what my career goals were. I told him that I wanted to become an US Foreign Service Officer and work in Africa and other developing countries. He then asked me a simple question that changed my life.
He said, "So Mr. Doggett, I assume that the reason you want to represent the United States in Africa is because there are no issues facing Negroes in your country that would benefit from your attention." I was speechless. This man, who had been forced out of his country by the communists, was asking me how could I abandon my people in the midst of a revolution about how Americans thought about race and poverty. That conversation changed me.
I decided that I would commit my life to improving the plight of those who were powerless. This conversation led to my attending Yale Law School and spending seven years representing the interest of the poor. It led to my attending Harvard Business School and spending the rest of my life helping to create jobs and wealth.
The second professor who had a profound impact on how I looked at the world was Martin Diamond, a professor of Political Science. Professor Diamond was a brilliant man whom Time magazine selected as one of the ten best teaching professors in America in 1968. He told me that he once was a follower of Leon Trotsky, a "conservative" communist. While he was trying to recruit "workers" while working as a radio operator on cargo ships, he realized that he didn't enjoy what he was doing. He said at that point, he decided that he would spend the rest of his life doing what excited him, and that was teaching.
Dr. Diamond's story was my first exposure to the ideas of Ayn Ryan and the importance of letting one's self interest guide one's life.
The third person who had a significant impact on my life at CMC was George C.S. Benson, the founding president of CMC. President Benson was an accessible, straight talking person. George and I respected each other although he was a conservative Goldwater Republican and I was a reluctant Democrat. We had worked together to recruit qualified black and Hispanic students and crossed swords when I became the first President of the Black Students' Union of the Claremont Colleges.
When I asked George whether I should attend Harvard or Yale law school in the spring of 1969, Clarence Thomas was a sophomore at Holy Cross College and Anita Hill was in the fifth grade.
George asked me why I wanted to go to law school. I said that I wanted to fight for justice for blacks and poor people. George said, "John, Harvard Law School is good at producing corporate lawyers. Yale Law School grads are more concerned about social issues. Given what I know about you and what you want to do, you will be happier at Yale."
I took George's advice. My Yale Law School classmates included Hillary Rodham, Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, and Lani Guiner. Twenty-two years later, I spent three and a half hours telling the US Senate Judiciary Committee why Clarence Thomas was a good man and why Anita Hill was lying.
What was significant during my four years at CMC was that the faculty and staff were apolitical. Unlike liberals, they felt that pushing their political ideas on their students would have been wrong. So they led by example. They were smart, dedicated to truth, and honest. They treated everyone fairly and held us all to the same standards. It wasn't until I matriculated at Yale Law School that I realized how special my education had been.
You were the founding President of the Black Student Union (BSU). Tell us a little about that history. Why did you found BSU?
The BSU was created in the wake of white student reactions to a speech by Tommy Jacquette, a community activist from Watts. They invited Tommy to CMC to talk about the Watts Riots. At one point, a white student asked him a question, and he said, "Why don't you ask your black classmates sitting next to you?" When a black female student started to answer the question, several white students said, "We don't care what you think, we only want to hear from the speaker." The hostility of our classmates stunned us.
When Tommy said that learning about African history and culture was important, some white students said that "nothing that had ever happened in Africa had any educational value. Nothing at all."
Those comments shocked us and saddened us. Many white students were clueless about what it meant to grow up in a country that still practiced legal racism. For example, it wasn't until 1973 that the US Supreme Court outlawed anti-miscegenation laws that banned interracial marriage in 1/3 of the states. In many parts of California, community or deed restrictions banned the selling of property to blacks.
The more we thought about what we had heard from our classmates during the Tommy Jacquette speech, the more we realized that we would have to be more proactive if the people of Claremont were to understand the meaning of being black in America in the 1960s. Soon afterwards we decided to form a Black Student Union. I was elected President because my colleagues knew that I was comfortable talking with members of the administration.
Our goals were very simple. We wanted respect. We wanted our colleagues at Claremont to view us as equal members of the community. We wanted them to view the history and heritage of African and black people as equally legitimate as the history of any other ethnic group.
Your fellow classmate, Ken Masugi CMC '69, has described those 1960s years as particularly tense. Masugi said in The St. Petersburg Times that black radicals wanted blacks to account for 10 percent of the student body and faculty, with ten percent of the budget to fund the creation of a black studies center and change the curriculum. After their demands were ignored by the Claremont Colleges, two bombings and 25 arsons occurred on campus. One of the bombs maimed a 19-year old secretary. You were on campus during that time and the president of the Black Student Union. How did you feel about that was going on?
Ken is right that the times were tense, but he is wrong that only "black radicals" wanted change. The overwhelming majority of the black students at Claremont felt that the Colleges needed to do a better job of outreach to encourage qualified black students to apply. The Claremont Colleges had developed a reputation for being elitist institutions that didn't want black students. We selected 10% as a target, but were clear that we only wanted the schools to accept students who could do the work. What we wanted was an affirmative recruiting program, not an affirmative action admission program.
We called for the creation of a black studies center because we were appalled at how ignorant most of our classmates were about African and black history and culture. We felt that the study of the life and history of African and black people was just as important as studying Asian history or Western Civilization. The black studies program was to be the first step in turning the study of the African and Black experience into a legitimate academic discipline.
The overwhelming majority of our members abhorred the violence that had become part of the struggle. Unfortunately, some of our members had friends from other colleges where violence had become a way of life. Although they never arrested anyone for the bombings at Claremont, most of us felt that the people responsible for planting the bombs and most of the arson were students from San Francisco State who felt that we were not revolutionary enough.
I was attending a campus-wide discussion about race with the President of Pomona College when the bomb that maimed the young lady exploded. When we learned what had happened, it sickened and deeply saddened us by the senseless violence. It turned out that she was the wife of a football player.
When rumors started circulating that her husband and members of the Montclair KKK were coming to campus for killing black students, the presidents of the Claremont Colleges decided that they should evacuate all black students from campus for our safety.
We spent the next two days in the house of Bert Hammond, an administrator. Highway Patrol, LA County Sheriff and Claremont Police officers blocked the street to his house.
BSU's current president, Jeanine Daniels, wants to create a "safe space" for black students on Pitzer College campus. Did you ever feel as if you needed one when you were a student?
When I first walked down the streets of Claremont, some whites stopped and stared at me. Others almost had car accidents because they were shocked to see blacks in their town. This type of reaction was irritating, but it wasn't threatening.
I think it is very important that black students reject the idea that they need a "safe place" that is only for blacks. That is not why you come to Claremont. I am sure that there still are people in Claremont who don't like blacks. Heck, there are blacks in LA who don't like blacks. They are members of the Crips and Bloods gangs. Racism is just a part of being human. Creating a "safe place" is not the solution that I would support. I prefer confronting bigotry, not avoiding it.
Claremont McKenna also sponsors separate racial retreats during the first few weeks of school. Did you ever go on one of those? Do you feel as if those are necessary?
We didn't have them when I was a student. One challenge that new students have is adjusting to the unique place that is Claremont. I was fortunate that my father was a Methodist Minister who had many white friends. We also always lived in racially mixed neighborhoods. If, on the other hand, I had grown up in a completely black or Hispanic community, having an opportunity to talk with people about the adjustments necessary to become comfortable at Claremont would have been very helpful.
Why do you think college presidents, like Pamela Gann, who supports increasing the diversity of the campus, seem so quick to support these programs?
Before Barack Obama, the only so-called black leaders that the press supported were professional "victims" like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. There were others of us who had a different perspective, but the press ignored us. So, if you are college president and your only source of information about what the black community wants are professional victims, you will fall into the trap of believing that these programs are necessary.
Barack Obama's success is fundamentally changing the discussion about race in this country and around the world. I expect many programs that are based on racial victimization will wither and die because of his success.
You've written that you walked away from the conservative movement after you read the states' rights chapter of Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative, but that you revisited the movement years later. What made you reconsider it? It seems a long journey from BSU President to entrepreneur, conservative talk show host, and WorldNetDaily.com columnist. Help explain it to me.
One reason that I resigned as the President of the BSU was that some of my colleagues felt that I was more interested in trying to fix problems than engaging in confrontation. They were right.
Lorn Foster, my high school classmate who is now a Professor of Politics at Pomona, introduced me to Ayn Rand when I was at CMC. I had never read anything like her writing before. Her words resonated with me and reinforced the messages of my parents. My parents told me that black people had to work twice as hard as whites to be respected. They said that might not be fair, but that it would ultimately make me better and stronger.
The intellectual growth of Malcolm X before his assassination also deeply moved me. Ayn's and Malcolm X's writings reinforced my parents' message of self reliance and independence. By the time I graduated from CMC, I realized that I had developed a much more self-reliant and conservative ideology that those who supported the nonviolent civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I agreed with Ayn and Malcolm that allowing people to abuse you was a crime against nature.
I will never forget the first time I felt comfortable with my decision to become a Republican. It was just before the 1990 Texas elections and my former wife and I were leaving an Austin fund raising event for Clayton Williams, the Republican nominee for Governor of Texas. Clayton was a true Texas character. He had big ears, a wide smile, a quick wit, tremendous wealth, and not a lick of political sense at all.
As we walked out of the old Austin Opera House, we started to walk past camera crews waiting for Candidate Williams. As is our tradition, we smiled at them and said good evening. Immediately, a young white man and woman shouted, "What are you minorities doing supporting a Republican? What have these people done for your people?"
The arrogance of these white, liberal racists stunned us. I quickly responded, "I am an American and I can support whomever I want. You know, I left the Democrat Party because of racists like you who can only see a black face and not an American citizen."
He then said, "You are not an American, you are a minority." I got right up into his face and said, "I am not a minority. That is a word that you people created and I reject. I choose to call myself an American, and how I define myself is all that counts."
As I walked away, many white Republicans looked back at that camera crew in shock. For the first time, they had seen the power and the fury of white liberal racism. Before that confrontation, I had been struggling with the tension between my conservative beliefs and my history of equating Republicans with southern racism. That one encounter in 1990 erased any doubt I had about the wiseness of my conversion. From then on, I was committed to the destruction of white liberalism, wherever its slimy head appeared.
On to the Clarence Thomas and your Senate testimony. How did you meet then-Judge Thomas and what was your impression him? Did you read My Grandfather's Son? What did you think of your mention in it?
I first met Clarence Thomas when he entered Yale Law School in 1971. Clarence was a soft-spoken, solid, conservative student at a school filled with bright, effervescent liberals. Clarence's most outrageous act at Yale was to occasionally come to school in jeans overalls. Clarence wanted to become a corporate lawyer and it was very important to him that he proved that he belonged at that school. Clarence and I were acquaintances, not friends.
We respected each other because we both cared about black people but didn't use that as a crutch. We had many things in common, however, and one of them was a strong commitment to being positive examples of what decent, God-fearing black men can achieve. Like Clarence, I was attracted to the strength of Malcolm X. Like Clarence, I was convinced that all black men in prison were political prisoners. Like Clarence, I eventually came to the conclusion that most men are in prison because they had hurt someone or broken the law.
I have read parts of My Grandfather's Son. I will finish it this summer. I appreciate his mentioning me in his book, but was surprised at how little he said. Both Clarence and his mother told me that if I hadn't testified, he would not be on the court today. I would have appreciated his acknowledging that in his book.
What did you think of Anita Hill?
Anita Hill and I both came to Washington, D.C. in 1981. She had just graduated from Yale Law School and I had just earned my MBA from Harvard Business School. Washington, D.C. attracts men and women who are long on ambition and short on ability. Some climb the political ladder by brown nosing or sleeping their way up. Others try to attach themselves to the star of a rising politico hoping to be swept up in their success. Anita was an obvious star chaser.
Anita's first job was as an associate at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Wald, Harkracker & Ross. Gill Hardy had recruited her for this position. Gill was a black Yale law school grad and senior associate of the firm. Gill was the godfather of black Yale Law School grads in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area. He worked hard to make sure that we got to know each other. I met Anita at one of the networking parties that Gill had organized.
Anita Hill makes a good first impression. She appears to be a solid, dark-skinned sister who is concerned about substance. After you talk to her for a little while, however, you start to wonder if the elevator goes all the way up to the top floor. It's not that Anita is not smart; she is just incredibly dull and boring. During the years that we were both in Washington, I occasionally noticed her talking with men at our Yale parties. At first you could see the interest in the guys eyes, and then it started to dim. Eventually the guy would get up and excuse himself, never to come back.
It was clear to most that Anita had a strong desire to attach herself to Clarence. Once, when I walked into Clarence's EEOC office to go to lunch with him, Anita tried to get herself invited to join us. Anita had just walked into the foyer of Clarence's office. She asked why I was there. When I told her that Clarence and I were going to lunch, she asked if she could join us. When I told her that I hadn't seen Clarence for a while and discouraged her from joining us, that didn't stop her. She waited to see if Clarence would invite her to join us. He told her that just the two of us would go to lunch and closed the door in her face. In fact, Clarence never mentioned Anita Hill in the many conversations that we had in the eight years that we both were in Washington, D.C.
I never spent time with Anita alone and only learned by accident that we lived four blocks apart on Capitol Hill. One Saturday, as I was jogging, I ran by her house. Anita was on the porch and called out to me. I was not interested in talking with her, but I didn't want to be rude, so we talked while I jogged in place for two or three minutes. When I said that I had to go, she said, "Since we live so close together, why don't we have dinner sometime?" I told her to give me a call and continued up the street.
Anita called me a week later and we set up a tentative date to go together. On the day we were supposed to go out, I called her and told her that because of business, I would have to cancel. I never called her back. A few months later, a mutual friend called to tell me that black Yale Law grads were having a going away party for Anita. She said that Anita was going to teach at Oral Roberts Law School and wanted to know if I would attend. I almost declined, but decided that since I had not seen many of my friends for a while, I would attend.
I arrived early and as I entered the room, Anita stopped me and asked if she could talk with me in private. We walked over to a corner and she unloaded on me. Anita said:
"John, there is something that I want to tell you. You know, I am really disappointed in you. John, it is not nice to lead women on. You gave me reason to believe that you were interested in me and you never followed up. When you canceled our dinner engagement, you promised to call back and you never did. That's not right. I'm telling you this so that you don't break the heart of another woman after I leave town."
I was dumbfounded, and said, "Anita, I have never been interested in you romantically. I have never wanted to date you. That is why I canceled your proposed dinner date and never called you back. I just didn't want to send the wrong signals. Anita, I have done everything in my power to treat you with respect and to establish a professional relationship with you as a fellow Yale Law School alum. You are dead wrong and I won't let you try to lay a guilt trip on me."
I then walked away from her and have never spoken with her to this day. Nevertheless, Anita's bizarre charge stuck in the back of my mind, to be dredged up eight years later when she resurfaced.
Please describe your Senate testimony and the personal and financial costs that ensued. How did the Clinton Administration treat you once they took over control of USAID [one of your business partners]?
Lorn Foster called me on Sunday, October 6, 1991 and said, "One of his former female staff members has just accused your boy Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment." I was dumbfounded and said, "Lorn, if these accusations are true, Clarence doesn't deserve to be on the Supreme Court. However, the Clarence I know wouldn't do something like that." I told my former wife about Lorn's call and we both wondered who would make such a devastating charge so late in the hearing process.
When I picked up the New York Times in my driveway the next day, I was stunned to read that it was Anita Hill who had charged Clarence with sexual harassment. I immediately flashed back to what Anita Hill had said to me in Washington, D.C. almost a decade ago. I ran back into the house and told my former wife that Anita was a nut case who had accused me of being interested in her in spite of my having never shown any interest. I said that if Anita could fantasize about my interest in her, just think what could happen with a man she worked for and admired. Little did I know how important my words would become.
I said that I had to let the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee know what Anita said to me. While I didn't know Anita that well, if she acted like that to me, this information could help them find others who saw how irrational she could become. I then asked my former wife how she felt about my wanting to let the Senate Judiciary Committee know what Anita had said to me. She knew that all of our consulting business was with the federal government then. We both knew that if I were ever to testify for Clarence, there would be hell to pay. She thought about it for 10 seconds and said, "It's the right thing to do, so if that's what you want to do, you have my support."
Even today, remembering how much happened in such a short period is hard. Anita and her supporters had four months to prepare their ambush. Clarence and his supporters only had seven days to find witnesses who were willing to step in.
Unbeknownst to me, while I was preparing my affidavit using the word "fantasizes" about Anita Hill, Charles Kothe, the former Dean of Oral Roberts Law School, was also sending in an affidavit. The Dean said that Anita had to have fantasized her belief that Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Suddenly, out of the blue, a black Yale Law School grad from Texas and a retired white law school Dean in Oklahoma had both used the same, explosive word "fantasizes," to describe Anita. Suddenly, folks in Washington thought that they had the break through that might turn the confirmation hearings around.
Early Friday afternoon, as we were finishing a business lunch in our office, Bill Wendlant, our commercial real estate broker called. He said, "John, you better find a television immediately, they are reading your name on national television." We ran out of our office on the 10th floor and found a television in our building's community room on the 3rd floor. By that time, Dan Rather was saying, "Senator Specter is just introducing an affidavit from a John Doggett in Austin, Texas and I don't know what it says…wait, here it comes over the fax."
I'll never forget the look on Anita's face when Senator Specter asked Anita if she remembered a John Doggett. She panicked because this wasn't part of her script. Her first instinct was to say that she did not remember me, but she realized that they wouldn't bring up my name if they didn't know the connection. When they read my affidavit, she almost became unglued. She knew that my statement seriously undermined her case against Clarence.
While Anita is dull and boring, she is not stupid. She knew that when you question the credibility of a witness, you also place your credibility in play. The whole basis of her attack on Clarence was to raise questions about his character so that wavering senators would have a "safe" reason to vote against him.
Dean Kothe's and my affidavits changed the balance of power because we both challenged Anita's sanity. There is no more devastating threat to the credibility of a witness than to have others suggest that the witness is emotionally unbalanced. Anita's supporters thought that they had covered all bases, but now the real war was about to start. The legal and political reality was simple, if they did not discredit my affidavit, Anita=s attack on Clarence would fail.
At 6:30 a.m., Sunday, October 13, 1991, a Republican Senate Judiciary Committee staff member called and said,"The Judiciary Committee has just decided to call you as a witness. We've made reservations for you on the 8:00 a.m. flight. We need you to get to Washington, D.C. as quickly as possible."
I said that we had a guest who had just spent a mint at Sam's and we couldn't possibly make the 8:00 flight. He said, "The only other flight that will get you to D.C. in time takes off at 9:30. If you are not on that plane, forget about testifying for Clarence because the Committee has decided that this will be the last day of the hearings."
It was 3:00 p.m. in Washington when we finally reached the Senate Judiciary Committee staff offices.
While we were flying to DC, lawyers for Anita and Clarence had agreed that each side would alternate with a panel of four witnesses until all the witnesses had been heard. My panel was fourth in line. It was late in the afternoon, and the staffers told us to go to our hotel and wait to be called.
Almost as an afterthought, a staffer gave me a copy of the transcript of the conversation that the Senate Judiciary Committee had with Amy Louise Graham the day before. Amy was the woman who had accused me of sexual harassment. The Republican staffer who gave me the transcript said, "You probably will not need this, but you should review it just in case something comes up."
We checked into the J. W. Marriott hotel and started watching the hearings on television. During breaks in the testimony, I read what Amy Louise Graham had told Senate Judiciary Committee staffers. It was the most amazing pack of lies I had ever seen. At one point she claimed that I invited her to join a group of us who were going out to drink, though everyone knows that I don't drink and I don't go out to bars to drink with people. At another point she said that I was around regularly because I was getting ready to leave McKinsey in 1982. In fact, I had just concluded a successful assignment and was getting ready to spend the summer with McKinsey's Copenhagen, Denmark office. Contrary to her claims, I continued to work for McKinsey until early 1983, when I left to start my own consulting firm.
As I continued to read the transcript, I saw that it was riddled with holes, inconsistencies and pure lies. I also then remembered that Joe Biden, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had announced earlier that day that the Committee would no longer use any evidence that was not introduced by a witness who was testifying under oath before the committee. What this meant was that they couldn't use that transcript and would have to call Amy Graham as a witness. Since Amy's name wasn't on Anita's witness list, that should have been that. Nevertheless, I had learned one thing during my years as a litigator, attorney-manager and international management consultant: never assume anything. So I continued reading the transcript.
We were tremendously impressed with Clarence's first witnesses. They were so passionate, so clear and so focused. I'll never forget neat, prim and precise Professor Nancy Fitch, Phyllis "I know who I am, Senator" Berry Myers, passionate J. C. Alverez, or professional, confident Diane Holt.
As these proud black and brown women talked about their experiences with Clarence and Anita, I realized that they had come to the same conclusions as I had, and I had never met any of them before. Their testimony brought tears to my eyes and I told my former wife that we truly were on the side of Justice.
Halfway through this panel, we received a frantic call saying that Anita had pulled the rest of her witnesses and that we would testify next. We got dressed and rushed to the Capitol. I talked briefly with staff and volunteer lawyers about what I could expect. They only gave me the briefest sense of what might happen because they didn't want to make it seem as though they had coached me on what to say.
Frankly, I was surprised by the commitment to Clarence that I saw in the Republican staffers. I was still feeling my way about as a Republican and had in the back of my mind the idea that staffers to Senator Storm Thurmond had to be racists. What I learned that afternoon and evening in Washington, D.C. was things had changed.
Now the cynical racists were the staffers to the Democratic Senators, not the Republicans. Now, the people who didn't give a damn about the facts or morality were liberal white Democrats, not Republicans. The young, white, southern Republican staffers really believed in Clarence and were prepared to go to the mat.
When I entered the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room, I was overwhelmed by the stench of death coming from the Democratic staffers. They didn't care about the truth. It was just about their side winning.
Television makes many things seem different from what they really are. The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing room was one example. On television it looked like a majestic and richly furnished room. In person, it looked rundown, almost shabby. The green covers on the witness tables looked as though they were worn out felt from discarded pool tables. Because my panel came on hours after the Monday newspaper deadline, most of the seats reserved for newspaper and magazine reporters behind the witness table were empty. All that was left were empty cups, trash and discarded papers.
Teddy Kennedy and the Democrats knew how to play to the stationary television cameras. Since Teddy's cousin was getting ready to go to trial on rape charges, Anita Hill's appearance meant that he had to keep his mouth shut. Nevertheless, that didn't mean that he wasn't stage managing things. Often, when the camera focused on the other end of the committee, Senator Ted gave hand signals to his staff or to Biden. In fact, Teddy signaled the start of the infamous Metzenbaum attack on me.
My testimony was a two-act play. The first act covered my background, the details of my affidavit and my responses to questions from the senators. It is my sense that at the end of this act, we were at a draw. I had not delivered a knockout blow to Anita, but they had not been able to sufficiently damage my credibility to neutralize the impact of my affidavit and testimony.
Just when Dean Kothe was starting to tighten the link between his observations with mine, Senator Kennedy gave a hand signal to Biden and Biden left the room. Senator Specter was asking Dean Kothe a question, when suddenly a Democratic staffer appeared next to the Dean. Senator Metzenbaum interrupted Specter, said that he was concerned about the Dean's diabetes and asked if he would like a short break.
This planned attack was the beginning of the second act. The Democrats knew that the Dean, with his white hair and fatherly demeanor, was hurting Anita. They were afraid that if he endorsed my claim that Anita was emotionally unstable, the game would be up. So they decided that it was time to use the "all black men are sex fiends" card against me.
This was a bold and reckless move. If it worked, they would destroy my credibility, and as a result, they would have restored Anita's. If, on the other hand, this attack failed, it was likely to generate sympathy for me. The thing about white liberal Democrats, however, is that their racism prevents them for thinking straight when it comes to black people. I am convinced that the Democrats on the Committee believed that they had let me into Harvard, Yale and Claremont because of my race and that I was as incompetent as the black affirmative action tokens on their staff.
When Senator Metzenbaum started his attack on me, he made three fatal errors. First, he hadn't read the complete transcript that was the source of his information, so he didn't know the facts cold. When you are a litigator, you never cross examine a hostile witness without knowing the facts inside and out. Second, he assumed that I wouldn't attack him. If he had done any background research about me, he would know that this was one black man who did not ever take crap from anyone. His biggest mistake, however, was to give me too much time to think about how to respond.
When Metzenbaum started reading from the transcript, I was incensed. My first reaction was to want to leap across the table and wring his scrawny neck. My former wife sensed this and whispered, "Don't let them get you mad, keep cool, think about your response." As he continued to drone on, the "I'm going to cut your throat" litigator in me came to life. I started thinking about how I could destroy Metzenbaum with my first strike.
I knew that the first six words of my response to his attack would set the tone for the rest of the night. If I seemed at all apologetic or caught off guard, the Committee and the television audience would say, "Hmm, maybe there is something to this." I decided that the fatal flaw in their strategy was that they assumed that I respected and was afraid, or at least in awe, of them.
What they didn't realize was that parents who taught me to judge everyone by the content of their character, not their position or title had raised me. These Democrats also didn't realize that I was one of those Americans who believed that since all government workers, including senators, were being paid by me, they were my employees. And I wasn't about to let one of my employees insult me in public.
I quickly settled on an attack strategy that would give the United States Judiciary Committee a simple choice. I would demand that they immediately apologize to me for impugning my character. Or, they could ask the Capitol Police to arrest me and take me out in handcuffs. That was it. I was not going to stop my counterattack until one or the other of those two choices was selected.
I was going to define the terms of this engagement and was going to take the attack to them. I was not going to back down. I knew that the Democrats would not want to create a furor by having me handcuffed and dragged out of the hearing in front of a national television audience. I knew that I could not lose because I knew that the one thing these racists liberal Democrats would never expect was a frontal assault. I mean, after all, there were eight of them plus their staffers. What they didn't understand was that I was telling the truth, and with God on my side, I had them outnumbered.
What I didn't know at that time was how unprepared Metzenbaum and the other Democrat Senators and staff members were. They had obviously decided to violate their own rules and to use this information if necessary. But they hadn't assumed that the Republicans had been smart enough to give me the transcript or that I had read it.
Just think how it would have seemed if I had asked for a recess so I could read the transcript and "formulate" an answer. I am convinced that much of my success as a Witness for Clarence was my immediate and unrelenting counterattack.
It was not until the next day, when my former wife and I saw a replay of my testimony on C-SPAN did I realize how dramatic this confrontation was on television. For as I held a copy of the transcript in my hand and jumped from page to page showing how inconsistent my assailant's testimony was, the cameras flashed on Senator Metzenbaum. It was a pathetic sight. Here was the imperious Senator looking shell shocked. His hair was awry as his staffers desperately tried, without success, to keep up with my machine gun attack.
Since the Democrat staffers were not litigators, they didn't understand that I was using a standard litigation tactic to keep them off balance. I was jumping at least three to eight pages at a time, as quickly as possible, so that it would be impossible for them to keep track of what I was talking about. I would like to claim that I had figured this out in advance, but frankly, by then God had taken control and I was on autopilot.
Metzenbaum had lost control of the hearing, because by then I was pounding my fist on the table and demanding to have my name cleared then and there. Kennedy motioned to a staffer to get Biden back in. But by that time it was too late.
By using the "all black men are sex fiends who want to screw white woman" card against me, Clarence's attackers were finally exposed for what they were. And, they had insulted America.
What price did you pay for testifying for Clarence Thomas?
When the Clintons came to power, their supporters attacked my business. Within six months, I had lost all of my contacts with the federal government. My 30 employees and I were out of work.
One of my colleagues told me that in 1992 I had won the largest "open competition" contract ever won by a black-owned consulting firm that had never participated in the 8 (a) minority set-aside program. However, due to "normal" government delays, the actual contract was not signed until November 16, twelve days after President Bush lost to Bill Clinton. That signing date was eventually to attract tremendous attention from Anita Hill supporters in the Clinton Administration and in the press.
Most people never know when they first contract cancer. My company was infected by cancer before the project started. In retrospect, it was insane for me to attempt to do anything with the federal government after I testified for Clarence Thomas. When Bill Clinton won, I mistakenly believed that an Administration run by Yale Law School classmates would not target me for elimination. I was wrong.
Anita's supporters in the Clinton Administration destroyed a business that I had spent ten years growing from a one man shop to a 30-person firm with offices in two countries.
Many conservatives wanted me to challenge the legality and morality of what my government had done to me. While I appreciated their support, I wanted to let my emotions settle and figure out how I could most effectively pay back the bastards for their treachery. Six months later, my former wife became a candidate for statewide office in Texas. Three years later, I became a radio talk show host with the ability to expose the racism and the tyranny of liberals three hours a day, five days a week, in the most liberal city in the South.
But the costs were significant. In six months they destroyed a business that I had spent a decade creating. In the year after they killed my business, we were so broke that we almost lost our house. The strain on our marriage was so intense that it finally fell apart in 1996, just five years after the hearings were over.
When I finished testifying for Clarence, I told the world that I just wanted to go back to Austin and continue my life's work. The liberals were not content to let this dog lie. Now that they have tried to destroy me, I will spend the rest of my life chewing them to death.
Final question. What would you say to fellow Claremont McKenna students about leadership and individualism?
CMC is a very special place. It is committed to teaching students how to think, not trying to brainwash them. CMC is a very intense place in a very positive way. When I entered Yale Law School, I was worried that I might not be able to compete with students who graduated from Ivy League schools. I quickly realized that CMC had prepared me to compete at the highest level.
Leadership is about knowing who you are and what you stand for. Leadership is being willing to do the right thing for the right reasons even when no one is watching. Leadership is not being afraid to pay to price for doing what is right. Leadership is about being an example of what you want others to do. I learned a lot about leadership at CMC.
Individualism is understanding that there is only one you. Individualism is understanding that only you can figure out what will make you happy. Individualism is respecting yourself enough to insist on leading a life of meaning. Individualism means that no one is a "minority" because no one is a "majority." Individualism is finding your core values and making sure that you live a life that is true to them.
CMC transformed me in a way that would not have been possible at most colleges. For that reason I will be eternally grateful that I attended CMC.
At Claremont McKenna, we are used to being lied to by the environmentalists on campus.
First there was the dubious claim that we would reduce waste by eliminating trays. According to our Dan O'Toole, the self-described environmental crusaders distorted the amount of waste they actually eliminated by playing fast and loose with the statistics.
This time around, it appears that they've learned their lesson. Rather than stomach a debate, the forces that be at Claremont McKenna have decided to install $3100 - $3500 machines on campus.
I just got off the phone with Ernest Moniz who is the California sales representative of Big Belly Solar. You might have noticed their products around campus.
Just what are the facts of that product?
Munoz said that the average machine lasts about 10 years and that the bottle and can component of the machine can even be used as a "revenue stream" to help off-set the costs. Of course at $3500 a machine and 5 cents per can returned (not factoring gas or labor used for transport to the recycling place), the number of cans needed to pay for just one machine would be 70,000. Given that the preponderance of the cans is from drinking (only a fraction of which is overage) -- something that the college purportedly is trying to curb-- it might take a long time to pay for those trash cans, assuming students use the cans at all.
Let's assume that the machine lasts for 10 years at $3500 per machine, coming out to roughly $350 per year. The real price, according to Munoz is between $3100 and $3900, depending on the number of machines purchased. Add on top of that the costly fact the battery needs to be replaced every three to five years. Given that batteries and solar cells use rare earth metals in them, that's another hidden environmental cost that the greens don't let you see.
Moniz claims that the number of trips to and from the land fill is reduced by 80 percent, but how would he know that? Doesn't the number of trips depend on the location of the device relative to the closest trash depository? How would they be able to figure that out at all the locations?
Unfortunately, the people who bear this very real costs are the alums who give to the college and the parents who see their children's tuition bill rise year after year. Anyone who claims that environmentalists care about the little people needs to seriously reconsider.
Looks like the college has fallen hook, line, and sinker for the latest environmental fad on our campuses. A word of caution whenever someone in the environmental movement tells you that their product will save on costs, don't believe a word they say.
Karl Rove, political strategist, will likely be the biggest draw at the Ath this year.
I am already hearing reports that some people plan to "camp out" for head table and I plan to be among them.
The Ath is one of our greatest resources on campus, as its director, Bonnie Snortum, points out in this month's Fortnightly.
For the new Ath attendees, a word of caution: Don't ask frequently asked questions of some of our great speakers. Anything that can be easily Google-able or checked on Wikipedia should be left out of the Ath. Come with a little expertise, or don't ask a question.
As for Rove, he's been writing quite a storm lately about this election, so here are a few articles to get you brainstorming. They are mostly courtesy of Real Clear Politics, an essential tool for government majors here at Claremont McKenna. Its founder, Tom Bevan, will also be arriving on campus the very next day.
- Here's Karl Rove on Sarah Palin
- Rove on Biden who Rove not so affectionately called a "big, blowhard doofus."
- And Rove on the myth of Obama's bipartisanship