NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
July 25, 2002
HEADLINE: Back of the Book
GUESTS: Ben Wetmore
BYLINE: Bill O’Reilly
O’REILLY: In the “Back of the Book” segment tonight, things got a little
rough last April at American University in Washington, D.C. Tipper Gore was
giving a speech and poli-sci major Ben Wetmore, a junior, was taping that
speech. Midway through Mrs. Gore’s remarks, Wetmore was arrested by campus
police officers. He joins us now from Denver, where he is spending the
summer. All right, Ben. So, you’re a rabble-rouser, an Abbey Hoffman-type
guy, causing trouble on the campus. And what happened to you after you were
BEN WETMORE, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY STUDENT: Well, they led me out of the
arena, Mr. O’Reilly, and they explained to me that they weren’t going to
take my tape. And when I got outside the arena, their tone changed. They
wanted the tape. They wanted me to hand it over. And when I told them, no, I
wasn’t going to turn it over, they pushed me against the wall, they
threatened with mace, they pushed me down to the ground, they cuffed me,
they bent my finger back and led me out, took the tape, left. And two
weeks later, I was filed with charges, seven different charges, including
the danger of the health and safety of an officer, refusing to comply with
university officials, theft of property. And then, I was sent to a kangaroo
court, which was just outrageous, and found guilty of five of these seven
O’REILLY: That was on the campus, though. That wasn’t a court of law.
WETMORE: Well, it’s interesting that the due process that was violated —
they made me testify against myself, and the university counsel made it
clear that she retained the right to pursue this criminally. So, everything
O’REILLY: But they haven’t so far, have they?
WETMORE: No, they haven’t.
O’REILLY: OK, they won’t. But what happened to you on campus? Did you lose
any rights or any privileges?
WETMORE: I was stripped from my offices in elected student government. I’m
supposed to complete 40 hours of community service cleaning up the arena. I
have a disciplinary probation for a year and I have a blemish on my record
which says I assaulted an officer and stole property from the university.
O’REILLY: All right. Now, what did you hold as far as the university was
concerned? You were an elected official?
WETMORE: Yes. I was a hall president.
O’REILLY: OK, a hall president. Now, their point of view is that Mrs. Gore’s
speech is intellectual property and you have no right to tape it and use it
for whatever you want to use it for. Now, I’m sympathetic to that because I
do give speeches occasionally around the country and I don’t want people
taping my speeches and then putting them on the Internet, chopped up and
edited and, you know, you can do all kinds of things. So intellectual
property, you know, you hear it in concerts, you can’t record them, you
can’t take pictures and all. That is a law. Do you see that?
WETMORE: Oh, I understand that, in that there are certain prohibitions on
copyright. You can’t sell it, you know. You can’t bottle it up and resell
your speech or Mrs. Gore’s speech. But there is a fair use provision in
which an academic record is allowed.
O’REILLY: It depends. It depends on what the rules of the person is. So, if
you go to Madison Square Garden and you tape the Rolling Stones, you can’t
do a fair use of any of it because taping is prohibited. And it’s a
public — I should say, a private place has a right to do that, and American
University is a private college, is it not?
WETMORE: But it was a public event, Mr. O’Reilly, and they didn’t say there
was no taping allowed. They didn’t say…
O’REILLY: A-ha! So they didn’t tell you that there was — Mrs. Gore didn’t
want any of this?
WETMORE: The only thing they said at the beginning of the speech was that no
flash photography was permitted.
O’REILLY: OK. Now, that’s interesting. So, you had no cause to know. All you
really had to do, then, is shut down the camera when they told you to shut
it down, which you did, right?
WETMORE: Well, I stopped taping Mrs. Gore and I was a little worried because
the men who approached me wouldn’t identify themselves. So, I kept the tape
on them, but I stopped taping Mrs. Gore.
O’REILLY: OK. Now, you don’t think that Tipper Gore knew anything about
this, do you?
WETMORE: I would hope not. I can’t think that she would.
O’REILLY: I don’t think so. You know, I don’t. What did she talk about, by
the way? Was it controversial in any way?
WETMORE: She talked about her life with Al. She talked about what a good
president Al would make. She talked about mental health issues and her own
battles with depression.
O’REILLY: And why did you want to tape this?
WETMORE: Well, the university was spending $32,000 worth of student money to
bring her to come speak. You know, I didn’t — they said they weren’t going
to tape it. So, I didn’t understand why nobody else would.
O’REILLY: Now, there’s another opening for you. If your money went to pay
Mrs. Gore, then you have some kind of right in participating in what she has
O’REILLY: See, you should have called me. I would have gone down there and
represented you in front of this kangaroo court they had at American
University. What is the bottom line on this? There has got to be more to
this. What is it, really? What’s the no spin on it, Ben?
WETMORE: Well, the no spin is that the university needed an excuse to shut
down the Web site that I operate called benwetmore.com.
O’REILLY: And why did they want to do that?
WETMORE: Because it is critical of the university. There is not a big media
presence on campus and they’re not used to it. So they’re very irritated by
the Web site. And this was a good excuse for them to try to shut that down.
O’REILLY: Why are they irritated by the Web site?
WETMORE: Well, it gives a lot of information that students don’t otherwise
have. You know, we give the salary information. We give the contact
information. We show pictures of extravagant spending on behalf of the
university, you know, a lot of things that aren’t covered by the normal
O’REILLY: Were you going to mock Mrs. Gore on your Web site?
WETMORE: I didn’t have any plans to even use the tape for my Web site. I
thought at least there should be a record of her speech. There’s a
closed-circuit campus television, which I thought could use it and, you
know, show previous speeches by speakers on campus. But I hadn’t put more
thought into it than that.
O’REILLY: Well, listen, if you helped pay for it, I mean, you have a right
to participate in it. So, you’re going back to American for your senior
O’REILLY: All right. Good luck, Ben.
WETMORE: Thanks a lot, Mr. O’Reilly.
O’REILLY: And we appreciate you telling us this story. Thank you. Next, we
will wrap things up with the “Most Ridiculous Item of the Day” and some of