UNCW Professsor Mike Adams charges defamation over colleagues’ statement

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UNCW Professor Mike Adams (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

WILMINGTON — Friday, 19 professors in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington signed a statement denouncing harassment of students. The statement appeared to be obliquely aimed at Professor Mike Adams for his recent online behavior.  Adams called his colleagues’ statement defamation.

On Sep. 15, 2016, the Daily Wire published an article by Adams – “Queer Muslim Jihad?” – that publicly named and lampooned a student, Nada Merghani. Students and graduates of UNCW have since called for his removal and have circulated a petition to that end.

Referencing these events, Friday’s statement from Adams’ colleagues stated, “We value freedom of speech and neither endorse nor support recent public statements or actions that have resulted in the harassment and discriminatory treatment of students.” The statement goes on to affirm the professors’ ethical obligation to respectful and dignified treatment of students without regard to how those students identify themselves.

As professors, we believe we have an ethical obligation to treat all students with respect and dignity irrespective of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, age, disability, political affiliation or sexual orientation.

Adams returned a call to Port City Daily, saying he was out of town attending the funeral of his father. He said, “I’m not going to sue a nineteen year old…but I’m damn sure going to sue grown men and women for defamation.”

Adams added that he wrote the Daily Wire article without malice. The piece describes an incident between Merghani and the Secret Service, who were investigating comments she made on Facebook:

“I wish the Secret Service had called me before they contacted 19-year-old Nada Merghani about her Facebook post,” Adams wrote in the article. “I could have saved them the trouble and let them know there was no need to fear a terrorist attack from the confused teenager.”

Adams went on to dismiss as a legitimate threat anything Merghani had written on Facebook. The Secret Service came to the same conclusion after a brief interview. The reaction to his article came mostly from his dismissal of Merghani’s identity politics, writing:

“Her claims to be a ‘queer Muslim’ are probably part of an act designed to fit into as many victim categories as humanly possible. Sometimes I wonder whether LGBT stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Thespian. So much drama, so few letters in the alphabet.”

Merghani, who has since decided to leave UNCW for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, alleges that this is part of a pattern of abuse conducted online – cyber-bullying – that dates back two years. She wrote to Port City Daily, saying: “Two years ago he saw me a pro-choice event hosted by the Feminist Student Alliance–we didn’t speak at the event, I didn’t notice him, and I was just 17 years old at the time. After the event, a friend of mine told me Mike Adams wrote about me and showed me his FB where he had written ‘the only thing worse than a jihadist is a pro-choice Muslim.'”

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Professor Adams’ Facebook post from April 18, 2015. (Courtesy of Facebook)

The following year, in 2015, Adams wrote an article entitled “Caged Animals” for Townhall magazine, where he called for the dismissal of Amy Schlag, an UNCW administrator (Schlag resigned in April of 2015).

In the article, Adams referred to a group of protesting students, which included Merghani, as “animals,” and “criminals.”

Though Adams did not name any students, Merghani and other students petitioned UNCW Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard.

“That was where me and 40+ other students were told he didn’t cross legal boundaries or violate FERPA [Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act] because he didn’t mention any of us by name,” she wrote. “But it seems like they [UNCW] immediately retracted on that statement come September, because it’s clear as day that Mike Adams used my name in this article [“Queer Muslim Jihad?”], but UNCW has been clear about the fact that they have no intentions to discipline or fire him.”

In a phone conversation with Port City Daily, Adams said, “I only used her name because she had already outed herself in a national article with The College Fix.”

Merghani said, as did UNCW, that Adams had not previously named her.

“September was the first time he used my name in anything,” she wrote. “It was all vague social media comments and references in articles before that.”
“It’s just more so a continuation of a two year fixation,” Merghani continued, “where he’s continuously been writing about a student who he’s never met…all discussions of freedom of speech vs. hate-speech aside, I can’t really see how [Adams] as a 52 year-old-man feels at any level it’s appropriate for him to target someone decades younger than him who never wanted to be involved in a fight like this in the first place,” she added.
Adams said that he bore Merghani no ill will. “I told her that we probably disagreed on a lot of things. And that was good. I told her that she was very passionate about her beliefs and that I admired that. I wished her the best.”
When asked about his article and accusations of hate-speech, Adams said:
“The word ‘queer’ is at the heart of the problem, right? The idea that if it’s in the department title or the organizations name, then it’s okay, and if someone else uses it, it’s not. That’s really problematic. What are we doing here? Why are we selectively advancing this word? It cuts right to the heart of the issue, which is thought control. We’re saying that ‘we know your thoughts,’ and that some people are using this word for empowerment and some people are using it as hate-speech and it’s unconstitutional.”
Adams has been at odds with the university since 2007. That year the Alliance Defending Freedom filed suit on Adams’ behalf, suing the university after he was denied a promotion in 2006 – in his opinion for his conservative views – despite twice being named teacher of the year at UNCW.
After an appeal Adams won his suit in 2014. He was promoted to full professor, receiving back pay and compensation for legal expenses.

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