A controversial professor at the University of Sheffield who promoted 9/11 conspiracy theories and wrote papers that critics claimed “whitewashed” the war crimes of the Syrian government has left his post.
Professor Piers Robinson was the chair in politics, society and political journalism at the university and taught a course in “contemporary propaganda, with a particular focus on the current war in Syria”.
His presence on the teaching staff drew intense criticism from some fellow academics. His work was described as “conspiracy-theory driven”, “completely insulting” and of having “no interest in truth or justice” by lecturers speaking to HuffPost UK last year.
A former head of MI6, and a former Supreme Commander of Nato, told HuffPost UK that quotes they gave in public were misinterpreted by Robinson in his lectures to journalism students.
Richard Dawidek, PhD student at the University of Sheffield, told HuffPost UK: “I’m pleased to hear that having left the university, Robinson will no longer be able to use the status afforded by the title of professor at a Russell group university to legitimise his writings promoting the actions of a tyrant.”
Earlier this month it was also revealed by Sheffield student paper, Forge Press, that Robinson was “engaging in denial” of anti-Semitism allegations within the Labour Party after he signed a petition saying it was “being used as a weapon to silence those who speak out against injustice”.
Robinson denied he had undermined anti-Semitism claims, saying he “believe[s] that the problem has been exaggerated for political purposes”.
He had been on leave for the last few months but remained active on social media and made a number of media appearances under his title of professor.
He was a regular guest on Russian state-backed channels such as Sputnik and RT where he defended the Russian regime, claiming the Kremlin was being “demonised” over the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in order to distract from the West’s “aggressive regime change strategy” in the Middle East.
The book rejects the established narrative that 19 al-Qaeda operatives hijacked four planes and flew them into the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in 2001, instead suggesting explosives were used to bring down the towers, and questioning whether the planes were even hijacked by terrorists.
In a statement, Robinson told HuffPost UK: “My decision to leave the University of Sheffield was based on a number of reasons relating to both professional goals and personal circumstances. It is categorically not the case that I was either criticised or pressured to leave by the University because of my research or public statements.”
Robinson, along with Professors Tim Hayward and Paul McKeigue of the University of Edinburgh and Professor David Miller of the University of Bristol is still active as a member of the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and the Media (WGSPM).
This group has written a number of papers that claim chemical attacks in Syria were not carried out by the Syrian Government but were staged by opposition forces to provoke western intervention.
Another WGSPM paper suggests the UK and US governments were behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, not the Kremlin despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
A Syrian PhD student at the university, told HuffPost UK: ”I feel relieved that he’s not associated with the uni where I study and where I graduated from.
“The ideas that he was promoting are untrue and they can’t be verified and are misleading ideas.
“He’s going to promote Assad anyway whether he’s at the uni or not so he is still dangerous in the sense that he’s promoting a criminal, but he’s not credible any more now he’s not at the university.”
The University of Sheffield’s Department of Journalism Studies is one of the most prestigious in the country and has placed top in the Guardian’s rankings for the subject for the last two years.
Its advisory board includes a range of high-profile journalists, including BBC Sports’ Dan Walker, Yorkshire Post Editor James Mitchinson and Nina Bhagwat, Channel 4′s Diversity Executive.
The University of Sheffield confirmed Robinson’s departure but did not comment further.
UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a more recent statement from Piers Robinson.