Unconditional Surrender

University of Arkansas library backs down on Free Beacon ban

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton / AP

The University of Arkansas library has backed down from its decision to block the Washington Free Beacon from accessing its special collections archives following a month-long public uproar.

The library suspended the Free Beacon’s research privileges in June after the outlet published a story based on audiotapes from university archives that included Hillary Clinton discussing her 1975 defense of a child rapist.

Library officials said the Free Beacon had violated the university’s intellectual property rights by publishing the excerpts without submitting a permission-to-publish form. However, the library later acknowledged it did not own the copyright for the audiotapes.

The copyright holder, veteran Arkansas reporter Roy Reed, has said he does not object to the audio excerpts being published.

Library Dean Carolyn Henderson Allen demanded in a June 17 letter that the Free Beacon "cease and desist [its] ongoing violation of the intellectual property rights of the University of Arkansas" by removing the recordings from its website.

"[T]his letter will serve as formal notice that the research privileges for your organization and anyone acting on behalf of your organization are now officially suspended," wrote Allen, a Hillary Clinton donor.

But over a month after the suspension—and following sharp criticism from national news outlets and prominent archivists—the library has changed its tune.

Responding to a letter from Free Beacon editor in chief Matthew Continetti saying that researchers for the online newspapers would appear at the library on August 4 and ignore the permission-to-publish policy, spokesperson Mark Rushing said the Free Beacon "will be welcomed and provided access in the same manner as any of the researchers from around the world who use the University of Arkansas Libraries' Special Collections."

"[T]he University encourages your researchers to access the materials in the library’s Special Collections as often as they wish," Rushing wrote in his July 31 letter.

He said the Free Beacon could research at the library because the University of Arkansas had informed the copyright holder, Reed, of the Free Beacon‘s publication.

Rushing said this was the "primary intent of the [permission form] policy regarding publishing that your organization refuses to follow."

"This is necessary so that the researcher can obtain proper copyright clearance and prevent infringement issues, especially if the copyright is held by a private individual," wrote Rushing.

Internal emails obtained by the Free Beacon showed that library officials waited over a week after sending the Free Beacon a "cease and desist" letter before contacting Reed to confirm he was the copyright holder—and only after a local reporter requested the information.

The emails also revealed library officials were in contact with the Clinton Foundation on the day they decided to revoke the Free Beacon’s research privileges.

Rushing maintained that the library’s decision was not influenced by politics.

"Despite your organization’s attempt to redirect the conversation, the singular message of this matter, one that we have communicated to your organization for more than five months now, is that the University Libraries is committed to ensuring that all patrons are treated equally," wrote Rushing. "Yes, even when that means following standard library practices observed by all other patrons."

The Free Beacon article that prompted the suspension included excerpts of an audio interview Reed conducted with Hillary Clinton the mid-1980s, in which she discusses her role as a defense attorney for an alleged child rapist in 1975.

The case was a success for Clinton, who was able to secure her client a plea agreement.

Clinton speaks casually about the case, laughing at certain points while discussing how the prosecution accidentally lost evidence that tied her client to the crime, and suggests that she believed her client was guilty.

"I had him take a polygraph, which he passed—which forever destroyed my faith in polygraphs," Clinton said while laughing.

The Clintons have a history of using heavy-handed tactics to suppress unflattering news stories, as detailed most recently in the book Clinton, Inc. by Daniel Halper.

Halper reported that the Clintons helped get MSNBC anchor David Shuster suspended in 2008 after putting pressure on NBC’s owner, General Electric. Schuster had criticized Chelsea Clinton at the time.

According to emails obtained by the Free Beacon, Halper’s own book was subject to a similar suppression campaign by the Clintons, with a former spokesperson pressuring journalists such as Politico’s Dylan Byers to ignore it.

Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton told Politico’s Maggie Haberman on Thursday that "legitimate media outlets" should not report on Halper’s book Clinton, Inc., or on other new books that the Clintons perceive as unfavorable, including Edward Klein’s Blood Feud and Ronald Kessler’s The First Family Detail.

Hillary Clinton, who has apparently regained her faith in polygraphs, added in the joint statement that the Clintons would like to "strap all three [authors] to a polygraph machine on live TV and let the needle tell the truth."