Scott Ritter mug shot (courtesy WNYT-TV)
A college in upstate New York reversed its decision to go ahead with a scheduled Feb. 12 speaking appearance by Scott Ritter, citing disruption caused by the controversy surrounding the former U.N. weapons inspector.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Schenectady County Community College trustees had decided earlier this week to hold the event despite recent reports that the outspoken critic of President Bush’s Iraq policy was arrested two years ago and charged with attempting to meet an under-aged girl for a sexual encounter.
The school announced today, however, that it has canceled the speech because of the disruptions to school operations caused by the controversy and the need for extraordinary security, said NBC television affiliate WNYT in Albany, N.Y.
Earlier this week, trustee Michael Karl told the Schenectady Daily Gazette that the speech would go ahead as scheduled.
“Whether we agree with his views, or whether we like him or not, the forum is the larger issue,” he said.
Meanwhile Washington College in Chestertown, Md., has indicated no plans to cancel Ritter’s on-campus speech scheduled for this evening.
“We’re not going to cancel the event,” said John Buettner, the college’s media relations specialist. “As an institute of higher learning, we have a duty to provide people with different points of view.”
As reported by WorldNetDaily, Ritter confirmed last week he was arrested in 2001 but refused to give details. He has dramatically reversed his position on Iraq’s weapons threat and become an outspoken critic of the U.S., telling WorldNetDaily that President Bush should be impeached for his policy toward Baghdad.
New York media coverage indicates Ritter sought to have underage girls watch him have sex with himself in public places. The arrest record was sealed and the case reportedly dismissed, though U.S. prosecutors have since reportedly unsealed the case to see if federal charges are warranted, according to sources.
When asked about Ritter’s purported luring of young women, Washington College’s Buettner indicated that the event is “not an endorsement of his activities. … We’re just giving him a soapbox for two hours.”
“Everyone makes up their own minds” as to what someone’s moral worth is, Buettner told WND. “We don’t have the legal right to cancel him,” since Ritter has not been convicted of a crime.
Ritter’s appearance is being promoted on the college’s website with the title, “War with Iraq: How did we get here?”
The press release describes Ritter as having had an “extensive and distinguished career in government service.”
Buettner says the school has received some complaints about Ritter’s appearance.
“We’ve gotten e-mails and calls from people who are upset,” he said.
According to Buettner, the college doesn’t have a “great concern” about protesters at tonight’s event. The format includes a lecture portion followed by and question and answer session. Attendees presumably will be able to ask Ritter any question about his policies or past.