Hamilton College has cancelled an appearance by Ward Churchill, citing death threats against the University of Colorado professor who caused a firestorm of controversy by criticizing the victims of the 9/11 attacks. Churchill resigned his position as Department Chair of the Ethnic Studies program yesterday.

Churchill said the World Trade Center victims were not innocent and deserved to die because they were a willing part of “the mighty engine of profit.” He went on to describe them as “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s plan to exterminate Europe’s Jews.

….In his letter to Gleeson, Churchill said, “While I am immensely proud of my administrative accomplishments in the chair’s position over the past two-and-one-half years, it is my considered view that the present political climate has rendered me a liability in terms of representing either my department, the college or the university in this or any other administrative capacity.”

The media, including columnists and bloggers went after Churchill with a vengeance. Regents at CU called a board meeting. That wasn’t enough for some writers.

Hamilton College initially stood by its decision to have him speak.

There have been calls for me to rescind the Kirkland Project’s invitation to Ward Churchill and cancel the event. But there is a principle at stake, for once the invitation was extended by the Kirkland Project and accepted by Ward Churchill, it became a matter of free speech. I have also received many messages urging the college to stand by its principles.

However repugnant one may find Mr. Churchill’s remarks, were the College to withdraw the invitation simply on the grounds that he has said offensive things, we would be abandoning a principle on which this College and indeed this republic are founded. Free speech is put to the test precisely in circumstances like these when the speech in question is abhorrent. As Justice Brandeis put it, “If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.”

Hamilton College was among a very small group willing to stand up for Churchill’s right to express his controversial views. Now that the New York college has cancelled Churchill’s appearance, it’s unlikely you’ll be seeing much more in the way of public support for Ward Churchill.

Update: Ward Churchill has released a statement .