Students at Brown University were outraged when an unwelcome guest crashed the Queer Allianace’s annual SexPowerGod party last Saturday and snuck away with unapproved footage, which later appeared on national cable TV on last Monday’s “The O’Reilly Show.”
The guest, Fox News Producer Jesse Watters videotaped what he called the “wildest party I’d ever been to...it was pure debauchery...girls were falling down drunk, and most were wearing just panties and bras. I went to the bathroom and heard guys having sex in the stall next to me...guys kissing guys and girls making out with girls.”
Watter’s unedited footage exposed numerous individuals’ faces without their permission and was accompanied by defamatory commentary, which Brown’s Undergraduate Council of Students (UCS) and the Brown Daily Herald called factually inaccurate, “unprofessional, and offensive.”
Jonathan Margolick, a representative of the UCS and Brown’s Undergraduate Finance Board (UFB) labeled the segment “shamefully poor reporting,” and the UCS responded with a resolution last Wednesday calling for a correction and apology from O’Reilly.
On the show, O’Reilly argued that it was “inappropriate” for Brown University to endorse “direct university funding” for such an event.
But according to Margolick, funding for the party came from the Queer Alliance’s ticket sales, not from the $800 that the UFB gave to the group at the start of the semester.
Brown’s Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations, Michael Chapman, also told the Brown Daily Herald that a Fox News Producer had called the university about the party before O’Reilly’s show aired and been informed that “no regular University funds were involved.”
The show also alleged that partygoers were taking ecstasy, but the resolution, passed unanimously, noted that “according to Richard LaPierre, head of Brown University Emergency Medical Services, there was no evidence that any event attendee had used ecstasy.”
The same UCS resolution said it was “highly unethical” that O’Reilly neglected to edit the video footage and “preserve privacy” for the students.
“People were acting with a reasonable expectation of privacy amongst their peers, so to see it on the news two days later was shocking and more than a little off-putting,” Margolick said. “Lots of students had awkward conversations with heir parents.”
Despite the University’s outrage, O’Reilly responded with contempt in his national radio show “The Radio Factor” on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
“We weren’t going to ask you for permission...we don’t care what you say. You want to file charges, go ahead,” he said on the air.
He also called Brown University President Ruth Simmons “a pinhead” and condemned “those pinheads up at Brown,” adding that “liberal administrators do not make judgments about behavior. Therefore any and all behavior that stops short of violence is permissible on many college campuses.”
President Simmons declined to comment, but in the resolution, the UCS called these insults “unwarranted, unnecessary and offensive.”
Later in the show, O’Reilly said that students “would have been safer in Baghdad than on the campus of Brown University.”
Zachary A. Townsend, UCS admissions and student services chair, said, “we don’t need to dignify this. We are dealing with a person who doesn’t care about the facts, so we can’t really win. Also, it’s not great publicity for Brown.” He also defended President Simmons, adding, “We really love Ruth. Students are offended that she was insulted by someone who is clearly much less intelligent than her.”
Margolick said, “It’s hard to respond to such a puerile insult.”
UCS Communications Chair, Tristan M.D. Freeman said, “We understand the nature of O’Reilly’s show and that it’s not going to be the most factually correct, so we can take it with a grain of salt.”
He said that students at Brown were “most disappointed by the many factual inaccuracies in O’Reilly’s show, and the fact that this was broadcast on national TV.”
He added the general reaction was “outrage mingled with pride.”
The UCS’ resolution called for O’Reilly to “apologize for and retract his factually inaccurate statements” on “The O’Reilly Show” and “The Radio Factor” and for the Brown University Public Affairs and University Relations (PAUR) to pursue the issue further in the event that he failed to do so.
O’Reilly had not responded to the resolution as of last night and many students said they suspected that O’Reilly would not apologize.
But, Freeman said he thought that students responded well.
“It’s just important that student organizations moved so quickly to counteract the claims made by O’Reilly’s shows,” he said. “It shows how much people here care about Brown, but we don’t want to linger on this issue. There are many other, more important things that the UCS needs to work on.”