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Missouri State University objects to restrictions on Ashcroft speech


The only authorized taped copy of a speech given by former Attorney General John Ashcroft has been returned after Missouri State University officials objected to restrictions placed on who could listen to it.

Ashcroft spoke at the university last week during a conference organized by the Heartland Regional Council of the Institute of Management Accounts.

Ashcroft’s contract did not allow the media to make an audio recording of his speech but did not place the same restrictions on the audience.

The university planned to keep an audio recording of the speech at its library, which is open to the public, but Ashcroft’s representatives said it could be accessed only by current students and faculty.

Missouri State attorney John Black said the university could not follow that restriction and returned the tape on Monday to the Harry Walker Agency, which books Ashcroft’s appearances.

A message left Saturday with the agency by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.

Black said the university was not aware of the restrictions on the recording before the speech.

He said the contract that conference organizers signed with university for use of Juanita K. Hammons Hall of the Performing Arts contains terms “reflecting (the school’s) public affairs mission and encourages speakers to provide more access than is the norm for paid speakers.”

But the agency was not aware of the university’s position, Black said, meaning “there has never been an understanding of the conditions of which archival copies could be made.”

Some people in the audience made other recordings of Ashcroft’s speech.

Andrew Cline, assistant professor of communications at Missouri State, said he made a recording in plain view of everyone sitting near him during the speech and he knows of at least two more recordings.

Cline said he would like to broadcast segments of the speech in a podcast along with his own commentary but he’s unsure how the university would react.

“If I got 100 percent support to stand up for press freedoms, I would post snippets with my commentary,” he said.

Information from: Springfield News-Leader,

–Associated Press

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