O'Reilly's explanation for Cleveland Plain Dealer's opposition to Jessica's Law? City's "heavily minority, urban situation"

Video ››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Bill O'Reilly criticized Ohio newspapers' opposition to mandatory sentencing laws for those found guilty of raping a child under 13, stating "the media [in Ohio] looks like they are left-wing loons." In particular, O'Reilly singled out the Cleveland Plain Dealer for its criticism of such laws, saying that while he doesn't understand the opposition by other cities' papers, he does understand the Plain Dealer's opposition: Cleveland's "heavily minority, urban situation."

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During a discussion with conservative Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham about the Ohio state Senate's recent approval of mandatory sentencing for those found guilty of raping a child under 13, Bill O'Reilly denounced the opposition on the part of numerous Ohio newspapers to mandatory sentencing laws, stating "the media [in Ohio] looks like they are left-wing loons." In particular, O'Reilly singled out Cleveland's The Plain Dealer for its criticism of such laws, saying that while he doesn't understand the opposition by other cities' papers, he does understand the Plain Dealer's opposition: Cleveland's "heavily minority, urban situation." O'Reilly's comments came during the April 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.

An April 4 Plain Dealer editorial described its opposition to mandatory sentences for sex offenders this way: "[T]he guarantee of a long mandatory sentence might prompt more of them [accused offenders] to take their cases to trial, and some prosecutors have expressed the fear that guilty people will win some of those cases." The editorial added: "TV talker Bill O'Reilly may stir up some voters with his foaming-at-the-mouth campaign to impeach judges he considers lenient toward sex offenders. But public policy in Ohio should not be dictated by someone in search of ratings."

As Media Matters for America has noted (here, here and here), O'Reilly has mischaracterized numerous newspaper editorials on the subject of child abuse. He repeated one such mischaracterization on his April 12 show when he included the Dayton Daily News in an onscreen list of Ohio newspapers who "were largely sympathetic to Judge John Connor, who sentenced a child rapist, who confessed, to probation." As Media Matters noted, O'Reilly previously claimed that the Daily News "apparently believes Connor should not be sanctioned for giving probation to a child rapist and is smearing anyone who disagrees with that." In fact, a Daily News editorial merely argued for Connor to receive due process in any proceeding to remove him from his judgeship that some Ohio officials have threatened to bring against him, citing O'Reilly as among prominent people calling for Connor's removal who have faced "personal legal problems" of their own and who should "realize on a very personal level the importance of a legal system not inflamed by the politics of the moment.

From the April 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: In the "Unresolved Problems" segment tonight: protecting the kids. By a vote of 32-1, the Ohio state Senate has passed a version of Jessica's Law that mandates prison terms of 25 years to life for the rape of a child under the age of 13. Now, the House is expected to take the bill up in a couple weeks, and obviously we hope it passes, but most Ohio newspapers disagree with us. The Akron Beacon Journal, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Columbus Dispatch all oppose Jessica's Law, and indeed, those newspapers and others were largely sympathetic to Judge John Connor, who sentenced a child rapist, who confessed, to probation. That controversy led to the Jessica's Law vote, as you may know. Now, when we confronted Connor about his awful sentence, he told us he could not legally speak about it, but that was not true. A few weeks later Connor went on the radio with NPR reporter Bob Garfield. Unfortunately, Mr. Garfield conducted a softball interview, and both Connor and Garfield had a swell time of it. Joining us now from Cincinnati is Bill Cunningham, a radio talk show host on WLW-AM. You know, Ohio is a Red State, and Ohio is a traditional-value state. But the media looks like they are left-wing loons. Am I wrong?

CUNNINGHAM: Well, Bill, you're partially right. The editorial sections of the major newspapers are left-winged loons. I've lived in Cincinnati my whole life, went to law school in Toledo. I have on the Columbus and Cleveland politicians. And when you talk about sexually abused children from Sri Lanka or anywhere, the prosecutors do not like strict sentencing because it takes away options. The defense bar doesn't like these kinds of Jessica Laws because it hurts business down the road. The judges don't like it because it takes away their authority, and the liberals who run these big-city newspapers in Ohio, believe it or not, are just like The New York Times or The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They went to the same schools. So, they're against Jessica's Law, and they're in favor of Judge Connor. Only the people, I think, are in favor of what you started about a month ago, when you had that video of Judge John Connor seemingly walking away from a St. Patrick's Day's get-together. The people, I think, are with us. The problem is the politicians, the lawyers, the prosecutors, the judges, and the editorial boards are not.

O'REILLY: OK, but the politicians, I mean -- in the Senate, 32-1. That's pretty overwhelming, and we believe that the House will probably pass the bill, and the governor will sign it. But I don't understand -- I understand Cleveland Plain Dealer. All right, now that city, obviously, heavily minority, urban situation. But I don't understand Dayton. I don't understand Columbus. The Toledo Blade was the only newspaper that openly spoke out against Connor. And I'm saying to myself, here's a guy who not only has given out insane sentences over his career but is a felon himself. [Connor has been arrested several times for drunken driving and was convicted of cocaine possession in 1984.] And this -- and they love him. They love him.

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