Speaking truth to power

can still result in attempts to muzzle the speaker.

Gene Nichol is now required to warn UNC and add a disclaimer any time he writes something for publication.

Printed under the column were [Nichol's] name, his title as the Boyd Tinsley Distinguished Professor and this statement: “He doesn’t speak for UNC.”

Since late October, the disclaimer has appeared whenever Nichol, a provocative and prolific writer, pens a piece for the newspaper’s opinion pages.

According to email records obtained by the N&O, Nichol, a former dean and college president and well-known liberal, has also been asked by his bosses to give them a day or two days’ notice – a “heads up” before his columns appear

That's because Nichol speaks truth that the powerful don't want to hear. And some of the powerful react with indignation.

“Gene Nichols (sic) is at it again!! Pat called from Mississippi this morning,” Ed McMahan, a McCrory ally and UNC Board of Governors member, wrote Oct. 15 to the board’s chairman, Peter Hans.

[We'll ignore for the moment why Pat was in Mississippi...we presume he was on a fact-finding tour to learn about policies and results that he should emulate in NC]

Some of the powerful retaliate with threats veiled in various thicknesses.

“It bothers me greatly that someone in his position at the university would use the media to criticize public officials, knowing that it’s doing damage to the university,” said McMahan, a former state lawmaker.

This dog won’t hunt fellas,” [Frank Hill, a political strategist and former chief of staff to Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole] wrote. “I am just saying. ... (T)his guy is going to be a major pain in the tookus for those of you who really love UNC and want to see more cooperation with the people who are probably going to be in majority control of the legislature for the next decade. The lines are drawn and they favor Republican control for at least that long in the state of North Carolina.”

Some react by exerting intimidation (it's a knee-jerk reaction for the Popesters).

Three days after Nichol’s column, two conservative think tanks, the Pope Center and Civitas Institute, published a response, saying the professor had gone too far. “It’s hard to imagine a more vicious and false comparison for McCrory,” wrote Civitas’ Francis De Luca and the Pope Center’s Jane Shaw.

Some at the university react with fear.

On Oct. 21, [UNC Law School dean Jack] Boger wrote to the professor, outlining in detail what they had agreed to, including the disclaimer and the “heads up.” Boger wrote that the comparison between McCrory and the segregationist governors “caused great ire and dismay among the Governor’s staff and close supporters.”

And then the Popesters decide that their initial intimidation was insufficient.

Ten days after Nichol’s column ran, the Civitas Institute filed a public records request with the university, asking for six weeks of Nichol’s email correspondence, calendar entries, phone logs, text messages and a list of electronic devices issued to Nichol by the university.

Civitas then used those emails to publish false information stating that Nichol was using taxpayer resources for partisan purposes.

“The gross impropriety of using taxpayer-funded resources for political purposes is self-evident,” De Luca wrote.

Boger, the law dean, wrote a letter to the N&O defending the conference as a gathering and not a decision-making body subject to the state open meetings law. He pointed out that the Poverty Center had not received public funds for the past four years.

Of course, when UNC pointed this out, De Puke-a and Civitas admitted they had lied and retracted their untrue claims and apologized continued to trash Gene Nichol at every chance they had, with little regard for the truth.

Perhaps Gene Nichol doesn't speak for the university. But he does speak for the people, especially the "invisible" poor people, and the folks in power would do well to listen to him rather than trying to silence him.

Not that there's a snowball's chance in hell of that happening.


We wonder

Did Fran & Jane Popedrone include a disclaimer in their article stating that they do not speak for the budget director of the state of North Carolina, who has significant influence over how much funding UNC gets? You know, the guy who already told UNC they can expect to get a whole lot less that they requested?

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Perhaps ....

... liberals and progressives should be asking the N&R, the Winston-Salem Journal and other publications around the state why they're giving free ad space for editorials to Pope funded think-tanks?

Wouldn't these fall under campaign finance disclosure laws since they're basically issue advocacy ads like the ones that run on tv?


If you add up the column-inches for these free opinion pieces, along with the web page views for them, that's a helluvalot of donated ad space for issue advocacy groups controlled by a single employee of our state government.