It was the bombshell the academics and Daniels’ skeptics were waiting for.
Forget, for now, a brutal assessment that seems to revel in the historian’s death — “This terrible anti-American academic finally passed away,” he wrote to staff members on Feb. 9, 2010 — as if to say: At least Zinn’s lies are finished.
But for Daniels, who has worked hard to separate the two versions of himself, the two-year-old emails show that it doesn’t take much to scratch the veneer and reveal the political boss he once was.
Last week, a day after the AP account broke, Daniels was claiming the story mixed academic metaphors.
As governor, he said, he had an obligation to weed out “shoddy work” from the state’s K-12 schools. He insisted that his Zinn tirade was aimed only at primary and secondary schools, even though the email exchange talked about bringing Teresa Lubbers, commissioner for higher education, into a conversation about education school standards.
And Daniels stood by his assessment that Zinn’s works — particularly the ground-up view offered in “A People’s History of the United States” — was the work of someone who “by his own admission [is] a biased writer” and who “purposely falsified American history.”
As university president, though, Daniels said he would defend Zinn’s academic freedom and his job.
But it’s hard to hide the visceral tone of emails intended to mobilize Daniels’ Statehouse team to wipe Zinn from the curriculum: “This crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state. ... Sounds like we need a cleanup of what is credit-worthy in ‘professional development’ and what is not.”
After an emailed suggestion from David Shane, a state board of education member, that it “would be useful (& fun)” to work with Lubbers to review professional development programs in education schools — “Would force to daylight a lot of the excrement,” he wrote — Daniels replied: “Go for it. Disqualify the propaganda ...”