Fox News host Bill O'Reilly resorted to anti-Semitic imagery in an effort to smear George Soros, describing the Jewish philanthropist and businessman as a "shadow puppet master" who "has his tentacles into political organizations."
On the March 18 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly warned viewers that the American people have a responsibility to counter so-called "anti-capitalist violence on display" in Europe. He deplored what he claimed is "crazy left-wing economic stuff" on its way to taking root in the United States as a result of the economic agenda championed by President Obama, Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and 84-year old philanthropist George Soros, whom O'Reilly declared "the most frightening of all." He continued (emphasis added):
O'REILLY: Soros has now taken his ill-gotten gains and is financing the most radical left-wing organizations in America. He is the shadow puppet master behind corrupt far-left groups like Media Matters. Soros has his tentacles into political organizations like the Center for American Progress, which has provided operatives for the Obama administration, some of whom are now going over to Hillary Clinton's campaign. Few Americans even know who Soros is, but the 84-year old uber-leftist is behind much of the political strife in this country.
Depictions of Jewish people as "puppet masters" controlling the government and the media are anti-Semitic stereotypes that go back decades. O'Reilly's claim that Soros' "tentacles" have infiltrated the upper echelons of political society is also a play on overtly anti-Semitic imagery. The white supremacist, neo-Nazi online forum Stormfront.org contains a trove of examples, including a March 19, 2013 post called "The 6 Tentacles of Jewish Supremacy Revealed." The image of a Jewish octopus engulfing the globe or ensnaring political institutions dates back to at least the 1930s, when it was a common theme in Nazi propaganda.
In 2010, then-Fox News host Glenn Beck was condemned by Jewish groups in part for using similar negative stereotypes and for accusing Soros of being a Nazi collaborator who helped "send the Jews" to "death camps."
From the March 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News host Bill O'Reilly attacked efforts to decrease school suspensions and expulsions with programs known as "restorative justice," ignoring that these traditional punishments disproportionately target students of color.
For decades, many school districts followed zero-tolerance policies on student discipline. Such policies encouraged schools to suspend students for many types of violent and non-violent misconduct, including "insubordination," often at racially disproportionate rates. According to a report by UCLA's Center for Civil Rights Remedies, American students lost almost 18 million days of school instruction due to suspensions just in the 2011-12 school year. In 2014, the Department of Education and Department of Justice reported that the racial disparities "are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color," and issued new guidelines aimed at reducing racial disparities in school discipline.
In an effort to combat such racially disparate suspension rates, some school districts have promoted alternative school discipline models known as "restorative justice" programs. These programs typically involve working with students to get them to take responsibility for their behavior through group talking and dialogue rather than outright suspension or expulsion. New York City recently announced that "principals must get approval from the Education Department central office before [a] student can be suspended," and in recent years has included "more alternatives to traditional punishments, like peer mediation and early interventions."
During the March 17 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly hosted New York Post columnist Paul Sperry for a segment titled, "Chaos in Public Schools." O'Reilly claimed that "liberal mayors all over the country are making it easier for violent students to remain in public schools." O'Reilly added that "students can actually assault teachers without being suspended or expelled in some cases."
But O'Reilly's dismissal of such school discipline reform efforts ignores the racially disparate impact of zero-tolerance policies. As Capital New York explained, "during the 2013-2014 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, 53,000 suspensions were issued, and black or Hispanic students made up 87 percent of those suspensions" in New York City. According to U.S. News & World Report, "Black Americans are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. They make up 16 percent of school enrollment, but account for 32 percent of students who receive in-school suspensions, 42 percent of students who receive multiple out-of-school suspensions and 34 percent of students who are expelled":
The school discipline reforms that O'Reilly attacked have resulted in fewer suspensions. The Christian Science Monitor in 2013 described the impact of such a program in the Oakland Unified School District:
In the 2011-12 school year, African-Americans made up 32 percent of Oakland's students but 63 percent of the students suspended. In middle schools, principals suspended about 1 out of 3 black boys.
The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights investigated whether the discipline was discriminatory. Before making a legal finding, OCR collaborated with the district last fall on a five-year voluntary resolution plan to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and the racial disparity.
Suspensions not only dropped by 51 percent last year, but they continue to fall, and [Ralph J. Bunche Academy] eliminated disproportionality in suspensions for African-Americans.
From the March 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the March 13 edition of HuffPost Live:
The right-wing media's calls to end birthright citizenship -- a constitutional guarantee -- have been repeated incessantly over the years and have once again found a sympathetic ear in Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who recently re-introduced legislation that would supposedly "prevent children born in the U.S. of foreign national parents from gaining automatic U.S. citizenship."
Conservative media figures going back to Glenn Beck in his Fox News days have railed against so-called "anchor babies" and "birth tourism," the former a derogatory slur and debunked myth used against U.S. born children of non-citizens, the latter of which represents a sliver of births that experts have repeatedly pointed out are "extraordinarily rare" and an insignificant immigration problem. As Salon's Simon Maloy recently wrote, this "grossly nativist and legally dubious" rhetoric has nevertheless found a receptive audience in Republican legislators on both the state and federal levels.
At the same time, right-wing media continue their drumbeat on this issue, most prominently ABC contributor and talk radio host Laura Ingraham, who has called ending the constitutional guarantee of citizenship at birth a "common sense step." This is nothing new for Ingraham, a self-proclaimed influence on Republican politics who has repeatedly condemned "birthright citizenship nonsense."
On the March 10 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly joined the chorus when he heard that children born in the U.S. automatically receive citizenship -- "the baby gets the passport" -- and declared, "That law's got to change." In the segment, which focused on "birth tourism" by Chinese parents, O'Reilly concluded, "This law is being abused like crazy. It's got to be changed. That should not be a hard thing to do."
In fact, that would be an extremely hard thing to do -- it would require amending the U.S. Constitution or overturning centuries of post-Civil War Supreme Court precedent.
O'Reilly and his guests -- Fox host Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor, and contributor Lis Wiehl, also a lawyer -- ignored the fact that it's not merely a "law" that confers citizenship to children born in the United States -- it's the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment, intended to ensure equal protection for all in the wake of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, unequivocally states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States ... are citizens of the United States." This amendment has long been understood to grant birthright citizenship, and that interpretation has been re-affirmed by the Supreme Court since as far back as 1898. James C. Ho, the former solicitor general of Texas, explained in 2011 that birthright citizenship was intended "to reverse the Supreme Court's notorious 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford ruling denying citizenship to slaves" and their children, and challenging its legality is "wasting taxpayer funds on a losing court battle, reopening the scars of the Civil War, and offending our Constitution and the rule of law."
But conservative media's radical calls for the end of birthright citizenship continue to make headway with Republicans in Congress.
On March 10, Vitter re-introduced his Birthright Citizenship Act, which would "close a loophole by clarifying that birthright citizenship is only given to the children of U.S. citizens and legal resident aliens." In announcing this legislation, Vitter claimed that allowing birthright citizenship is based on "a fundamental misunderstanding of the 14th Amendment," suggesting that the framers of the amendment, the Supreme Court, and legal experts have been wrong about its plain language for the last 150 years.
An alternate explanation for Vitter's legislation -- other than pure confusion -- is that this is intended to be unconstitutional and represents a "test case" expected to be repeatedly struck down in the federal courts on the way to the Supreme Court. Although GOP senators have shied away from acknowledging this, right-wing anti-immigration activists like Kansas' Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach have plainly admitted as much.
Right-wing media is not quite so honest in its calls to rewrite the U.S. Constitution, choosing instead to baselessly scaremonger about "anchor babies" and "birth tourism."
Bill O'Reilly has told inconsistent stories about a reporting trip he took to El Salvador during that country's civil war in the early 1980s. While O'Reilly has suggested on his radio show that he witnessed a "firefight" with "guerrillas all over the place" and "people just shooting everywhere," in describing what appears to be the same reporting trip in two of his autobiographies, O'Reilly makes no mention of these dramatic details. The alleged episode was also absent from the segment CBS News aired based on O'Reilly's reporting in the region.
O'Reilly has recently faced intense scrutiny for repeatedly embellishing his experiences as a reporter. The Fox News host has made dubious claims about witnessing deaths during a riot in Argentina, even though numerous other journalists present at the incident dispute that anyone was killed. He repeatedly said he "heard" the gunshot that killed a figure linked to the investigation of John F. Kennedy's assassination, despite voluminous evidence to the contrary. O'Reilly also suggested he "saw nuns get shot in the back of the head" while reporting in El Salvador, even though the incident in question took place months before he arrived in the country. He claimed to have seen "Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens" while reporting from Northern Ireland, another apparent falsehood.
Defending his comments about Northern Ireland and the nuns in El Salvador, O'Reilly and a spokesperson have implausibly claimed that when boasting of having seen these events, he merely meant he had seen images of them.
O'Reilly has also apparently been inconsistent in describing another of his supposed "combat" experiences, this time regarding a reporting assignment for CBS News in El Salvador.
Bill O'Reilly has said there's "nothing I can do about" the "far-left attacks" over his claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure linked to President Kennedy's assassination. But as CNN host Brian Stelter pointed out, O'Reilly could do something very simple that he hasn't done: answer basic questions about major discrepancies undermining his tall tale.
The O'Reilly Factor host claimed on Fox News and in his Kennedy books that he was outside the Florida house where Lee Harvey Oswald friend George de Mohrenschildt was staying when he killed himself in 1977.
His claim hasn't stood up to scrutiny. Under heavy criticism, O'Reilly's only response so far has been to highlight the statement of a former colleague who says O'Reilly was in Florida at the time but is unable to corroborate his gunshot tale.
Here are six lingering questions that O'Reilly won't -- or can't -- answer about his claim that he "heard" de Mohrenschildt's self-inflicted gunshot.
From the March 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the March 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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Fox News figures are adopting an impossible standard to launch unprovable allegations against Hillary Clinton, arguing that the absence of an email can insinuate that Clinton either withheld or destroyed evidence.
Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, claimed on the March 8 edition of CBS' Face The Nation that there are "gaps of months" in Clinton's email documents turned over by the State Department for the committee's investigation. To prove his claim, Gowdy referenced a photo of Clinton on her phone during a trip to Tripoli, Libya, and the absence of any email from that day related to Benghazi. According to Gowdy's logic: "It strains credibility to believe that if you're on your way to Libya to discuss Libyan policy that there's not a single document that's been turned over to Congress."
Fox News personalities quickly adopted Gowdy's absurd line of attack against Clinton. On his radio show, Sean Hannity asserted that "you can't tell me that it was an accident that 55,000 pages of emails were turned over but not one was about Benghazi." Fox contributor Andrew Napolitano took the attack further alleging that Clinton's control of her documents means Gowdy "does not know if she gave him everything he subpoenaed." Bill O'Reilly echoed Gowdy's allegations on the March 9 edition of his show, saying "there's already a gap brought out by Congressman Gowdy" because "the day that she traveled to Libya, there's no emails that came out on that and it's inconceivable that she wouldn't have any." And during an interview with Gowdy, Megyn Kelly agreed with demands that Clinton turn over her private email server stating that Clinton "chose to create a situation" where questions about her emails would need to be answered.
According to that fallacious reasoning, the absence of evidence proves wrongdoing on Clinton's part.
The reality is, the State Department turned over Clinton emails related to Benghazi to the Select Committee months ago. In a March 6 letter chastising Gowdy for "the very partisan and political turn" to issue a subpoena to Clinton, Democratic members of the House Select Committee noted that the State Department already turned over 300 Clinton emails related to Benghazi, and those emails confirm the findings of the Accountability Review Board:
These documents include no evidence to suggest that Secretary Clinton ordered the Secretary of Defense to "stand down," no evidence to suggest that she was personally involved in denying requests for security for Benghazi, and no evidence to suggest that she ordered the destruction of documents. Nothing in these emails contradicts or calls into question the findings of the independent Accountability Review Board.
Bill O'Reilly has finally responded to the mounting evidence undermining his claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure linked to President Kennedy's assassination. Last night, O'Reilly directed viewers to a statement from his book publisher that highlighted the account of a former O'Reilly colleague. But even that former colleague -- who has since worked for Fox News and is now a freelance reporter -- is unable to corroborate O'Reilly's tale.
O'Reilly claimed in his books on Kennedy's death and on Fox News that he was outside the residence where George de Mohrenschildt, a friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, killed himself in Florida in 1977. At the time, O'Reilly was a reporter for Dallas' WFAA-TV.
Over the past weeks, that story has unraveled. Several of O'Reilly's former colleagues and other reporters who covered de Mohrenschildt have disputed the tale. CNN produced audio that included O'Reilly telling a congressional investigator "I'm coming to Florida" only after learning of de Mohrenschildt's suicide. And the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office death investigation report makes no mention of O'Reilly, strongly refuting the notion that he was at the residence at the time of the suicide.
O'Reilly had declined to directly address these discrepancies, while the publisher of his JFK books, Henry Holt and Co., released a statement standing by their author. Fox News has described O'Reilly as the victim of "an orchestrated campaign by far left advocates" and called responding to such allegations "an exercise in futility." But last night on his Fox News show, O'Reilly finally responded to what he termed "the far-left attacks on my reporting" of the JFK story by directing his viewers to a statement on the controversy that had been posted by his publisher.
The statement comes from O'Reilly's former WFAA colleague Bob Sirkin, who has previously said he was with O'Reilly in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's suicide. Sirkin, a freelance reporter who has worked for Fox News, previously described himself as one of the few people at WFAA who got along "very well" with O'Reilly.
But even Sirkin, O'Reilly's defender, is unable to corroborate his claim that he heard the gunshot that killed de Mohrenschildt. He also offers no explanation for the existence of O'Reilly's own recorded remarks that he's not in Florida, and why the police report didn't mention of O'Reilly.
According to Sirkin, he and O'Reilly had "split up" that afternoon and did not "reconnect" until after the death. From the statement (all caps in original):
So following the hotel incident, O'Reilly and I split up, it's now early afternoon. Bill is going to the Manalapan home in which George de Mohrenschildt and his daughter were staying, this is the house where de Mohrenschildt's body was found. I on the other hand, go on to do some additional reporting, phoning in a report for WFAA into their newsroom. Later, after de Mohrenschildt allegedly committed suicide, O'Reilly and I reconnect at the house in Manalapan.
In an interview with Media Matters last month, Sirkin likewise said that he was unable to confirm O'Reilly's account of having heard the gunshot.
Sirkin previously wrote a September 2012 blog comment claiming he visited Florida with O'Reilly prior to de Mohrenschildt's suicide. The entry makes no mention of O'Reilly hearing the gunshot. As Washington Post writer Erik Wemple notes, "There's no mention of Sirkin and O'Reilly splitting up or of O'Reilly heading over to the house where de Mohrenschildt committed his last act." Sirkin emailed Wemple later stating that he didn't include that detail "because of brevity and because I was not with Bill when he claimed to have heard a shot."
Sirkin's statement to O'Reilly's publisher also includes information that undermines his claim that he and O'Reilly were in Florida on the day of de Mohrenschildt's death. Sirkin identifies the freelance cameraman who worked with them in Florida. (Note: while award-winning filmmaker Frank Eberling has previously attested to being Sirkin and O'Reilly's cameraman during their 1977 Florida trip, Sirkin's statement on the publisher's website, which appears to be a transcription of a verbal comment, identifies him as "Frank Everly.") Eberling told Media Matters last month that while he is unsure, he thinks O'Reilly arrived in Florida the day after the suicide.
That account is consistent with tape recordings of a phone conversation between O'Reilly and a congressional investigator on the day of the suicide. In the recordings, O'Reilly can be heard asking the congressional investigator where the suicide took place, if a gun was used, and saying "I'm coming down there tomorrow. I'm coming to Florida ... I'm going to get in there tomorrow."
Doug Fox, another of Sirkin and O'Reilly's former WFAA colleagues, claimed in an interview with Media Matters last month that he spoke to Sirkin "a few months ago" about seeing a story questioning O'Reilly's de Mohrenschildt reporting. According to Fox, Sirkin "called me and he didn't think the assertion was correct that O'Reilly heard the gunshot. Sirkin and I were in agreement that that's not what we recall happening down there. He said, 'It doesn't sound right to me, either.'" Sirkin responded by claiming that he had merely told Fox that he hadn't been present with O'Reilly for the gunshot.
O'Reilly has recently faced widespread criticism for a series of fabrications about his reporting career. On his program last night, he lashed out at his critics, including Media Matters, which he termed "the chief attack vehicle for the left."
UPDATE: Eberling disputed several aspects of Sirkin's story in an interview today with Media Matters' Joe Strupp.
While Sirkin claims that he and O'Reilly were in the area and using Eberling ("Everly" in the transcript) as their freelance cameraman on March 29, the day of de Mohrenschildt's death, Eberling recalls that he was working his regular job at the local ABC affiliate that day and did not meet up with the WFAA reporters until March 30.
"I highly doubt that [O'Reilly] actually was there when [the suicide] happened, I don't think he came into town until the next day," said Eberling.
Sirkin also writes that on March 29, he, O'Reilly, and Eberling were escorted off the property of the Breakers Hotel after trying to ambush de Mohrenschildt while he was being interviewed by investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein in Epstein's hotel room. Eberling recalled a similar story, but puts it on March 30, and said the altercation occurred when O'Reilly attempted to speak with either congressional investigator Gaetan Fonzi or investigative reporter Willem Oltmans.
Asked about O'Reilly's claim of being on the porch when the suicide occurred, Eberling said, "That's something I would have remembered and I don't remember him saying that."
Another person has joined the long list of journalists calling bunk on Bill O'Reilly's claim that he personally "heard" the shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
The O'Reilly Factor host claimed on Fox News and in his books that he was outside the residence of Lee Harvey Oswald friend George de Mohrenschildt when he killed himself in Florida in 1977. The claim is one of several recently exposed tall tales the top-rated Fox News host has told about his reporting career.
Edward Jay Epstein, an investigative reporter and author who taught at MIT and UCLA, wrote a March 9 Newsweek piece calling O'Reilly's JFK claim "impossible," adding: "How do I know? I was the actual -- and only -- reporter interviewing de Mohrenschildt on the last day of his life in 1977." He added that he spoke with investigators and de Mohrenschildt's family members, and "From what I learned about the case, O'Reilly's story does not fit the facts."
Hugh Aynesworth, a former bureau chief for Newsweek and the Washington Times who covered the de Mohrenschildt story, previously said "I didn't see him [O'Reilly] there. I was at the police department or that house for hours, and he just was not there." Media Matters has documented that O'Reilly's television colleagues at the time have also cast doubt that he heard the gunshot. And audio obtained by CNN and former Washington Post editor Jefferson Morley indicates O'Reilly wasn't there, as he told a congressional investigator he's "coming to Florida" in the wake of de Mohrenschildt's suicide.
On HBO's Real Time, host Bill Maher joined a growing chorus of critics calling out Fox News host Bill O'Reilly for apparent fabrications about his experiences reporting from war zones.
Mother Jones, Media Matters, and others have exposed significant inconsistencies in O'Reilly's characterization of his past experience as a CBS News correspondent in Argentina, El Salvador, and elsewhere. Maher called his tales "out-and-out lies" and wondered why the mainstream press isn't pursuing the O'Reilly story as stridently as it did with questions about NBC's Brian Williams.
MAHER: These are out-and-out lies. Now, I understand why Fox News backs him, because they're not really a news service. So they're like, 'You expect the truth? That's not what we do here.' But why isn't the mainstream media going after him with the same ferocity -- the supposedly liberal media -- as they did to Brian Williams?