owens-billBill Owens, Colorado’s former governor, denied that he made threats behind the scenes to prompt the firing of University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill for writing an essay that compared some of the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks to Nazi Adolf Eichmann.

“I did not have the power to fire him. I have the same First Amendment rights as we all have,” Owens (pictured) testified yesterday in court (via The Associated Press).

Churchill is suing to get his job back after his essay came under scrutiny in 2005 ,and an ensuing review of his work led to his dismissal for alleged plagiarism and misconduct.

David Lane played a taped deposition of former CU President Elizabeth Hoffman saying Owens called her and demanded, “‘Fire Ward Churchill tomorrow,'” to which Hoffman replied, “‘You know I can’t do that,'” adding that Owens was “short but very threatening.” Owens said he did not remember the conversation in such a negative light.

Lane also showed jurors a transcript from a 2005 interview of Owens by FoxNews talk-show host Bill O’Reilly, in which Owens said that although he didn’t have the power to fire Churchill, he did have sway over the state budget, implying that CU’s funds could be withheld, according to Boulder’s Daily Camera.

After questioning, jurors asked Owens if he was concerned more about CU’s funding or Churchill’s freedom of speech. Owens said the two ideas are not mutually exclusive (via RaceToTheBottom).