Less than one week after Media Matters for America exposed FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly doctoring a quotation by progressive financier, philanthropist, and political activist George Soros, O'Reilly distorted another quotation -- this time by syndicated columnist Robert Scheer, whose commentary appears in the Los Angeles Times.
In an O'Reilly Factor segment decrying “left-wing ideologues” for “venting long and loud” against former President Ronald Reagan, O'Reilly read from Scheer's June 8 column criticizing Reagan's policies; O'Reilly quoted Scheer's observation that “Reagan allowed AIDS to spread for the same reason he pointedly savaged programs to help the poor.” But within seconds of reading Scheer's quotation verbatim, O'Reilly began rewriting Scheer's words.
From the June 8 edition of FOX News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: I don't mind putting the Reagan administration into perspective. ... [But] [c]alling him responsible for the AIDS epidemic? Come on, this is absurd, is it not?
Nationally syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, attempted to correct O'Reilly, who took the distortion further.
O'REILLY: [W]e understand bombast here, as we have a patent on it on The Factor. OK? However, this is hateful. “Reagan spread AIDS.” You know, if you had a son or daughter that died from it -- “Reagan spread it,” this isn't political discourse. This is hateful, malicious garbage. And I'm tired of it.
PAGE: I believe he said Reagan was slow to stop the spread of AIDS, right?
O'Reilly re-read the quotation in response to Page but refused to acknowledge his distortion. Seconds later, he repeated it. Page tried again to correct him, but O'Reilly dismissed Page's objection as "parsing":
O'REILLY: But Mr. Page, you don't seem upset about this. We've got AIDS. We've got one guy saying that Reagan spread AIDS.
PAGE: Because I didn't hear them use that exact language. I mean the fact is...
O'Reilly concluded the segment with a plea for “legitimate debate on facts” and a denunciation of “distort[ion]” :
O'REILLY: Legitimate debate on facts is fine. Distorting for the sake of just being vicious is not.