In the media frenzy that has surrounded the Tasering of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer during a September John Kerry forum, one voice has been missing from the conversation — Meyer’s. Now that he has been cleared of criminal charges, Meyer, 21, is speaking out for the first time on TODAYshow.com.
In the following Q&A completed via e-mail, Meyer sets the record straight about whether or not his arrest was planned, his motives for attending the Kerry event and what he has learned from the experience.
He went into further detail on Thursday's TODAY; click on the video to the right to watch Matt Lauer's interview with Meyer.
TODAYshow.com:A lot of people have weighed in on your arrest and the events surrounding it, but we have heard nothing from you. Why have you remained silent?
Meyer: On the advice of my attorney, the inimitable Robert Griscti, I went against my instincts and stayed silent. I’m glad that I did. Not only did I have a criminal case pending, but the time away from the spotlight has allowed me to cool off and gain perspective.
TODAYshow.com: Was your arrest planned? Did you ask anyone to tape you at the John Kerry event?
Meyer: My arrest was absolutely not planned. You would have to be a fool to intentionally get arrested and incur the cost of cleaning up this mess legally (ask my lawyer, it wasn’t cheap).
I did bring my video camera along. I obviously knew I was going to ask the Senator some tough questions, and I wanted to have it on tape. Before I started asking the Senator my questions, I gave my camera to a woman in line I had never met before who also did not leave when Accent instructed her to, named Clarissa Jessup. Clarissa, I can’t thank you enough for both posting the video you shot and returning my camera to me.
TODAYshow.com: Your arrest has sparked a lot of questions about free speech and police brutality, but one of the biggest questions remains your motive for attending the John Kerry event. What was the point you were trying to make?
Meyer: The first question I asked the Senator was about his concession of the 2004 election. Greg Palast, author of "Armed Madhouse," the book I was holding up at the forum, proved that John Kerry won the 2004 election. The ultimate point I was trying to make was to bring up was the heinous way millions of American votes were chucked in the garbage on Election Day. Not only is this a total assault on democracy, but the same tactics used to throw away votes in 2004 will be used again in 2008. Read about the Help America Vote Act and see for yourself. HAVA helps America vote in about the same way the PATRIOT Act patriotically dismantles the Bill of Rights. In other words, it’s completely Un-American.
The second question I asked was why haven’t Kerry and the Democratic Congress made any moves to impeach Bush, considering he has led us into two wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan, and wasn’t even legitimately elected (as Kerry knows since, as he told me, he has read "Armed Madhouse.") If Kerry is so concerned about the aggressive posturing the administration is taking towards Iran, why don’t he and the Democrats running Congress do something about it? They have the impeachment power. Millions of Americans believe they should use it.
The third question I asked Kerry, which Tim Russert of NBC’s Meet the Press also asked Kerry (and Bush), is was he a member of Skull and Bones in college. Some people treat this question as a joke, but Kerry and Bush never denied the assertion. Perhaps their involvement in the same secret society (once known as the Brotherhood of Death) has something to do with the answers to my first two questions.
Video: "Don't Tase me, bro!" TODAYshow.com: What do you think of John Kerry’s reaction to your arrest?
Meyer: Kerry intervened and stopped the police from taking me away initially. It appears he tried again after I questioned him, but he wasn’t so effective. Later, he said Taser use was not necessary. I definitely agree with him there.
TODAYshow.com: A lot has been made of your Web site, particularly a video of your friend (which has been incorrectly reported as you) standing on the side of the road holding a sign, “Harry Dies,” after the release of the last Harry Potter book. Is your site in any way connected to what you were trying to accomplish at the Kerry event?
Meyer: It’s funny you should mention “Harry Dies,” because that more than anything else epitomizes how my character has been misconstrued by the media. “Harry Dies” is a video two friends of mine shot on the day the seventh Harry Potter book was released. They are standing on a busy street corner holding a sign that says, “Harry Dies.” I am not in this video. I did not shoot this video. All I did was post it on my Web site. And yet this, according to the media, is the smoking gun that proves I am a “well-known prankster” and my questions to Senator Kerry were not serious. There are no other cited instances of me pulling a practical joke.
My Web site was and is intended to be a forum for me to express myself, but I was not looking to promote it in any way by attending the Kerry forum. I did plan to post the video of me asking Kerry questions on my website, the same way I posted the videos of Validus and Quigley & the St.Pete Players, a couple of local bands I had filmed. I did not, however, have a pocket full of business cards ready to pass out after the event. If I were promoting my Web site, passing out my card is exactly what I would have done. A police officer did find one of my business cards, which read “TheAndrewMeyer.com.” I was using it as a bookmark for "Armed Madhouse."
TODAYshow.com:Your original point may not have been about free speech, but your name has now been mentioned alongside Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s in recent First Amendment debates. What has your experience taught you about free speech in 2007?
Meyer: Politicians are not used to being asked the hard questions. I think free speech has been willfully discarded to an extent by American journalists. They have stopped asking questions that matter. Maybe their refusal to be vocal is what makes my outburst look so surprising in contrast.
TODAYshow.com: How has this experience changed your life? Has it affected your post-graduation plans?
Meyer: I think this whole experience has been an opportunity for me to learn and become a better, more complete person. I’ve never had to deal with anything so challenging as the media heat lamp before in my life.
As for my post-grad plans, they haven’t changed much. I didn’t know what I was going to do then, and I still don’t now.
TODAYshow.com: How has this experience changed your campus life at the University of Florida? Has the national attention had a larger effect on the student body?
Meyer: After my incident, Student Government held open-mic debates, which I had never seen before. Also, the University is looking into the use of Tasers on campus, so that’s a plus. Other than that, things on campus are about the same. The topics in the student newspaper, the Alligator, have changed a bit, but the lack of respect for the rag is still the same.
TODAYshow.com: Do you feel generally supported by the student body or is the vibe more negative?
Meyer: It’s probably split right down the middle, as it was when I wrote about Dance Marathon or Chris Leak. I’ll tell you though, people definitely have an opinion. They either love me or they hate me. Scratch that. Most students are probably apathetic towards me, as they are towards everything else that doesn’t involve their FaceBook.
TODAYshow.com: How has this event and the national attention affected your family?
Meyer: My parents and my sister have been a rock of support for me throughout this whole situation. If anything, our family is stronger because of this.
TODAYshow.com: What is your biggest criticism of the media in covering your story?
Meyer: I haven’t seen any mainstream news outlet once dissect the questions I asked the Senator. Everything is about me personally or the taser. This is the type of tabloid journalism prevalent in America today. When my story is over, they won’t start covering Blackwater or Ron Paul. It’ll be Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, business as usual.
TODAYshow.com: “Don’t Tase me, bro” has been printed on T-shirts, coffee mugs, parodied on YouTube. It’s even a ring tone. Do you own any of these items? What’s your general reaction? Do you think the message on these commercial items sends a good reminder to people, or do you feel it merely represents people trying to profit off of your situation?
Meyer: I have not profited from my catch phrase at all. The YouTube music videos and the ring tones and such, sometimes it amuses me, sometimes it saddens me. I think “Don’t Tase me, bro” genuinely makes some people think about the growing threat to American rights. But I think most people are having a laugh, disregarding the seriousness of the situation. Thank you Jon Stewart.
TODAYshow.com: Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would have changed about your own actions at the John Kerry forum?
Meyer: I have talked about this a lot in my apology letters. Next time, I will definitely line up in front of the microphone sooner!
I wish I had maintained my compsure. The next time I will.
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