National Post

May 9, 2002

Professor said 'dumb thing,' witness says

Libel trial: Trying to expose Henry Makow's bad behaviour, not views

Les Perreaux
National Post

WINNIPEG - A columnist accused of defaming a university professor testified yesterday that she was trying to expose his bad behaviour in class, not his anti-feminist views.

Lyn Cockburn of The Winnipeg Sun wrote an article accusing Henry Makow of unprofessional and sexually inappropriate conduct with first-year students at the University of Winnipeg.

During the third day of Mr. Makow's libel trial against the Sun, Ms. Cockburn admitted she wrote the piece lambasting him based on interviews with one student. The student, who was not named in the article, was Avital Feuer, the daughter of a Sun copy editor.

Ms. Feuer, who will testify later in the trial, allegedly told Ms. Cockburn that Mr. Makow bragged to the class about beating his girlfriend. The article said that because Mr. Makow had a history of beating women, students were afraid of him. On all of the accusations, Ms. Cockburn took Ms. Feuer's word alone.

"I felt Avital was quite sufficient," Ms. Cockburn said, later adding that much of the information was already public knowledge in Winnipeg.

Seven students testified yesterday that the accusations are false.

In the article, Ms. Cockburn wrote that a student had tapes that proved the allegations and that they were "witnessed by enough students to re-sink the Titanic." She also said 11 of Mr. Makow's 35 students made a complaint.

Yesterday, she admitted that she did not try to obtain the tape recordings, which turned out to be inaudible, or a copy of the complaint, signed by four students. She also did not attempt to interview other students. When she interviewed Mr. Makow to get his response, he denied the allegations.

Mr. Makow, who invented the board game Scruples, taught at the University of Winnipeg on a one-year contract that was not renewed in 2000 after the controversy. He is suing the university in a separate action, saying it discriminated against him because of his anti-feminist views.

Ms. Cockburn writes a regular column for the Sun in which she takes the feminist viewpoint against a male counterpart. She denied that she attacked Mr. Makow because of his views. However in the column that criticized Mr. Makow, Ms. Cockburn suggested that most parents would not want their daughters exposed to Mr. Makow's view "that women should devote their lives to serving their men because the high divorce rate in North America is caused by women who have careers and are, therefore, not good mothers."

"It's a dumb thing to say," Ms. Cockburn testified yesterday. "But I wrote the article to challenge his behaviour, not his views on feminism."

Several students who testified Tuesday said the article distorted Mr. Makow's comments and behaviour. The students said Mr. Makow once spoke of a dispute with his girlfriend, but not of beating her. They said his question about lost innocence was directed at childhood discoveries such as the realization that Santa Claus does not exist. One student embarrassed herself by divulging when she lost her virginity, said Kerri Sandell, a 24-year-old former student. "We giggled about it and moved on," she said.

Mr. Makow's dismissal from the university prompted him to start Web sites denouncing a lesbian political agenda that is overtaking Canada's institutions. The sites are entitled and The Sun has introduced many of his controversial viewpoints on homosexuality and the role of women in the home as evidence in the trial.

Mr. Makow's third wife, Alicia Makow, testified that she met her husband on the Internet two years ago. Ms. Makow, 27, is a native of Mexico City who has a masters degree in computer information technology. She works as a freelance Web designer. "He treats me with respect. He goes out of his way to make me happy," she said of their one-year marriage.

After Ms. Makow's testimony, Mr. Makow, 52, flashed a handwritten sign to the court gallery. It read: "It was love at first Web sight."

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