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As the weblog News Hounds noted, on the May 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly declared that "The Factor is lifting the boycott of France" due to the recent election of conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy as France's next president. O'Reilly called for the boycott in March 2003 because of France's opposition to the Iraq war, as Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted.
O'Reilly stated that "'Boycott France' bumper stickers do remain available on BillOReilly.com for nostalgia purposes," and warned "you never know, we may have to reimpose it." He asserted that "we believe" Sarkozy "will be much more fair when dealing with the USA, helping out NATO and fighting the war on terror." Referring to the postelection violence in France, O'Reilly added: "The fact that thugs took to the streets after Sarkozy won tells you what you need to know about the election. If these animals don't like Sarkozy, then he must be doing something right."
O'Reilly has repeatedly misrepresented the purported effects of his called-for boycott, as Media Matters has documented:
- On the April 27, 2004, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that the Paris Business Review had documented the success of O'Reilly's boycott against France for not sufficiently supporting the United States in its fight against terrorism and in Iraq. O'Reilly said, "They've lost billions of dollars in France according to the Paris Business Review." A Media Matters search found no evidence of the existence of a publication called the Paris Business Review at the time. Also, contrary to O'Reilly's claim, U.S. imports from France actually appeared to have increased during the time in which O'Reilly conducted his boycott.
- On the July 14, 2004, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly stated: "French exports to the USA have fallen by more than a billion dollars from 2001 to 2003." But that decline is unrelated to O'Reilly's purported boycott, which he called for in March 2003. Though O'Reilly is correct that Census figures show French exports were about $1.2 billion less in 2003 than in 2001, the decline in those years actually occurred between 2001 and 2002. It was a decline of $2.2 billion; French exports in 2003 actually increased $979 million over 2002, as Media Matters noted. That trend has continued: French exports in 2004 increased by nearly $2.39 billion over 2003. In fact, French exports to the U.S. have increased every year since O'Reilly called for his boycott in 2003.
- O'Reilly has also made numerous conflicting claims about the effects of his boycott on the French economy, as Media Matters has noted. For instance, on the October 24, 2005, broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, O'Reilly declared that his boycott effort has "hurt the French economy, not to a tremendous extent, but to an annoying extent. To the extent that they sent the French ambassador to New York to try to talk me out of it." Previously, O'Reilly has variously claimed that the boycott effort has caused France to lose "billions of dollars," "more than a billion dollars," and "$138 million."
- O'Reilly has also threatened other countries with a boycott similar to that of France, if said countries do not take actions he thinks they should take or refrain from actions he opposes. For instance, during the April 27, 2004, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly threatened Canada with a boycott like the one he advocated against France if Canada were to continue to allegedly harbor two deserters from the U.S. military. O'Reilly stated at the time: "if your government harbors these two deserter [sic], doesn't send them back ... there will be a boycott of your country which will hurt your country enormously. France is now feeling that sting."
Also, during the May 17, 2006, O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly threatened a boycott of Mexico if the country's foreign affairs secretary, Luis Ernesto Derbez, makes good on a promise to sue the United States if evidence emerges that the National Guard is directly helping to detain Mexican citizens trying to illegally enter the United States. O'Reilly warned Derbez, "If the Mexican government files one lawsuit in the U.S.A., one, pertaining to the National Guard, I will call for a total boycott of Mexican goods and no travel to your country." Continuing, O'Reilly suggested that Derbez "give the French ambassador a call" so he could "fill you in" on the effects of an O'Reilly-sponsored boycott.
From the May 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Time now for the "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day."
The Factor is lifting the boycott of France. However, "Boycott France" bumper stickers do remain available on BillOReilly.com for nostalgia purposes. And you never know: We may have to reimpose it.
France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy -- we believe he will be much more fair when dealing with the USA, helping out NATO, and fighting the war on terror. The fact that thugs took to the streets after Sarkozy won tells you what you need to know about the election.
If these animals don't like Sarkozy, then he must be doing something right. Anyway, many on the Factor staff are very pleased the boycott is lifted so they can eat their little truffles and escargot and drink their overpriced wine.
For me, I like visiting France, but I'm going to wait and see what happens before checking into some chi-chi farmhouse in Provence. To not do so would be ridiculous. Boycott on France lifted.