The Washington Free Beacon was informed this week that it has been banned from the University of Arkansas' special collections archive, a sharp and somewhat unexpected response to the news group's recent reporting on Hillary Clinton's 1975 defense of an accused child rapist.
The Free Beacon was informed June 17 that its access to the special archives had been suspended.
“I am writing you to direct you and the Washington Beacon Press to cease and desist your ongoing violation of the intellectual property rights of the University of Arkansas with regard to your unauthorized publication of audio recordings obtained from the Roy Reed Collection,” wrote University of Arkansas Libraries dean Carolyn Henderson Allen.
Allen accused the Free Beacon of failing to secure permission before it published audio of Clinton recounting her defense of a man accused raping a 12-year-old girl.
The letter also demanded that the news group “immediately remove the audio recordings of the Roy Reed Collection from your website” and “immediately return all audio recordings obtained from the Roy Reed Collection previously provided to you.”
Allen pledged that the suspension would be lifted provided the Free Beacon scrub published materials from its website.
Of course, considering that the reasoning for the special archives ban is so flimsy, the Free Beacon responded sharply, accusing the university of gross misconduct.
“I find it stunning that you would seek to censor the dissemination of lawfully acquired information that is clearly in the public interest, given the historic role that libraries long have played in fostering free expression and the broad dissemination of information,” a lawyer representing the news organization said in a response to Allen.
“In addition to being entirely inaccurate as a matter of both law and fact, your letter is a clear assault on the First Amendment principles that are fundamental to libraries and to journalism,” the letter added.
Here’s the response:
Just so we’re clear: The Free Beacon has been banned from researching the school's archives because a dean said it failed to comply with specific guidelines involving requests for permission to publish archived material. And the dean demanded that the Washington Free Beacon scrub published material from its website.
Does this sound at all reasonable?
Clinton's defenders, who have in the past marginalized unflattering reports on the former Secretary of State by scoffing at the source, now have a much bigger — and unavoidable — problem than the original reports on Clinton's 1975 defense of an accused rapist. They now have to deal with the fact that a news organization has been banned from a public library for reporting on the matter.
Perhaps the recent report of Clinton defending an accused rapist by savaging the character of the 12-year-old victim is a big nothing, as her most dedicated supporters argue. But what does it say of that report when its author is banned from further examining the source material?
It's like that scene in Martin Scorsese's “Casino” where Sharon Stone asks Robert De Niro for $2,500, prompting a casual “what for?”
De Niro’s character questions her request reflexively and without any real interest. Nothing but casual. But Stone protests so loudly and with such force to his mild questioning that it raises suspicion.
Suspicions that later prove to be correct.
This is where reporters should be today with the Free Beacon ban. Why the suspension of privileges? Was the report that damning? What else is in those archives?
However, it’s unlikely these questions get asked.
Sure, there will undoubtedly be the usual throat-clearing, similar to NBC News' characterization of the Free Beacon as an "anti-Clinton website," and perhaps even some half-hearted inquiries into the library ban.
But will members of the press, especially those in the so-called “Acela Corridor,” raise the hell this story deserves? Will they dedicate as much time to uncovering why the Free Beacon got bounced from the library's archives as they dedicate to, say, taking selfies at brunch with their friends in Clinton's inner circle or waiting in line for her to sign a copy of her latest book?
A shiny nickel says they won’t. Because this is the press you deserve, America. Not the one you need.
*Full disclosure: I have on several occasions consumed large and irresponsible amounts of alcoholic beverages with the Washington Free Beacon staff. I can confirm that they are terrible people. Their work, however, speaks for itself.