Erik Prince. This one name elicits many different one-word responses such as "reclusive", "private", "dutiful" and "intense". For journalists, the response might be "there's a waste of time", "why can't we bring recorders or ask questions?" or""finally" as in finally they can get into cover his Tulip Time speech. Although they are still barred from video or tape recording the speech at his request. So what does Mr. Prince have to hide? Or is he trying to simply control the content and keep his focus on his topic. And what might that be? It's obvious that the founder of Xe (pronounced zee), formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, the controversial mercenary firm.
Michigan Press Association legislative aide Lisa McGraw said newspapers typically help communities raise the profile of events such as Tulip Time. “In my mind it doesn’t go with the spirit of the event, which is to promote Holland and promote the festival,” she said.
Mayor Kurt Dykstra doesn’t expect the blackout to change the way people view Tulip Time. “When people think of Tulip Time, they think of three things primarily: parades, Dutch dancing and all the food,” he said, noting it’s really up to Tulip Time to negotiate the conditions for a speaker, because it is a separate organization from the city.
Michigan Press Association attorney Robin Herrmann said private functions like the Tulip Time luncheon can issue a ban on media passes, but can’t stop attendees, including media present, from public comment or reporting the event. The media blackout has no legal force or weight to prohibit an attendee from publishing observations, which would be akin to prior restraint.
“If you go to a lecture and you’ve paid your fee to attend the lecture and you don’t have a contract with anybody and you want to write about your perceptions about it,” Hermann commented, “that’s within the law.”
Hermann cited as an example of the event contract, the purchase of a concert ticket with a printed prohibition of recording devices inside the event venue. By purchasing a ticket, an attendee agrees not to record the event as a condition of attendance. The Tulip Time luncheon tickets do not contain such a clause.
So does the video and audio recording restriction ruin the spirit of Tulip Time? Should Tulip Time Officials have acquiesced to his request? Do you wish that you had a ticket to the speech? And why all the fuss over his coming to Tulip Time anyway??
Well journalists can log on here at OFF THE TOP WITH RED KINGMAN to hear Erik Prince speak! To 60-Minutes that is!