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Wisconsin university chancellor says he was fired for producing and appearing in porn videos

Dec 28, 2023, 8:45 AM

FILE - Students walk in the snow on campus at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse as a staff m...

FILE - Students walk in the snow on campus at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse as a staff member, left, clears snow during a storm on Feb. 2, 2016. Former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said Thursday, Dec. 28, 2023, that regents fired him because they were uncomfortable with him and his wife producing and appearing in pornographic videos.(Peter Thomson/La Crosse Tribune via AP, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Peter Thomson/La Crosse Tribune via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said Thursday that regents fired him because they were uncomfortable with him and his wife producing and appearing in pornographic videos.

The regents voted unanimously during a hastily convened closed meeting Wednesday evening to fire Gow.

After the vote, Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman and regents President Karen Walsh issued statements saying the regents had learned of specific conduct by Gow that subjected the university to “significant reputational harm.” Rothman called Gow’s actions “abhorrent” and Walsh said she was “disgusted.” But neither of them offered any details of the allegations.

Gow told The Associated Press in a phone interview Thursday morning that regents had discovered that he and his wife, former UW-La Crosse professor Carmen Wilson, had been producing and appearing in pornographic videos.

He maintained that he never mentioned UW-La Crosse or his role at the university in any of the videos and the firing violated his free speech rights.

“My wife and I live in a country where we have a First Amendment,” he said. “We’re dealing with consensual adult sexuality. The regents are overreacting. They’re certainly not adhering to their own commitment to free speech or the First Amendment.”

Gow also complained that the regents never told him what policy he violated and he was never given a hearing or other opportunity to present his case. He said he’s contemplating a lawsuit.

“I got an email last night saying I was terminated,” Gow said. “I wish I would have had the opportunity to have a hearing. When reasonable people understand what my wife and I are creating, it calms them down.”

Gow had planned to retire as chancellor at the conclusion of the spring 2024 semester and transition into a role teaching communication courses. But Rothman said Wednesday evening that he planned to file a complaint with UW-L’s interim chancellor, Betsy Morgan, seeking a review of Gow’s tenure.

Rothman said in an email to the AP on Thursday morning that Gow failed to act as a role model for students, faculty and the community and mistakenly believes the First Amendment equates to a “free pass to say or do anything that he pleases.”

“Good judgement requires that there are and must be limits on what is said or done by the individuals entrusted to lead our universities,” Rothman said.

Rothman added that Gow served at the pleasure of the regents and was not entitled to any specific process.

“That should be abundantly clear to him,” Rothman said.

Gow took heavy criticism in 2018 for inviting porn actor Nina Hartley to speak at UW-La Crosse. He paid her $5,000 out of student fees to appear. Ray Cross, then UW system president, reprimanded him and the regents refused to give him a raise that year. Gow said then that he was exercising the system’s free speech policies.

Gow and his wife star in a YouTube channel called “Sexy Healthy Cooking” in which the couple cooks meals with porn actors. They also have written two e-books, “Monogamy with Benefits: How Porn Enriches Our Relationship” and “Married with Benefits — Our Real-Life Adult Industry Adventures” under pseudonyms. Their biographies on Amazon contain links to their videos on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, and a pornographic website.

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Wisconsin university chancellor says he was fired for producing and appearing in porn videos