Students at Brown University are upset about “exploitative” reporting by a Fox News correspondent on a student organized nudity event.
Jesse Watters — who was previously described as a “creepy, ambushing, stalker lunatic” by the Brown Daily Herald — was first noticed Wednesday on campus, where he showed up to report on “Nudity in the Upspace” for the “O’Reilly Factor.”
“Nudity in the Upspace” is a week-long series of events at Brown that aims to discuss topics what are often considered social taboos. They’ll have everything from nude yoga to nude open mic and discussions about nudity in American society. It’s the second year students organized the series at Brown.
Watters seemed excited about the assignment at the Ivy League institution in Providence, R.I.:
— Jesse Watters (@jessebwatters) October 2, 2013
Breaking: “Nudity week” at Brown University still on despite government shutdown…#wattersworld monitoring situation
— Jesse Watters (@jessebwatters) October 2, 2013
On Wednesday, Watters stood in a prominent spot on campus soliciting random students for interviews, Brown senior Emily Kassie told The Huffington Post.
“He asked a myriad of female students whether they ‘were going to de-robe,’ and ‘whether they enjoyed nude-body painting,'” Kassie said. “Students were outraged at this inappropriate and arguably misogynistic and predatory language. Further, Watters called the event a ‘University wide-nude week,’ which of course is [totally] inaccurate.”
The Fox segment won’t even air until next week, but students are already speaking out against Watters’ coverage.
When Kassie heard about the interviews, she grabbed her camera and began interviewing students about the interviews, hoping to “undercut any manipulative video he might produce” before it airs on Fox News.
“I think it’s pretty offensive and exploitative for them to ask if young women feel comfortable becoming nude in that kind of space,” Brown student Todd Baker said in the video, “because immediately when a 40-something year-old man from Fox News asks you that, the look on his face says, ‘And you should be ashamed if the answer is yes.'”
One student named Jenn said in the video that during her interview with Watters, she was asked how much tuition was, whether she’d use drugs and how her parents feel about her being a part of the nudity event.
“They’re not telling them the mission behind ‘Nudity in the Upspace’ … they’re just taking it out of context and focusing on the fact that we’re college kids and we’re getting naked,” another student named Michael said. “We’re not at a frat party getting naked, this is an intellectual [event].”
Perhaps Fox News expected this reaction, given how students felt about Watters’ 2005 reporting on the “Sex Power God” party organized by Brown’s Queer Alliance, which also celebrates nudity. Two dozen students ended up needing emergency medical care that year, many of them intoxicated.
O’Reilly criticized the university administration for allowing the party to take place on campus. But students said the reporting was inaccurate and misleading, feeling so strongly that Undergraduate Council of Students passed a resolution calling for an accurate report on Fox News.
Students apparently remembered their history with Watters, sending out tweets about his presence on campus:
@jessebwatters Weren’t you banned from this campus for harassing students and disrupting the learning environment during common class times?
— Monica Marie Palid (@monicamariepld) October 2, 2013
Though some hoped they got a more positive message across:
— Joshua Bronk (@joshua_bronk) October 2, 2013
In an email to HuffPost, “Nudity in the Upspace” organizers Becca Wolinsky and Camila Pacheco-Fores said the audience members last year commented to them that the performances “had a profound effect on the way they thought about their own bodies and the role that nudity plays in our society on an everyday basis.”
The two said they aren’t worried about anyone acting inappropriately at the nudity events.
“We found our audiences last year extremely respectful, and we haven’t had to worry much about our fellow students acting immature at these events,” Wolinsky and Pacheco-Fores said in the email. “People tend to attend the events, especially those that require tickets, very intentionally and to understand and respect the purpose of the space.”
Video: “The O’Reilly Factor” correspondent Jesse Watters returned to Brown University to investigate Production Workshop’s week-long event Nudity in the Upspace. We attempted to formally interview him, but he declined, stating that we would have to go through Fox’s Media Relations. But he agreed to talk to one of our reporters (who went on the record as a Brown student and not a reporter) while both Fox and Blog filmed. Without missing a beat, Cara Newlon ‘14.5, a BlogDailyHerald reporter, sprung into action and decided to return the favor.