You’ve perhaps read that the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet, is raising sand because it lost visiting privileges at the University of Arkansas archives for unpermitted use of material on Hillary Clinton.
The article was about her successful defense as a court-appointed lawyer for a rape suspect in 1975. The work has been written about before, at length. The news is that a tape recording, previously unpublished, exists about the case. In it, critics have found reason to question Clinton’s attitude in defending a man against a 12-year-old’s accusations.
The further news now is that the UA has suspended the Free Beacon from the archives for publishing the audio recording on its website without first obtaining permission, a copyright matter, the UA believes. The right-wing echo chamber has exploded with indignation over perceived 1st Amendment violations depicted as retaliation for depictions of a callous former first lady. The new reporting has also brought forward the now 51-year-old rape victim to reconsider earlier remarks that Clinton had just been doing her job. Now, she says, Clinton is “lying like a dog.” The reporting has already spun off into Kenneth Starr-worthy ozone to include the fact that UA Chancellor David Gearhart once was a law student of both Bill and Hillary Clinton and a dean who issued the banning order once gave Hillary Clinton a campaign contribution.
Special counsel time, clearly.
Into the fray comes the UA, with some explanations from the library dean on its archive policies.
Statement from University Libraries:
There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation regarding a claim that The Washington Free Beacon was “banned” from Special Collections. The issue is that this media outlet failed to comply with standard library policies followed across the nation.
If The Washington Free Beacon can agree to follow the library’s rules, the same rules practiced by all other patrons, then we will reinstate its research privileges. This isn’t an issue about withholding information, the bottom line is they failed to obtain permission to publish copyrighted material.
Further, this is not the first time we’ve asked The Free Beacon to follow our procedure. They were notified in February following a similar lack of policy compliance. We’ve never denied a permission to publish for a patron. There’s nothing unique about this requirement.
The library does not ban patrons from researching. In fact, this is the first and only time an agency has not followed the policy, resulting in a temporary suspension of privileges. We duplicated and provided the materials to the Free Beacon in the first place, expecting compliance with our policies for publishing. We will reinstate that organization’s privileges to access Special Collections pending confirmation that the organization will follow the rules similar to all other patrons. A suspension is temporary.
I can emphasize that the University of Arkansas treats all researchers equally and encourages members of the media and general public to access records in Special Collections. Providing access to the records is why the university has the collection in the first place.
We welcome all interested parties to access our treasure trove of materials in Special Collections, which is open from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.
Here is the link to the finding aid for the materials in question, with the access and use requirements stated clearly.
I speak as someone often skeptical of UA motives and operations. Here, I’m sympathetic. Even some mainstream reporters think the UA erred somehow in suspending privileges for this outfit. But what can they do when someone won’t follow the rules? If the rules don’t apply to the Free Beacon, then they don’t apply to anyone. PS — The Free Beacon claims no one ever asked them to sign anything. The Democrat-Gazette has reported that they routinely sign such a paper. I guess the question now is will the policy be uniformly applied in the future and will the Free Beacon comply or contend it need not. In which case I guess it wouldn’t have to check out a library book if it chose.