Florida Atlantic Wants to Fire a Professor Who Teaches About Conspiracy Theories and Is a Sandy Hook Truther

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Dr. James Tracy, a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University, teaches COM 4930: Culture of Conspiracy, according to his faculty page. He also doesn’t believe the Sandy Hook massacre actually happened as it was described — a position he has persistently argued for years on his blog, in articles and interviews, and in his contribution to the not very creatively titled book Nobody Actually Died at Sandy Hook. He even sent Anderson Cooper an open letter asking him to revisit Newtown with him (naturally, his truther community took Cooper’s lack of response as evidence that Cooper was afraid of “the truth”).

For a while, Tracy has been able to straddle the awkward terrain of engaging in his truther activism while also serving as a tenured faculty member at FAU, albeit with his school having asked him in the past to downplay his FAU affiliation when he writes about Sandy Hook. Now, however, things seem to be coming to a head, according to Inside Higher Ed — yesterday FAU released a brief, nonspecific announcement that it will be seeking to fire him.

The precipitating event here may have been a recent article in the Sun-Sentinel (paywalled, but you can read it by entering the URL into Google News) in which Lenny and Veronique Pozner, parents of Noah, a 6-year-old who was killed during the attack, decry Tracy’s role in Sandy Hook–truther activism. “It cannot be denied that Tracy has carved out a significant presence in the same Sandy Hook ‘hoax’ conspiracy movement that has inspired a wave of harassment, intimidation and criminal activity against our family and others,” they write.

Then they tell a disturbing story about Tracy’s conduct:

In fact, Tracy is among those who have personally sought to cause our family pain and anguish by publicly demonizing our attempts to keep cherished photos of our slain son from falling into the hands of conspiracy theorists.

Tracy even sent us a certified letter demanding proof that Noah once lived, that we were his parents, and that we were the rightful owner of his photographic image. We found this so outrageous and unsettling that we filed a police report for harassment. Once Tracy realized we would not respond, he subjected us to ridicule and contempt on his blog, boasting to his readers that the “unfulfilled request” was “noteworthy” because we had used copyright claims to “thwart continued research of the Sandy Hook massacre event.”

We’ll see how FAU’s attempts to dislodge Tracy play out, but the certified-letter thing makes it harder to argue that this is about free speech. Tracy seems pretty obsessed, and administrators at his school can’t be happy that the parents of a Sandy Hook victim are being prodded so aggressively by an FAU faculty member.