On May 17, FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly accused Portland daily The Oregonian of failing to report that former Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt committed a crime by having a sexual relationship with a 14-year old girl when he was governor of Oregon in the mid-1970s. When O'Reilly's guest pointed out that The Oregonian did, in fact, report that Goldschmidt's alleged actions are a crime in Oregon, O'Reilly altered his charge, accusing the guest of "parsing words" and then asserting his original conclusion.
From the May 17 edition of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: All right, here's what bothered me about this [coverage of Goldschmidt by The Oregonian]. Number one, they never in The Oregonian mention that it's a crime.
The University of Oregon School of Journalism & Communication's dean and professor, Tim Gleason, responded to O'Reilly by noting that The Oregonian did report that a 35-year old having sex with a 14-year old is a crime:
GLEASON: Well, first, you're factually inaccurate, Bill, in about the fifth or the sixth paragraph of the story, they did say that it was a crime.
Indeed, the May 7 article in The Oregonian reported on the law in the sixth paragraph:
The Oregonian, as a general policy, doesn't identify victims of sex crimes. According to Oregon laws in effect in 1975, sexual intercourse with a girl under age 16 constituted third-degree rape, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. The statute of limitations at that time was three years from the commission of the crime.
So O'Reilly altered his charge. The problem, he then said, is not that the article failed to mention that what Goldschmidt admitted to was a crime but, rather, that The Oregonian did not report that Goldschmidt actually committed the crime:
O'REILLY: All right. Let me correct you because I was not factually incorrect. I have the story in my hand here from Friday, May 7, by Harry Esteve and Gail Kinsey Hill. What The Oregonian says in the sixth paragraph is that "according to Oregon law," and I'm quoting now, "sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 constituted third-degree rape, a felony punishable by five years in prison." It didn't say that Goldschmidt committed the crime or anything like that.
But in addition to the passage quoted above, in which The Oregonian referred to the actions under discussion as a "crime," the May 7 article in question reported Goldschmidt's admission in the very first sentence:
Former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt admitted Thursday that he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl when he was 35 and mayor of Portland, and said he is resigning all his public and private positions to "rebuild my life."
Gleason tried to point this out; however, for O'Reilly, quoting from the article under discussion was just "parsing":
O'REILLY: [Goldschmidt] admitted it. He admitted it. He flat-out said, I had sex with a 14-year-old girl while I was mayor of Portland and I'm 35 years old. Come on, he admitted it. What do you want?
GLEASON: And The Oregonian then very carefully said that if, in fact, this is true, it would have been a crime. So, you know...
O'REILLY: Come on, you're parsing, he admitted he did it. He admitted he did it. There is no question about it. You're parsing.
So O'Reilly's complaint was even though The Oregonian reported Goldschmidt's admission that he had sex with an underage partner, and even though it reported that such activity is illegal -- and referred to it as a "crime" -- the paper did not state categorically that Goldschmidt was guilty of a crime. For O'Reilly, the paper's failure reinforced his view that:
O'REILLY: The Oregonian has their favorites, they play favorites. I worked in Portland. I know they do. And now there is no question about it.