University Moves to Fire Sandy Hook Denier

Florida Atlantic acts after parents of a boy killed in the Newtown, Conn., tragedy accuse institution of ignoring damage caused by a conspiracy theorist on its faculty.

December 17, 2015
James Tracy

Florida Atlantic University announced Wednesday that it is seeking to fire James Tracy, an associate professor in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies.

The university's announcement did not state why it was seeking to dismiss Tracy, who is tenured. But Florida Atlantic has been urged to take action against Tracy -- known for denying that many mass shootings are real -- by the parents of a boy who was among the victims of the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Lenny and Veronique Pozner are the parents of Noah Pozner, who was 6 when he was killed at Sandy Hook. In a widely distributed essay last week, they write that they know conspiracy theorists abound, but that Tracy has had particular success in being quoted by newspapers and television stations, spreading the idea that Sandy Hook (and other mass shootings) never happened.

"Tracy has enjoyed tremendous success from this exposure and has since leveraged it into a popular Internet blog and radio program," they write. "Worse yet, it has elevated his status and fame among the degenerates that revel in the pleasure of sadistically torturing victims’ families. 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 add that 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."

In 2013, Florida Atlantic reprimanded Tracy for failing to sufficiently disassociate the university from his blog. At that time, in the "About" section of his blog, Tracy noted that he taught at Florida Atlantic and said, "All items published herein represent the views of James Tracy and are not representative of or condoned by Florida Atlantic University or the State University System of Florida."

Since then, Tracy has removed mention of Florida Atlantic from his biography in the "About" section, which now states that he is "a media scholar, educator and political analyst located in South Florida." And the disclaimer now says that "views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not reflect the opinions or positions of any institution or entity."

He has continued on his blog to reject the idea that Sandy Hook happened, and also to cast doubt on other mass shootings. His latest post critiques the idea that the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings took place as they have been widely described.

In their essay, the Pozners acknowledge that Tracy does not point to his FAU connection anymore, but they write that his link is well-known and that it hurts the reputation of the university. They cite articles in which pundits have mocked the university and reports that some parents do not want their children enrolled at an institution that employs someone like Tracy as a professor. They note that the university's Faculty Handbook states that activities of faculty members outside their work duties are their own business except when they damage the interests of the university.

"It matters not if Tracy simply refrains from mentioning FAU when defaming murdered Americans and their families," they write. "There is ample evidence to demonstrate that his extracurricular misconduct has already adversely affected FAU’s reputation and will continue doing so as long as he continues down this path."

The university's move to fire Tracy -- which he can appeal through a grievance process -- represents a shift in Florida Atlantic's position. When reporters first started to ask university officials about the blog, prior to the reprimand, Florida Atlantic told reporters, "James Tracy does not speak for the university. The website on which his post appeared is not affiliated with FAU in any way."

Tracy told The New York Daily News that he would fight for his job. “I think what this really involves is a matter of free speech,” he said. “All I’ve done is to delve into the Sandy Hook event. I think the work I’ve done stands up."

On the Facebook page called "Sandy Hook Hoax," Tracy posted a response to the Pozners (prior to the university seeking his dismissal) in which he accused them of seeking "to intimidate my employer into firing me because of the extensive research" he and others have done in which they argue that there was no mass shooting at Sandy Hook.

Tracy's university webpage indicates that he teaches three courses: Culture of Conspiracy; American Media, Society, Tech; and Public Opinion Modernity.


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