Christie: Tracy-vs-FAU more about arrogance than free speech, insubordination

Fired FAU professor James Tracy arrives at federal court in West Palm Beach Tuesday morning for his wrongful termination lawsuit against the university. Tracy claims university administrators didn’t like his theories that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting never happened and instead was a charade perpetuated by the government to promote gun control. (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Fired Florida Atlantic University Communications professor James Tracy wants his job back. And, according to his lawsuit, he also wants back pay and an unspecified amount in damages.

Whether that happens will be up to a federal  jury that is currently hearing Tracy’s case against the university for allegedly violating his free speech rights when officials terminated him in January 2016. For FAU’s part, university officials argue that the 11-year tenured prof was fired because he was insubordinate. They claim that he violated rules that govern university faculty when he didn’t disclose outside income from his blog — Memory Hole.

RELATED LINK: FAU boss denies Tracy claim that his firing linked to conspiracy blog

The rules violation seems relatively minor in the scheme of things. And probably could have been hashed out with union officials — if it was most other professors. But Tracy was not most other professors.

Tracy, through his blog, put forth and supported conspiracy theories about the role of the federal government in mass killings like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and Boston Marathon bombing; calling them hoaxes. It was his comments about Sandy Hook that pushed the moral line on his free speech rights; but even then, FAU officials were careful not to deny Tracy his right to speak his mind outside of his job.

This, despite the fact that the university was still reeling from its share of negative publicity stemming from a couple of their own brain cramps — naming a new stadium after a prison company, and a former FAU president nearly running over students in a school parking lot.

But when the university decided to send Tracy a termination letter in December 2015, The Post Editorial Board commended them for doing so.

Veronique Pozner, the mother of one of the victims of the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary, attends the funeral of her son Noah in Fairfield, Conn., Dec. 17, 2012. James Tracy, a Florida Atlantic University professor who has repeatedly promoted false theories about the massacre and harassed the Pozners, is facing termination from the school where he is tenured. (Richard Perry/The New York Times)

Why? Because, as we said then, Tracy went too far in directly attacking the still grieving parents of 6-year-old Noah Pozner — one of the school kids shot to death by a crazed gunman at Sandy Hook — even questioning whether the child ever existed.

RELATED LINK: Editorial: FAU right to say enough to professor

“The Pozners, alas, are as phony as the (Sandy Hook) drill itself and profiting handsomely from the fake death of their son,” Tracy wrote in a December 2015 response to a letter by the Pozners.

FILE — Alex Jones, conservative conspiracy theorist and operator of Infowars.com, in the control room for his right-wing radio show, in Austin, Texas. (Ilana Panich-Linsman/The New York Times)

At that point, Tracy decided to replace free speech debate with arrogance. He decided to discard the mantle of intelligent Communications professor and go all in with carnival barkers and entertainers like Rush Limbaugh, and Alex Jones of InfoWars. Jones, if you recall, was forced to issue an apology for promoting and helping to spread the theory that top Democratic officials were involved with a satanic child pornography ring at a pizza restaurant in Washington, D.C.

The public backlash being what it was, where was the incentive for FAU officials to continue to ignore Tracy’s rules violations in favor of him pushing the moral envelope on his free speech rights? True, $2,500 may be construed as a “paltry sum,” as Tracy testified on Friday, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t insubordinate for refusing to report it properly.

But this case isn’t really about insubordination. Nor is it really about the First Amendment. It is really about Tracy’s arrogance.

And he knows it. That’s why he tried to walk back his attack on the Pozners. “I was distraught,” he told the jury on Friday.

But when asked if it was true that the Pozner’s son, Noah, had been shot at Sandy Hook, he stuck by his conspiracy theory. “Reportedly, yes,” he said.

Arrogance.