The revelations of the Jan. 6 committee have made it clear-as-day that not only did John Eastman conspire to overturn the results of the 2020 election, he led the charge.
Eastman is now known as an enemy of American democracy; yet, he once found safe harbor for his beliefs at the University of Colorado’s very own Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization on the Boulder campus.
The Denver Post Editorial Board was right to call on CU to disown Eastman; it also should have called out Eastman’s enablers, including the Republican candidate for governor and CU Regent Heidi Ganahl.
As a Regent Emerita who served four years with Ganahl, I know that being a regent comes with a heavy responsibility to the students, staff, and faculty of the CU system, as well as the taxpayers who help fund higher education in Colorado.
Ganahl’s failure to disavow Eastman has made it plain that she is unfit for that responsibility.
Instead, she has used her position in a vain attempt to boost Eastman’s credibility.
Eastman was invited to CU’s Benson Center as a visiting scholar after years as a Law Professor at Chapman University in California. In August 2020, Eastman wrote a controversial Newsweek op-ed baselessly alleging that Kamala Harris was ineligible to be vice president because she was not a U.S. citizen. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif.
Trump went on to lose the presidency a few months later, and Eastman’s legal “talents” were called upon to dispute the results of the election – which he did, from his partially taxpayer-funded position at the University of Colorado’s Benson Center. He used a CU email account and a university-funded trip to Pennsylvania to advance American insurrection plans with state electors.
He brought bogus fraud claims to the Supreme Court and joined Trump in pressuring state lawmakers to decertify their election results. When those efforts failed, Eastman became the leading voice at the Save America rally that ended in thousands of violent rioters storming the U.S. capital to chants of “Hang Mike Pence.”
After the Jan. 6 attack, Ganahl fought to protect Eastman under the guise of “academic freedom.” For Ganahl, Eastman’s attempt to overthrow the U.S. government amounts to a harmless difference of opinion. To this day, she will not denounce Eastman and his actions outright.
There is no room for ambivalence in the wake of a violent insurrection.
Ganahl’s defense of Eastman and the Benson Center is not new. After his racist birther op-ed, which Newsweek even apologized for publishing, Ganahl praised the “fantastic folks” at the Benson Center, including “Dr. John Eastman, who’s riling some folks up.”
As a regent, Ganahl tried to set up a lunch with Eastman, but the plans fell through after he was infected with COVID-19 during a meeting with the Trump team.
Ganahl is now concerned, as we all are, about the poor optics of Eastman’s affiliation with CU, but she won’t admit her own role in enabling right-wing extremism. She claims Eastman’s career was “stellar” before he arrived at the Benson Center. What does Ganahl find stellar about his leadership of the homophobic National Organization for Marriage?
I assure you: CU students, staff and faculty are not impressed by bigotry or treachery. In the weeks following the insurrection, CU Boulder’s Student Government is looking to pass a resolution calling for Eastman’s removal and better hiring practices. Then, the Boulder Faculty Assembly may consider passing policy changes to avoid another hiring disaster.
Ganahl will surely continue to tout her experience as a CU Regent on the campaign trail over the coming months. But remember, when Heidi says “viewpoint diversity” and “academic freedom,” she really means promoting the hard right here in Colorado.
Heidi Ganahl has been a Regent for almost six years, and all she can show for it is a failed CU
President and some lunch plans with a national disgrace.
Linda Shoemaker is a CU-Boulder graduate who served on the Board of Regents from 2015-2021.