White House censored “pro-gay” video for two days while deciding whether to issue permanent gag order to college

I just spoke with Nate Kenyon, the director of Marketing and Communications at the Boston College Law School, and he told me quite a bombshell for an administration in Washington that claims it isn’t embarrassed of its gay supporters, and claims to believe in transparency.

According to Kenyon, the White House agreed to be the final arbiter of whether or not Boston College (BC) should censor a video of a talk that senior Obama domestic policy adviser Melody Barnes gave at Boston College’s law school this past Monday. In the talk, Barnes was asked by BC law student Paul Sousa about gay marriage. Sousa claims that Barnes allegedly expressed sympathy for the position that gay couples should be permitted to marry. Monday evening, the White House vehemently denied to Sam Stein at Huffington Post (see link above) that Barnes said anything other than the White House official position, opposing marriage equality for gay couples.

That’s when things get interesting. BC took a video of Barnes’ talk. Sousa says that he has spent the past four days trying to get the college administration to release the video, to clear up once and for all what Barnes actually told the students at the public meeting. The video is only now reportedly to be released tomorrow, Friday afternoon (the traditional time in Washington for embarrassing documents to be dumped publicly). Sousa claims that numerous employees of Boston College told him that the video couldn’t be released because the White House wouldn’t let the college release it, at least until the administration could get a copy and see what in fact Barnes said about gay civil rights. Joe Sudbay and I were informed of this on Tuesday, but we waited until today, in order to get all the facts.

I spoke this morning to Nate Kenyon, a spokesman for Boston College Law School, and Kenyon, while trying to downplay the controversy, suggesting that these kind of delays for publishing video are the norm at the school, and suggesting that Sousa misquoted what Barnes actually said in the video, confirmed that the White House received the video on Tuesday, and Kenyon confirmed that the White House called BC this morning, two days later, and gave its permission for the video to finally be released. And he confirmed that the video was not going to be released until and unless the White House gave its permission.

A copy of an email I have from Kenyon to Sousa confirms that by 3:40PM Tuesday, November 10, the White House was given a copy of the video by BC, and was informed that the school’s policy was to give the speaker the choice to release or suppress video of their talks at the school. The White House, rather than refusing to be the ultimate censor of the publication of the video that had already caused quite a stir, and rather than simply giving BC the permission to publish the video on the spot, accepted the video, and its role as censor, and didn’t get back to the school for two whole days. It was only this morning that Kenyon says the White House told Boston College that it could release the Barnes video.

Why did it take the White House two days to decide whether it would permit a private university to release a video of a public event involving a senior White House official, a video that we now know the White House had in its possession the entire time?

Why did the White House agree at all to be the final arbiter of whether the video should be permanently censored?

Why didn’t the White House immediately give permission for the video to be released? Or at the very least, tell BC “we’re not in the business of telling private universities whether or not they can publish videos.” Instead, the White House took the video, reviewed it for two days, then called the college back with its decision about whether to permanently gag the publication of the tape.

Who at the White House was talking to BC? Who agreed to accept the responsibility to review the video and decide whether it should be permanently censored? Who at the White House reviewed the video? And who at the White House made the final decision to give BC permission to lift the gag order on the video?

And did the White House in fact tell BC not to release the video until it was reviewed, and the political implications of its possibly pro-gay content discussed, by White House staff? Or at the very least, did the White House agree to let BC censor the video until such time as the White House could decide whether it wanted the censor to be made permanent?

Sousa alleges in an email to Kenyon on Tuesday afternoon that the video was not being released because the White House specifically asked that it not be. “I spoke with Mr. Daley a bit earlier today and I was informed that the Melody Barnes video, which students were told would be released, is being withheld because the White House asked BC Law to do so due to the statements she made in support of gay marriage,” Sousa wrote Kenyon on Tuesday. Here is the email that Kenyon allegedly sent Sousa in response:

Hi Paul–first of all, nothing has been decided on the video one way or the other. The White House has not asked us to permanently withhold the video. Wayne is referring to a request from a faculty member to wait on doing anything with it until members of the White House team have a chance to watch a copy, which they now have in their possession. Feel free to touch base with me tomorrow to see if I have more info, but that’s all I have at the moment.

The White House has not asked us to permanently withhold the video? So the US government asked Boston College, a private institution, to temporarily censor dissemination of the allegedly pro-gay video?

It’s rather difficult to believe Kenyon’s assertion that the delay was simply caused by BC’s overworked tech department having other more important things to do than tend to a video involving a phone call from the White House. Kenyon confirms that the White House was informed of the video’s existence, and given the video, a full two days before the White House itself decided it was okay for a private college to make the video public. Kenyon confirms that the White House was told that BC’s policy is to let the speaker decide whether or not to release the video, that the White House was given the power to censor the video, and it accepted the power and exercised it, rather than denying responsibility on the spot the moment it was offered the power to censor permanent publication of the video.

The appropriate response from the White House, when a private university asks for permission to release a video of a White House employee speaking on the record at a public meeting, is not “send us the video, so we can see it, and decide if we’re going to censor its release. And in the meantime, do censor it for at least a few days.” (Which leads to some fascinating First Amendment issues, at the very least.)

Not to mention, the very possibility that a senior White House official may have even hinted that she had “sympathy” for gay couples who wanted to get married, was enough for the White House to censor the release of the video for at least two days while they reviewed it and then determined the best way to handle the possibly pro-gay crisis.

Gay Americans are not a crisis. We are human beings. And we voted for this White House. And we overwhelmingly support the Democratic party, which has grown far too comfortable paying lip service to our civil rights. Our ongoing treatment as political pariahs is intolerable. And it is why we launched a donor boycott of the Obama re-election campaign, the DNC, and Organizing for America this past Monday.

Please visit our boycott page and take the pledge: Don’t Ask, Don’t give. Don’t ask us for donations, because we’re not giving a dime until the promises are kept.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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