Reporter Tim Tai speaks on camera for first time since viral video
COLUMBIA - The MU student who has gained national attention for a viral video is opening up to KOMU 8 News for the first time. Tim Tai sat down with us Wednesday to talk about the incident.
It started on the Carnahan Quadrangle on MU's campus Monday morning, shortly after former UM System President Tim Wolfe announced his resignation. Tai said he got down there just minutes later to try and document the crowd's reaction for ESPN.
"They kind of decided it was over, and they wanted the media to leave," Tai said. "Soon, students began linking arms and forming in a circle around the quad."
That's when video started rolling and things got more heated. Tai said he wanted to try and get pictures of students and demonstrators linking arms in front of the tents planted on Carnahan Quad.
"Immediately, there were people putting their hands in my face over my camera," Tai said. Protesters were seen on video telling Tai he had no right to take their pictures in the public area.
"We can debate the ethics of whether I should take the photo or not later," Tai said. "Saying you have no right to, is false."
The situation continued to escalate as another reporter was recording the incident the whole time. KOMU 8 News spoke to a demonstrator Tuesday who said Tai had gotten physical with those on the quad.
"He was like 'get out of my face' and he pushed her back," Briahna Martin said. "That's when that other student got really upset."
Tai denies that saying, "Personally, I don't think I was being aggressive. I never intentionally shoved anyone or pushed anyone. I did try to stand my ground when they were shoving me."
The confrontation quickly gained steam on social media and on YouTube. As of early Wednesday afternoon, the original YouTube video had more than 2 million views. Tai told us he did not want to become part of the story by shifting the focus away from the reason students were protesting.
"At a certain point you have to kind of accept that you are part of the story," Tai said. "I can't remove myself from being part of the story."
Tai said he had no idea the video would gain as much attention as it has. He said he knew someone was recording him, but he did not expect it to end up online. Moving forward, Tai said there are things he would change about the incident if he had the chance.
"If I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have engaged as much," Tai said. "It's unfortunate that what occured was a bunch of shoving."
MU Assistant Professor Melissa Click was seen in the video asking for help to remove a reporter from the scene. Tai said he spoke to Click on the phone Tuesday and received an apology. Tai said he accepted the apology and has no hard feelings against her.
Click and MU employee Janna Basler both issued apologies for the conduct in the video Tuesday. The two said they are appreciative of journalists' work.