John Carberry

John Carberry

October 28, 2015

Cornell Stops Fox News’ Jesse Watters From Interviewing Students About Liberal ‘Indoctrination’

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Updated with a statement from Joel Malina, vice president for university relations

Officials from Cornell’s media relations office asked Fox News anchor Jesse Watters to stop interviewing students on campus in a segment that aired on The O’Reilly Factor Monday night.

John Carberry

John Carberry, senior director of University Media Relations, tells Jesse Watters he must leave campus and stop interviewing students about political “indoctrination.”

Fox’s “Watters’ World” segment shows the anchor interviewing students about possible political “indoctrination,” after a study by The Sun revealed that 96 percent of Cornell’s faculty donations over the past four years have gone to liberal campaigns.  The study was misquoted by Watters, who said that 96 percent of faculty donated to Democrats.

In the video, which is currently trending on Facebook, Watters stops various Cornell students in Collegetown, asking them questions spanning from the national debt to whether professors “burn incense in class.”

“I’m going to give you a test to see if you’ve been indoctrinated and how bad it is,” Watters told one student in the video. “Do you think we should build a wall on the southern border to protect against the illegal alien invasion?”

“Make it out of ice,” the student responded.

“That’s not very smart for a Cornell student,” Watters replied.

“Well I’m indoctrinated, so I know nothing,” the student snapped back.

Following Watters’ interviews with students in Collegetown, the clip showed a confrontation with John Carberry of Cornell’s Media Relations in Day Hall, where Carberry told Watters he must leave campus and stop interviewing students, even if they consented to be interviewed. When Watters asked for the reasoning behind this decision, Carberry said he would “send a statement” in an email.

Bill O’Reilly questioned the political diversity at Cornell on his show last night after playing the segment. He also mocked Watters for wearing gloves in Ithaca in October.

A statement released Tuesday by Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, emphasized that Cornell believes in “exposing students to a diverse set of perspectives.”

“Our decision to apply our media policy to Fox News, as we do to all news outlets, was motivated by our responsibility to protect student privacy,” he said.

Malina said that Fox News has visited Cornell many times, but this was one of few “rare cases” when no advance notice was given.

“We provided the crew with a written version of our policy and they proceeded to go off campus where they interviewed students and completed their story unhindered,” he said.

  • Jim Nealy

    America’s universities pride themselves on diversity…as long as it’s skin deep. Diversity of thought….VERBOTEN!

  • George

    Skorton published a statement many months ago affirming Cornell’s commitment to freedom of thought and expression. It is fairly clear that Cornell is not interested in free speech. The University felt that it was being embarrassed on its own campus and wanted to shut it down. The media relations guy was unable to articulate a reason for his decision. He came across as fairly dense. The excuse ultimately given regarding protection of student privacy is obviously bogus. No one’s identity was revealed and no one was forced to participate in an interview. Furthermore, it is questionable whether Cornell, as an institution that is partially funded with public money, has the legal authority to suppress speech on its campus.

  • Fred

    While generally open to the public, the Cornell campus is private property. If a network news company showed up at your place of employment unannounced and started asking random questions aimed at putting the establishment in a negative light…how do you think that would be handled?

    The Watters guy, like his “news” segment, is literally a joke. He asked questions of students in pretty poor taste and was borderline insulting in his questions for the one young woman. Props to her for seeing through his gimmick and having some witty answers.

    Cornell faculty may be biased toward Democrats, but that reflects most of the upstate NY region. And most elite universitys have a huge bias towards liberal viewpoints.

  • George

    Fred- Your comparison of Cornell to a private business is not applicable for various reasons. First, a private business is just that- private. A University that is partially funded with taxpayer money cannot claim it is purely private. Second, most private businesses do not publicly announce their commitment to free speech. Cornell is violating its own stated goals. A private business does not exist to expose people to various viewpoints. Purportedly, a University has that as one of its primary organizing principles. If it cannot tolerate criticism, it is failing in that regard.

    What you think of Watters is completely irrelevant. I happen to think that Hillary Clinton is a dishonest, corrupt politician. That does not mean she should be prohibited from speaking in public.

    The point that O’Reilly and Watters were demonstrating is that despite claims to the contrary, Cornell is not really interested in diversity in all of its significant manifestations. Yes, they want racial diversity but not diversity in thought across the entire political spectrum. You are right in declaring that such a position is not unexpected.

    • Fred

      Didn’t say Cornell was a private business…only that it’s campus is private property. Just because you have a camera and work for a news company doesn’t give you unlimited access to anyone’s property.

  • Abe ’14

    I was really disappointed in Cornell last night. There was absolutely no reason for Watters to be kicked off campus. Just because there is a policy that gives the University a right to do it doesn’t mean it is actually RIGHT to do it. Cornell could have avoided this ridiculous press by letting Watters interview a few students on Ho Plaza. What harm?

    • Callahan

      Actually, there was a very good reason to kick Watters off campus. The university has a policy that news outlets seek permission before doing interviews on campus (private property).

      Watters intentionally did not seek that permission in advance and just showed up and started filming. Cornell University’s property is private property. They set the rules for how it is used. If you violate those rules you may very well be asked to leave.

      The same would be true if NPR had decided to bypass the administration and just start interviewing people on campus. This isn’t a political issue. This is a matter of a contemporary shock jock being as unprofessional as possible to elicit a reaction so that he can spin his infotainment segment as “news.”

      • George

        Cornell is semi-private.

  • Cornell receives federal dollars and benefits from federal financing for students. When the news organization that commands a majority of American sentiment comes and asks legitimate questions, the school DOES NOT have the right to remove them from campus–even if the news outlet is exposing the school as a typical liberal college indoctrination operation.

    It is interesting to note that the majority of parents who fund educations at Cornell are successful American…conservatives.

    Time for Cornell to quit poisoning the student body with today’s liberal spewings.

    • Proud Cornellian

      Fact check, please?

      “the news organization that commands a majority of American sentiment?”

      “the majority of parents who fund educations at Cornell are successful American…conservatives?”

      “poisoning the student body with today’s liberal spewings?”

      To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The problem ain’t what you don’t know, it’s what you know that just ain’t so.”

  • Parent ’19

    John Carberry was the big loser in the FOX piece. True, FOX picked students that came off as truly ignorant, but the administration’s response make it look as though Cornell is a bastion of ignorant liberalism. True, Cornell is left leaning as a percent of the population, but at least there are a few Republicans on campus. Not true at other Ivies like Brown.

  • Ward

    What bemuses me is that the University is quick to ask for money from alumni … many who went on to start up businesses and work in industries that these professors excoriate in their work and viewpoints. Certainly these highly successful alumni also add to the “income inequality” nonsensical rhetoric that is ever more rampant on university campuses.

    When one-sided liberal bias works into the teaching of students (e.g. reportedly lower grades on papers written from a conservative perspective) Cornell is runs a huge risk of biting the hand that feeds it.

    Another risk is that businesses start to take Cornell off their recruiting circuits … and students with even lower job prospects start to consider other academic institutions for their education.

    My sense is this is already happening. While on the Cornell campus recently I asked many students how well Cornell was doing in helping them find jobs/careers. The response was disheartening. When I graduated from Cornell in 1979 there seemed like there were at least 3 job offers per job seeker. Doubt that is the case today.

    Be very careful Cornell !!!!

  • James

    Fox should have asked for permission and they were baiting with this attempt to interview students without making a request prior to arriving. Unfortunately, they got exactly what they wanted and it doesn’t look great.

    This reminds me of a quote from Elizabeth Garrett. She said “Assault, intolerance, bigotry and harassment will not be tolerated,” pounding a table for emphasis. “Will not be tolerated in any form.”

    I get what she is aiming at, and I appreciate the intent, but come on. Intolerance will not be tolerated? Who is the great arbiter of right and wrong here? That pretty much embodies the faculty’s stance. That air of entitlement among faculty to determine what is acceptable and what isn’t (and then come down on whoever’s opinion clashes with theirs) was prevalent when I was a student too. It makes it challenging to express opinions and detracts from the experience.

    You can find the article with the quote on the Washington Post site.

  • Randy Brown

    Fox is not a “news organization”…it is a rhetorical house of ill repute.

    • George

      Thanks for your outstanding contribution Randy. You are surely a true intellectual.

  • Academia Is A Joke

    Wow, this is truly outstanding behavior. But, where are all the government professors who do “research” and teach about the supposed liberal values of the freedom of speech and the press? Where is their response? Glad to see all the academics don’t actually have to practice what they preach.

  • Disappointed

    While I lean left on the political spectrum, I’m disappointed in the University attempting to “protect” it’s precious flowers who presumably are intelligent enough to hold their own in a conversation. This type of silliness plays right into the critics’ hands.

  • Steve

    I thought the students came across pretty well, including the girl who left when it ‘got weird.’

    The administration looked like complete bozos though.

  • Randy Wayne

    Oddly enough (or perhaps not so oddly), the day that the Sun article came out, I spoke with John Carberry about Cornell’s treatment of people with scholarly thoughts that are outside of the Cornell norm. I wonder if he will take me up on my story??????

  • Mayor McCheese

    Cornell really ought to consider how it is going to addrdess the lack of diversity on campus. The diversity of thought and ideas trumps all other forms of diversity particularly since Cornell claims to be a color blind and gender neutral institution. Once your peel the color, gender, religion, national origin and sexual prefernce away, we are all left with ideas and that is what ought to be meant by true diversity. It does a great disservice to the entire community to have only a single perspective available on camput. To prevent a reporter from a national news organization – even if you don’t believe he is a “real” reporter from a “real” news organization only compounds the problem. What happened to being open minded and acepting of different viewpoints?

  • Mike Young ’68

    I had hopes that my alma mater had turned a corner with the installation of Elizabeth Garrett, apparently a staunch defender of free speech. It looks like she has some serious house cleaning to do in an administration that has employees such as John Cadberry and Joel Malina whose non sequiturs and twisted logic are evidence of ineptitude.

  • Jeb

    What’s lost in all this is that the Sun did a nice article on this and broke the real story a while ago. Then FOX News shows up a week later and essentially makes a joke out of it. And make no mistake, that Fox News segment was a joke. The video interjects the student interviews with humorous clips from college-themed movies. And O’Rielly spent 90% of his air time about the story making fun of his reporters need to wear gloves. Not real journalism.

    A national news agency knows general procedures for showing up on a campus and interviewing students. The guy shows up unannounced and stands in the middle of campus asking questions. They got what they were wanting…a few clips of awkward students and the Cornell administration getting grumpy.

    • Obviously

      No shit. Jesse Watters is well known for this type of humorous segment that almost no thinking person takes seriously. In fact, this is the only type of interviews he conducts. The problem is, Ithaca liberals are so inside their own bubble that they have never heard of this guy or his shtick.

  • Batista

    Point on that Sun’s report of lack of diversity of thought in Cornell faculty is the real story. The fact that University faculty feel that to hirer conservative faculty would require accepting less qualified candidates shows the intolerance and close mindedness of many liberal professors. The concept the a University of Cornell’s quality can not find any conservative faculty is dishonest at best and more likely an intentional attempt to shut out divergent opinions. Shame on Cornell

  • George

    Cornell presumably does not, and obviously should not, inquire into political leanings of prospective faculty. However, the extreme preponderance of liberal faculty at Cornell, as well as most other elite schools, calls into question the hiring process. Civil rights organizations have been successful in establishing the principle that racial bias can be proven by outcome and not only by intent. The same concept could be applied to faculty hiring. If 90 or 95% of the faculty self-identifies as liberal, it is difficult to imagine that ideology is not part of the hiring criteria. Perhaps the criteria is that one must be smug, arrogant and elitist. That describes most liberal academics.

  • jj

    Hey Jesse,

    The Cornell professors sequestered themselves in the ivory towers of academia and surrounded themselves with youth too young and inexperienced to disagree or challenge their theories for a reason. Enough of your real world questions. Show some respect! These professors are working hard to indoctrinate their students. Teaching them to think is beyond the pale and dangerous interference to the goals of a great university. Think of the harm you are doing to the students. Good grades come from regurgitation of the professor’s opinions. Think for yourself and what does it get you? Bad grades, derision, ostracism! The University was right to protect students from your evil questions. The students are just not mature enough to protect themselves.

  • john

    it sounds like censorship. what is a university like Cornell is afraid off? it is only the truth.