Daniels says he challenged accuracy of books, wasn't censoring

Former Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN)

Former Governor Mitch Daniels is responding to new reports about controversial emails he sent while in office, questioning what teachers were doing in Indiana classrooms.

The newly-obtained emails, first obtained by the Associated Press, show Daniels targeting what he considered to be breeding grounds of liberalism on college campuses years before he became Purdue University's president.

Daniels says his comments and controversial emails he sent three years ago as governor were not an attack on academic freedom on any university campus. They were aimed at K-12 education.

Critics say the former governor was trying to silence voices with which he didn't agree. Daniels told Eyewitness News he was just trying to protect elementary age students from what he considers false information.

"My one concern was are falsehoods about American history, clear falsehoods, being taught to any students in Indiana or our teachers being encouraged to teach that," Daniels said Tuesday night during an interview at Purdue.

He was concerned about a history book by Howard Zinn of Boston University, a liberal activist and thinker.

"Even someone as extreme and radical and, as far as I'm concerned, completely wrong as Howard Zinn, had he been a Purdue professor with tenure, he would have been permitted to do his work here, but not to foist it on unknowing and unsuspecting students in our public schools. That's a completely different subject," Daniels said Tuesday.

In a 2010 email discovered by the AP, the then-governor asked a staffer if Zinn's book was used in Indiana and "if it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history."

When the answer turned out to be no, Daniels says, "I forgot about the whole thing."

The AP reports the book was used in 2010 at Indiana University.

"This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state," Daniels wrote.

State school board member David Shane's email back to Daniels called for a review of all state university courses "to force to daylight a lot of excrement."

But Daniels says he was not targeting campus academic freedom.

"I remain puzzled at this point. I need to go back and rethink what I might have done or said," said IUPUI clinical professor of education Charles Little.

Little is also head of the Indiana Urban Schools Association and a Daniels critic. A 2009 email obtained by the AP shows the then-governor calling for an audit of Little's organization.

"It's a pretty serious matter, if you ask me," Little told Eyewitness News. "It's a very serious matter."

"I didn't know who he was then, I don't care now, I only cared about true American history taught in Hoosier classrooms," Daniels said.

Daniels' appointment to Purdue was both applauded and protested. Tuesday night, the university president received support from the chair of the University Senate.

"I am not aware of any attempts by President Daniels to censor activity at our university. Rather, I have been very pleased with his willingness to listen and his receptiveness to our input," said Professor David Williams.

So how did the email flap get started?

"It appears someone was foraging around for a story and found some emails they thought told...you know, gave a different angle. But again, it's a confused muddling of two totally separate subjects," Daniels said Tuesday, "academic freedom, which protects even the most unpopular views in the higher education world. And teaching the truth, or some reasonable facsimile of it, in the K-12 education realm, which is a completely different subject. And that was my only concern at the time."