Ken Hearlson is at it again. Speaking at a March 20 peace rally, the Orange Coast College (OCC) political science professor—a survivor of several academic scandals and one investigation—blasted college students as hypocrites who "spit on us" when U.S. soldiers returned from Vietnam 30 years ago.
The so-called Day-X demonstration brought 300 students to the OCC quad to hear several speakers denounce the Iraq War and call for a complete withdrawal of American troops.
The 58-year-old Hearlson paced the margin of the crowd anxiously before shouting, "Let me speak!" and limping to the podium. The previous speaker yielded the microphone.
"I'm here enjoying my freedom of speech—though you don't want me to!" he yelled. "I know about protestors! They spit on us when we came home at the San Francisco airport [from Vietnam]."
Hearlson accused the students of hypocrisy and challenged them to "go down to the war zone in South-Central Los Angeles and protest on a corner there! Then I'll listen.
"I just want to point out there are signs saying, 'World Peace' everywhere, all around," Hearlson continued. "Why don't you protest the real genocides of the world? In the Sudan, 1.5 million blacks are being mutilated and killed by the Islamic Khartoom government. I'm here representing [all] the tribes who are being systematically murdered."
Hearlson's Day-X performance echoed the very themes that led to a campus investigation 18 months ago. One week after the Sept. 11 attacks, Hearlson told a political science class that Islam is supportive of terrorism and seemed to blame his Muslim students for attacks on Israel.
"Since 1948, they [Arab nations and Muslims] have attacked [Israel] five times, and . . . [the Israelis] kicked the Arabs' butts. That's a fact," he told students. Then he turned to Muslim students in the back of the room and yelled, "And what did you do? You came back and attacked them in 1973."
The Muslim students responded defensively; Hearlson became incensed. Muslim students interviewed later say the professor turned "beet-red," harangued them and said, "You killed 5,000 people."
An independent investigation, hampered by the fact that Hearlson had turned off the classroom microphone, eventually concluded that some of the students' claims—such as a charge that Hearlson called them Nazis—could not be found verbatim in the incomplete class recordings. After 11 weeks, Hearlson returned to teaching with what he says was a written reprimand.
"Those Muslim students had the right to file the grievance," Hearlson said. "Of course, they didn't have the right to lie. I, as a Christian, forgave them long ago."
Hearlson has others to forgive. In 1998, a lesbian student complained that Hearlson's in-class comments were anti-homosexual. Another student said Hearlson informed his class that if a homosexual ever taught his child sex education, he'd "string him up by the toes and shoot him in the face with a .357 Magnum."
"The remark I made was off-the-cuff and about pedophilia and those who prey on children," Hearlson says. "[But] I don't believe in the [homosexual] lifestyle. As a born-again Christian, it's in the Bible as a sin."
When asked if any restraints should be put on teachers, he said, "Well, obviously, I don't think [teachers] should threaten anyone—overtly or covertly."
Asked about the Day-X protest, Hearlson clarified his statements. He was stationed near South Korea during the Vietnam war as an air-traffic controller, he said, never saw combat, and was never spit on.