Rice professor to politician: “You don’t own me”

A Rice University professor didn’t shy away from reminding an Alaskan Republican who paid his salary – the taxpayer.

History professor Douglas Brinkley testified last week about the need to protect and preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and advocated for ANWR to become a national monument. However, his exchange with Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, created a national stir today when Brinkley and Young got into a verbal exchange.

Young, who supports drilling in ANWR, set off the fiery exchange when he called Brinkley’s testimony “garbage” and then mistakenly called Brinkley “Dr. Rice.”

“It’s Dr. Brinkley. Rice University is a university,” Brinkley said. “I know you went to Yuba (Community) College…”

Young, who is visibly angry in the video of the exchange, shouted back, “I’ll call you anything I want to call you when you’re in that chair. You just be quiet.”

Brinkley, of course, didn’t take those comments lightly or back off.

“You don’t own me,” the professor said. “I pay your salary. I work for the private sector and you work for the taxpayer.”

Committee Chairman Doc Hasting, R-WA, stepped in to break up the heated argument.

Brinkley told Hastings that he felt it was necessary to correct Young after he had mistakenly called him the wrong name and called his testimony garbage.

“You would do that if someone did that to your name,” Brinkley added.

And they didn’t make nice after the meeting.

Luke Miller, a spokesman for Representative Young, said the fiery exchange was “nothing more than a publicity stunt by Mr. Brinkley in order to sell books.”

“Witnesses are invited to testify before Congress to answer questions and provide insight, not repeatedly interrupt a Committee Chairman and Members of the Committee and be disrespectful,” Miller said in a statement. “People will want to make this into more than what it really is; an attempt by an author to create a stir and sell books.”

Reached by phone this afternoon, Brinkley said he wasn’t trying to sell his book, but he was merely trying to stand up against a bully.

“I was proud to stand up and defend myself against a bully,” Brinkley said. “He does this all the time. It’s his shtick. The only thing different is I stood up for myself.”

Brinkley said Young wasn’t in the room during his testimony that advocating for creating a national monument for Dwight D. Eisenhower in the ANWR. The Rice professor said he would have likely let any comments go if Young hadn’t mistakenly called him “Dr. Rice.”

“That gave me the opportunity to step in and correct the record,” he said.

Brinkley, who added he’s received thousands of emails of support, said he hasn’t spoken to Young since the exchange.

“I think I got the upper hand on him,” the professor added.

Brinkley, who is a history professor at Rice, wrote “The Quiet World” about efforts to protect the Alaskan wilderness.