WILMINGTON — A Harbor College student editor whose "revisionist" articles on the Holocaust provoked an outcry from Jewish organizations and led to censure by community college trustees has been fired from his job after participating in a right-wing demonstration on the campus.
Joe Granberg, editor in chief of the Harbor Hawk, said he dismissed Joe Fields as opinion editor of the campus newspaper after Fields ignored warnings not to become involved with rightist groups that attempted to distribute literature during a commemoration of the Holocaust at the college on Wednesday.
"I felt Joe (Fields) had gone too far," said Granberg, who during months of controversy had supported the columnist's assertion that he had a First Amendment right to express unpopular views in the Hawk. "He got all excited about the observance and I told him several times that if his conduct reflected badly on the newspaper, he would be out as opinion editor."
Fields said that Tom Metzger, former state leader of the Ku Klux Klan and an unsuccessful congressional candidate in the San Diego area in 1980, and David McCalden, director of Truth Missions, a Manhattan Beach-based rightist organization, were among leaders of about a dozen people who attempted to distribute literature disputing the "Holocaust myth."
College officials said members of the group were given permission to hand out pamphlets, but were escorted from the grounds by campus police when they began soliciting for signatures on a petition. They said the observance, which featured speeches and displays on Nazi persecution of Jews and other groups in Europe during the World War II, was not disrupted by the protesters.
Fields said he attended the commemoration as an observer and possibly to gather material for another article. He acknowledged that he became involved in an argument with a college official over Metzger's efforts to enter the the auditorium where the ceremonies were being held.
"The event was advertised as being open to the public," Fields said. "I had a right as an American citizen to be there. . . . Joe Granberg was under a lot of outside pressure to get rid of me, but the same people he is trying to please today are our enemies."
Fields said he has called on the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge his ouster in court.
College officials privately expressed relief that Fields would no longer be publishing the controversial columns that attracted widespread publicity and led to a censure in December from trustees of the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District. Harbor President James Heinzelman denied exerting pressure to oust Fields, saying that the decision was "strictly a student affair."
Harvey B. Schecter, Western regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, said, "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but thank God they do grind. It was obvious from the beginning that Fields was not interested in a career in journalism, but in spreading hate and propaganda."
Mike Cornner, a former Pierce College teacher assigned last month as Harbor's journalism instructor and adviser to the beleaguered Hawk, said Fields can continue on the paper's staff in another capacity if he wishes.
"I look forward to meeting with Joe Fields on Monday to discuss his goals," Cornner said. "To get a passing grade for the course, he will need to turn in acceptable stories in other areas (besides opinion articles)."
Cornner said Granberg and other staff members have been "very cooperative in trying to improve the Hawk and I think we've made some substantial progress."