Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly on American University
July 25, 2002
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 arrested?
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 charges.
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 I said...
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 to say.
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 media sources.
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 year, huh?
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 your mail.