Florida Atlantic University announced on Thursday it planned to fire tenured professor James Tracy for allegedly harassing parents of the victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 20 children and six adults dead.
After years of Tracy stating that the massacre was a government conspiracy, the professor reportedly sent a certified letter to Lenny and Veronique Pozner demanding they prove that their deceased 6-year-old, Noah, ever existed.
When the family notified the police of the harassment, Tracy responded on a “Sandy Hook Hoax” Facebook page, claiming that the family had “made out very well for itself financially” from the tragedy.
That was enough for the university to take action. Tracy had been facing criticism for his beliefs on Sandy Hook since shortly after the massacre, when he wrote a series of posts on his private blog about the shooting.
The FAU teachers’ union president Chris Robé (who succeeded Tracy in that position) has framed Tracy’s in-limbo job status as a free speech fight.
“Every faculty member has the right to say whatever they want outside of the university as a citizen,” Robé said. “How would you feel if you lost your job because of something you wrote on your personal blog?”
Tracy could not be reached for comment on this story.
But, according to class syllabi and former students who talked to The Daily Beast, Tracy’s classes at the publicly-funded university were veritable clearinghouses for certifiably debunked conspiracy theories—from his belief in chemtrails, to the theory that vaccines cause diseases like autism, and even the belief that 9/11 was a government conspiracy.
“It was basically about news stories that the media doesn’t cover as widely. That was the overarching subject of the class,” said former student Christopher Ross. “There were a lot of videos, but they were not necessarily conspiracy videos. They were stuff along those lines of what he’s known for.”
Ross was a journalism student at FAU and took Tracy’s Public Opinion and Modernity class in the Spring of 2013, the semester he was initially embroiled in controversy over his Sandy Hook truther post.
“There was one video about vaccinations having led to disabilities in children. There was another about government cover-ups; one about 9/11,” Ross said.
Ross called Tracy’s classes “interesting” and said that “he learned a lot in his classes” even if he didn’t agree with the professor’s beliefs. He said that the lectures were mostly discussion-focused. Tracy would start off the class with a video or a recap of the required reading, then open up the conversation to ‘under-covered’ events.
“He didn’t do much talking, per se. In the beginning, we would get in groups. We would discuss the reading and the video we’d watched prior,” he said. “If there was a conversation started between the students, he’d mediate it.”
When asked if he thought Tracy believed in all of the conspiracies he brought up in class, Ross said yes.
“Personally, I think he believes,” he said.
Tracy has published several articles over the last few years that address some of the most popular discredited or impossible conspiracy theories on the web. In 2012, he posted about how he believes that “chemtrails” left in the sky by airplanes were sickening the public and controlling the weather. This has been continually debunked.
“For over a decade, military and private jet aircraft have been spraying our skies with what numerous independent researchers, journalists, and activists observe to be an admixture of aluminum, barium, strontium, and other dangerous heavy metals,” he wrote on his own blog.
In February of this year, he wrote that letting a child get measles or mumps might be a better solution than having him or her receive the MMR vaccine. This came a month after 70 people were infected with measles at Disneyland, despite the disease having been eradicated in the U.S. earlier this decade.
“In fact, as is the case with many pharmaceutical products, in the broader scheme of things the symptoms of the illness may be preferable to the alleged ‘cure,’” Tracy wrote.
More recently, however, Tracy has doubled down on the conspiracy theories involving “crisis actors”—i.e., that the recent spate of mass shootings are a worldwide ploy to disarm western nations—publishing guest posts on his blog with titles like “THE SAN BERNARDINO SHOOTING – What Really Happened Behind The Scenes?
The post, tagged by Tracy as “false flag,” reposts a story by Shawn Helton about “multiple markers which clearly indicate ‘active shooter’ armed rehearsal drills.”
These ideas litter the syllabus of Foley’s 400-level class “Culture of Conspiracy.” One of the two required textbooks is Jim Marrs’ “The Trillion Dollar Conspiracy: How the New World Order, Man-Made Diseases, and Zombie Banks Are Destroying America.”
Marrs is a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, and just two weeks ago argued that “military-trained psychic spies were able to view non-humans on Earth and elsewhere through remote viewing” at this year’s Secret Space Program Conference.
Among the movies screened in Tracy’s class were “What in the World Are They Spraying? The Chemtrail/Geo-engineering Coverup,” “A Noble Lie: Oklahoma City 1995,” and “9/11: Blueprint for Truth: The Architecture of Destruction.”
Ross, who now works in social media, for years stood behind Tracy in what he believed to be a free speech fight with the college. He called him a “great professor.”
“I had him the first class he taught coming back from the Sandy Hook [controversy]. He didn’t talk about it in the class. He completely separated what he did as a teacher,” said Ross.
But when told that Tracy had sent a certified letter to the Pozner family demanding proof of the existence of their dead son, Ross changed his tune.
“Oh, man,” he said, then sighed. “Now, hearing that, I can understand why the school would want to take action. I think it’s okay to express your opinion, but you’ve gotta let the parents grieve.”