O'Reilly dubiously claimed school officials "ran away" when he sought interviews; misrepresented panelist's words

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In further remarks about the controversy over the Boulder High School discussion on sex and drugs, Bill O'Reilly made the dubious claim on his June 13 The O'Reilly Factor broadcast that school officials "all ran away" when he tried to question them about the panel. Additionally, O'Reilly misrepresented the comments of one panelist, whom he repeatedly has criticized, and told a student, "I don't lecture you or anybody else on what to do in your life."

Commenting on the panel discussion about sex and drugs that was held at Boulder High School, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly misleadingly claimed on the June 13 edition of The O'Reilly Factor that when he sought comments about the controversy from school officials, "[t]he principal, school board president, the superintendent all ran away." However, in his remarks about the April 10 event sponsored by the University of Colorado's Conference on World Affairs, O'Reilly did not reveal that the officials declined to be subjected to ambush interviews by Factor producer Jesse Watters -- interviews one conservative columnist has described as "criminal trespass[ ]," as Colorado Media Matters noted.

Moreover, in attempting to discredit the observation of his on-air guest, Boulder High School student Mansur Gidfar, that O'Reilly once had made comments about teens and sex similar to panelist Joel Becker's -- whose remarks O'Reilly repeatedly has criticized -- O'Reilly misrepresented Becker's statements to the audience about the drug Ecstasy. O'Reilly also told the student, "I don't lecture you or anybody else on what to do in your life."

As Colorado Media Matters has noted (here, here, here, here, and here), O'Reilly repeatedly has mischaracterized and lied about the panel discussion and its aftermath. Further, he has been criticized by another media figure, conservative columnist David Kopel of the Rocky Mountain News, for his on-air misrepresentations about the panel and the ensuing controversy.

O'Reilly stated on the June 13 broadcast that "The Factor went to Boulder to get school officials to make some comments. The principal, school board president, the superintendent all ran away." However, he neglected to mention that on his May 29 show he played footage of Watters ambushing Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) superintendent George Garcia, apparently returning from a hike; BVSD Board of Education president Helayne Jones, in her home garage; and principal Bud Jenkins, apparently arriving at work. The Boulder Daily Camera reported on May 31 that Jones called police to make O'Reilly's reporters leave her property, and that Jenkins "requested a police escort last week to get in the building after reporting being followed by a Fox camera crew." Kopel -- the parent of a child who attends Boulder High -- wrote in his June 2 News column that Watters had "criminally trespassed into [Jones'] garage."

Later in the segment, O'Reilly interviewed Gidfar, who helped draft a petition reportedly containing approximately 400 signatures demanding an apology from O'Reilly for his misleading coverage of the panel discussion and for slandering the community of Boulder. Gidfar criticized O'Reilly, who he indicated had repeatedly attacked Becker for statements allegedly similar to what O'Reilly wrote in his book The O'Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America's Families (Harper Collins, 2004):

GIDFAR: I keep hearing you playing that Joel Becker quote -- "I'm going to encourage you to have sex and I'm going to encourage to you use drugs appropriately. And the reason I'm going to do that is, you know, you're going to do it anyway." So, now, I found this interesting. I'm just going to read another quote, quote directly, you know, so I'm not, misrepresenting anyone here. Quote, "As for me, I'm not going to tell to you avoid sex because in the end, you will do what you want to anyway," end quote. And I'm just curious if you recognize that or not.

O'REILLY: Maybe something I said somewhere down the line. You want to put it into context?

GIDFAR: Well, that would be a quote directly from your book, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids. And I just think it's interesting --

O'REILLY: Right, it, it's basically --

GIDFAR: -- that you're somehow trying to --

O'REILLY: It's basically --

GIDFAR: -- justify --

O'REILLY: Look, I don't lecture you or anybody else on what to do in your life. But I certainly don't encourage you to use Ecstasy, Mansur. And I don't encourage you to use illegal drugs that could get you in a lot of legal trouble, which is what Becker did.

Indeed, on his show O'Reilly repeatedly has played an audio clip of Becker saying, "I'm going to encourage you to have sex, and I'm going to encourage you to use drugs appropriately." But O'Reilly has never reported the full transcript of Becker's comments. Becker immediately followed his statement by saying, "And why I'm going to take that position is because you're going to do it anyway. So, my, my approach to this is to be realistic, and I think that as a psychologist and a health educator, it's more important to educate you in a direction that you might actually stick to." [emphasis added]

As Gidfar pointed out, Becker's words are similar to a statement O'Reilly made on page 75 of his book for kids: "As for me, I'm not going to tell you to avoid sex, because in the end you will do what you want anyway." O'Reilly also wrote the following in his chapter titled "Sex":

Some of your parents annoy me on this subject . They say, "Bill, you wouldn't believe kids and sex today. We didn't know half of what they know."

Sure, some of you know more of the basics than we did at your age, but I'm all for knowing the score, no matter what the game. [page 72]

[...]

As for me, I'm not going to tell you to avoid sex, because in the end you will do what you want anyway.

I am going to tell you to look for love, though. For most of us, it's a lengthy search, but the challenge is fun, and the result, when you do find someone you respect, care about, and can laugh with, is the best. Some people think that's why we're here. Maybe so. [page 75]

[...]

Are you surprised by my thoughts on the subject? Did you think that O'Reilly would tell you sex is off-limits? As you know, things are more complicated than that. But I repeat my mantra: Sex is best when you combine sensible behavior with sincere affection.

That's the ideal, and it is smart to wait for it. [page 75]

Becker's overall message to students at Boulder High was similar to O'Reilly's:

BECKER: I want to encourage you to all have healthy sexual behavior. Now what is healthy sexual behavior? Well, I don't care if it's with men and men, women and women, men and women, however, whatever combination you would like to put together. But I think that we know enough about what constitutes healthy sexual behavior to think about it along two lines. One is, the issue of health and disease ... I think that we also want to have a definition of healthy sexual behavior as sexual behavior that is appropriate to your level of emotional development.

Becker concluded his talk by saying, "I encourage you to have a healthy sex life that is both responsible and appropriate for what you can handle emotionally" -- remarks O'Reilly has not quoted from the panel discussion transcript.

Moreover, O'Reilly's suggestion that Becker encouraged high school kids to use the drug Ecstasy is misleading. According to the transcript, Becker said:

Well, you have to really sort of think, am I ready to have my world changed? I'm 14 years old. Maybe I'm not ready to see what one sees on LSD. Maybe I'm not ready to have the feelings that mescaline provides in my body, or ecstasy, because a lot of those feelings have to do with feelings of being out of control, and they can be very scary to a person who doesn't have a strong enough sense of themselves, and that's why people end up having bad trips at young ages. They're just not ready. As a psychologist, I know the history of the use of psychedelics. There's a very famous man named Timothy Leary at Harvard who did therapy with LSD. Even today, there are psychiatrists who will do sessions under the influence of ecstasy. If I had some, maybe I'd do it with somebody, but I don't, (laughter from audience) you know. I haven't tried it but there are people that do it.

From the June 13 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Now, shortly after that exposition, The Factor went to Boulder to get school officials to make some comments. The principal, school board president, the superintendent all ran away. And none of them -- none of them -- condemned the situation. Subsequently, they all tried to justify what happened, what you just heard. Now, last night, more than 200 people attended a school board meeting in Boulder. And passions ran high.

[...]

O'REILLY: Now, Mansur, you got some problems with me. I mean, what exactly are those? Tell the audience.

MANSUR GIDFAR (Boulder High student): Well, I think I could best summar -- sum up my beef, as you put it, like this. I keep hearing you playing that Joel Becker quote -- "I'm going to encourage you to have sex and I'm going to encourage to you use drugs appropriately. And the reason I'm going to do that is, you know, you're going to do it anyway." So, now, I found this interesting. I'm just going to read another quote, quote directly, you know, so I'm not, misrepresenting anyone here. Quote, "As for me, I'm not going to tell to you avoid sex because in the end, you will do what you want to anyway," end quote. And I'm just curious if you recognize that or not.

O'REILLY: Maybe something I said somewhere down the line. You want to put it into context?

GIDFAR: Well, that would be a quote directly from your book, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids. And I just think it's interesting --

O'REILLY: Right, it, it's basically --

GIDFAR: -- that you're somehow trying to --

O'REILLY: It's basically --

GIDFAR: -- justify --

O'REILLY: Look, I don't lecture you or anybody else on what to do in your life. But I certainly don't encourage you to use Ecstasy, Mansur. And I don't encourage you to use illegal drugs that could get you in a lot of legal trouble, which is what Becker did. Now look, you're 16 years old, correct?

GIDFAR: I am 16.

O'REILLY: OK. You sat there with your compatriots and you heard what was said. And everybody heard it on the tape. There was no other side to the story on the stage, Mansur. It was four far-left -- and I think they're nuts, all of them. We know who they are. They all got resumes that are unbelievable as far as libertine actions are concerned. Not responsible people. Shouldn't be in any assembly without somebody like me or Ms. [Ellie] Lake [concerned parent] sitting there saying, "Hold it. It's against the law to use Ecstasy." Do you not understand that?

GIDFAR: Well, here's the thing. I don't think anyone can pretend this panel wasn't controversial. Obviously, there were some statements made that people object to. I don't necessarily agree with everything that was said. But overall, I think it's a good experience. Because I think if the outrage from the community has proven anything, it's that parents are very uncomfortable with approaching their kids on a subject such as sex and drugs --

O'REILLY: I'm not sure about that.

GIDFAR: -- and that the frank discussion was necessary.

O'REILLY: That, that's a, that's a personal parental decision on how they do that. You don't bring in four loons -- and these people are loons, Mansur, trust me, OK? -- and you, to talk to 13-, 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids and tell them that Ecstasy is a good thing. Ecstasy gets you in a lot of trouble. And without anybody on that panel or on that stage -- anybody -- putting it into perspective. So I, I just hope you understand that I'm not here to tell you what to do, Mansur. You want to go out and do it, you go ahead. It's not my job. I'm not your father. OK? But I am here to say that your school officials at Boulder High School, grossly irresponsible. State of Colorado should have axed them immediately. And I think, Ms. Lake, you understand that you're sending your young daughter, 13 years old, into this place where there are no boundaries. And I'd be very --

GIDFAR: Well, I think on --

O'REILLY: -- concerned.

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