Melissa Click put herself at the center of national debate for her call to violently eject a student journalist from a demonstration at the University of Missouri, resulting in criminal charges, her suspension, and a probe by Mizzou. Earlier this week, more video emerged of Click cursing at police attempting to clear the road of protesters blocking the school’s homecoming parade in October. Click has now spoken out in her own defense on CBS This Morning, claiming to be “embarrassed” by both videos but insisting that they don’t capture the full arc of her work:
“Were you appalled by your behavior when you watched the video?” Werner asked Click.
“I was embarrassed by my behavior. I believe it doesn’t represent who I am as a person,” Click said. “It doesn’t represent the good I was doing there that day, and you know, certainly I wish I could do it over again.”
Click said she was trying to protect the protesting students, who she said were under threat, and wasn’t sure the man filming was a real journalist.
“He introduced himself only as media, and came at me with a camera,” Click said.
It’s worth pointing out at this juncture that this took place on public property. The journalist had no need to validate his access to the university grounds, not to Click or anyone else. Click tries to imply something sinister by saying that the student “came at me with a camera,” but all he did was walk up to the protest encampment. In fact, it was Click who wanted to push him out by finding “some muscle” to come at him. He had every right to access that property — as much right as the protesters had, regardless of whether he was “media” or not.
Click insists that “some muscle” didn’t have anything to do with violence:
“Is calling for ‘muscle out here’ respectful?” Werner asked.
“It was a mistake. I never, ever meant that as a call for violence,” Click said. “It was just one of those things that was said in a heated moment.”
Ahem. Was she organizing a weight-lifting class? Her actual quote made the threat of violence explicit — “All right, who wants to help me get this reporter out of here, I need some muscle over here, help me get him out!” Not only that, but it also shows that Click didn’t fear her safety, as she acknowledged in the statement itself that she understood him to be a “reporter.” Click just didn’t want reporters to have access to the public property based on her own arrogation of authority over it. That request for “muscle” was clearly intentional, and clearly not a case of self-defense.
To put it in social-justice-warrior terms — Click is engaging in victim-blaming. At the very least, she’s in serious denial, and CBS reporter Anna Werner senses it, too:
“You can understand where a lot of people watching those videos are saying, ‘She’s got a problem,'” Werner said.
“People who know me don’t feel that way. People who were there that day, don’t feel that way,” Click said. “They know what it was like to be there. They know I was there with the best of intentions and they know it was a really tricky situation.”
You know what works really well in “tricky situations”? Calling for muscle to shove people around, or perhaps even worse. This is nothing but absurd spin, and it’s clear that it’s not working with at least the one board member Werner interviewed. “You do not pour gasoline on an already volatile situation,” David Steelman points out. At least, you don’t unless you want the volatile situation to explode, and that’s what Click seemed to have in mind when calling for “some muscle.”
Will she lose her job? I suspect not, because Mizzou has its hands full with political problems as it is. The UM chancellor had to face an “intense” hearing last night on diversity and police engagement, and the administration might just decide that it’s not worth it to fire Click and add to their woes. On the other hand, some in the hearing criticized Mizzou for not disciplining the football coach for allowing players to stage a boycott. This may be a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation for Mizzou, but the incentives are almost certainly leaning in favor of de-escalation. Unless, of course, the university uses the Melissa Click playbook.