O'Reilly minimized accessibility problems to defend Georgia's proposed voter ID law

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

On August 8, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly repeatedly misled viewers by claiming that Georgia's proposed new voter identification requirements would not impede voter access. Georgia's new voter identification law, which still requires Justice Department approval under the Voting Rights Act, requires voters to show one of five types of state-issued ID in order to vote at a polling station. O'Reilly claimed the state will "come to your house" and "give you an ID if you don't already have one" -- statements with which O'Reilly's guest, National Public Radio senior correspondent and Fox News political contributor Juan Williams, agreed. But the Georgia Department of Driver Services' (DDS) program to aid those incapable of reaching a DDS office, called Georgia Licensing on Wheels (GLOW), is limited: It will reportedly provide just one bus for the entire state to bring ID cards to voters who cannot travel to state offices that issue them. While the bus' actual route and stops have yet to be announced, news reports suggest that the bus will not be going door-to-door. And contrary to O'Reilly's claim that the state will "give you an ID if you don't already have one," Georgia residents who do not have a current state ID will still have to provide documentation of their residency and U.S. citizenship to prove their eligibility.

O'Reilly first mentioned the GLOW program as part of his defense of Georgia's new voter ID law. He claimed that "the state of Georgia says it will actually come to your house and give you an ID if you don't already have one" and that "elderly and sick people can easily acquire them." O'Reilly then raised the subject during his discussion with Williams, saying that, while he isn't a "big [Gov.] Sonny Perdue [R-GA] fan," "Sonny actually said, 'Look, if you don't have an ID, and you live in Skunkwad, Georgia, somewhere, we'll come to your house and give you one.'"

Williams said, "[I]f you look at minority communities, especially poor black communities, there are fewer driver's licenses, fewer of these kinds of IDs," to which O'Reilly replied -- and Williams agreed -- "They're coming to your house, Juan. ... It doesn't get any easier than that."

Finally, after Williams said that everyone should "go and get a legitimate ID... go register to vote," O'Reilly conceded that if "you're 96 and you have emphysema, you really can't do that," but also repeated: "Georgia will go to your house." This time, Williams echoed O'Reilly's claim, saying, "They'll come to you."

But, while O'Reilly said repeatedly that the Georgia government will "come to your house," news reports suggest that the state's effort will be far more limited. The GLOW program will operate a single bus, which will travel across the entire state -- all 57,906 square miles -- on a currently undetermined route and timetable. A spokeswoman for DDS offered "local libraries and fire stations in underserved areas" as examples of possible stops [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/9/05 (registration required)].

A spokeswoman for the governor also noted that the bus is a "a hand-me-down from another department" and "will make its debut close to DDS headquarters in Atlanta because it might need further repairs." Other reports suggested that the bus had already undergone "minor mechanical and cosmetic work." The bus will be able to issue up to 200 photo identification cards a day [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/9/05; Savannah Morning News, 8/8/05 (registration required)].

In addition, while O'Reilly claimed that the state will "give you an ID," DDS also noted that those who do get served by the bus would still be required to provide the same citizenship and residency documentation required for a driver's license [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/9/05]. Those requirements include a proof of residency (e.g., a utility bill) and proofs of citizenship and identification (e.g., a U.S. passport or a birth certificate; the latter must be either the state-issued original or a certified copy).

From the August 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: There is, however, a serious issue amongst all the nonsense. As I mentioned, [Rev. Jesse] Jackson and some others are objecting to voters having to produce picture IDs in Georgia, but why? This is an anti-fraud measure. And the state of Georgia says it will actually come to your house and give you an ID if you don't already have one. Sounds reasonable to me. But, no -- far-left pundits like Cynthia Tucker, the editorial page boss of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says asking for IDs will disenfranchise some minorities. Tucker also says this: "GOP strategists have used dirty tricks against Native Americans, blacks, and Latinos, ranging from false reports of invalid registration to threatening legitimate voters with arrest. They've been doing it for years." Well, that's simply outrageous and grossly unfair. The fact is that both parties have cheated in elections. And that is well documented. My question is this -- how can the Cox Corporation, which owns The Atlanta Constitution [sic: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution], have somebody that irresponsible as the editorial director? How can this happen in a large media company? The truth is this: Valid picture IDs will cut down on fraud. Elderly and sick people can easily acquire them. And the whole issue is a fraud, but it serves the purpose of ideologues like Jesse Jackson and Cynthia Tucker, who should be ashamed of herself. And that's what, really, this is all about.

[...]

O'REILLY: And this bogus stuff about there's an old guy somewhere in -- and I'm not a big fan of Sonny Perdue, the governor of Georgia, which stems back to my trying to get those -- I don't know whether you remember this, Juan, these high school proms where they're having them segregated.

WILLIAMS: Oh, yes.

O'REILLY: Yes. And I said no, that's unacceptable, we can't have that.

WILLIAMS: It is unacceptable.

O'REILLY: It is. And Sonny said, "I'm not going to do anything about it." Thank God we don't have those anymore in Georgia that we know of. But anyway, I'm not a big Sonny Perdue fan. But Sonny actually said, "Look, if you don't have an ID, and you live in Skunkwad, Georgia, somewhere, we'll come to your house and give you one." Yet they still are pulling this game about disenfranchisement.

WILLIAMS: Well, here's what they're saying, Bill.

O'REILLY: Go ahead.

WILLIAMS: They're saying, that in fact, if you look at minority communities, especially poor black communities, there are fewer driver's licenses, fewer of these kinds of IDs. There are only going to be six kinds now accepted, as opposed to 17 previously accepted in the state of Georgia. And therefore, they're saying it will have a discriminatory impact. You know what?

O'REILLY: They're coming to your house, Juan. And they're giving it to you.

WILLIAMS: Right.

O'REILLY: It doesn't get any easier than that.

WILLIAMS: But the record actually backs them up. There are fewer driver's licenses, fewer than these kinds -- but I'm telling you, in service to having no-fraud elections, I think you could say to people, go and get a legitimate ID --

O'REILLY: All right.

WILLIAMS: -- go register to vote. I don't think that's too much to ask.

O'REILLY: Yes, you're 96, and you have emphysema, you can't really do that. But again, Georgia will go to your house.

WILLIAMS: They'll come to you.

O'REILLY: Juan, thanks very much. We appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Bill.

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.