O'Reilly: “The print press does not care about the children”

Relying on his distortions and mischaracterizations of the positions of the “left-leaning” newspapers he targets, Bill O'Reilly claimed, during a discussion on his radio show about child abuse, that "[t]he print press does not care about the children."

On the March 24 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly made the sweeping claim that "[t]he print press does not care about the children." He made the comment in the context of a discussion on child abuse and a “left-leaning press.”

O'Reilly has repeatedly attempted to paint the media as “left-leaning” and sympathetic to judges who give light sentences to child abusers. He maintains a list of newspapers he deems “soft on child predators” and “are not actively supporting Jessica's Law.” However, many of his claims rely on distortions and mischaracterizations of the positions of those newspapers he targets.

For example, O'Reilly recently mischaracterized a March 19 Dayton Daily News editorial that addressed the sentencing of a convicted pedophile to probation instead of prison. On the March 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly stated: “The editor of the Dayton Daily News, Jeff Bruce, apparently believes [Judge John] Connor should not be sanctioned for giving probation to a child rapist and is smearing anyone who disagrees with that.” In fact, the editorial argued for Connor to receive due process in any proceeding and called on O'Reilly, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, and Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro to “realize on a very personal level the importance of a legal system not inflamed by the politics of the moment.” It also pointed out the past personal legal problems of each as examples where "[a]ll three men could have been destroyed by a rush to judgment of the kind they are now inciting." Media Matters for America President and CEO David Brock discussed the case on the March 22 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Click here for video; the transcript is below.

O'Reilly also took a quote out of context to falsely accuse a Massachusetts judge of condoning child abuse and, in another instance, quoted a San Francisco Chronicle editorial out of context in order to misrepresent the Chronicle's objections to a proposed bill regarding child molesters and to claim that “the protection of children in America” from sexual predators has become “a liberal versus conservative issue.”

Further, Media Matters for America has documented additional attacks by O'Reilly on newspapers regarding child abuse. He attacked a Hartford Courant editorial that he falsely characterized as opposing mandatory minimum prison sentences for child sex offenders. In fact, the editorial did not take a position on mandatory minimums. O'Reilly also admitted to misquoting and mischaracterizing a Houston Chronicle editorial when he claimed the piece criticized a new sex offender law in Florida as “too harsh.”

From the March 24 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: A couple of things I'll give you that are on my mind. The print press continues to disgrace itself by supporting Judge Connor in Ohio. The latest is the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Far-left newspaper. You guys in St. Louis know it. Not a fair paper. You don't get balanced coverage there. It's, you know -- it's a pitiful situation in America when we have such a left-leaning press. And certain papers just outright far-left, and the St. Louis Post Dispatch is one of them.

But the Toledo Blade, I have to say, did say that Connor was wrong, and so, buy that paper. But most of the news media in Ohio has sided with a judge who sentenced a child rapist to probation, and we had the victim on [Fox News'] The Factor, and he said that the man forced him to do these acts when he was 11 years old. The print press does not care about the children.

From the March 22 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: It was the philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche who suggested for every man there exists a bait which he cannot resist swallowing. For Bill O'Reilly, that bait is anyone who disagrees with him or mentions anything that he considers offensive.

Our third story on the Countdown: the latest lure to catch his eye? No, not us for a change. Rather, the local newspaper in Dayton, Ohio. His outrage started with Andrew Selva pleeded guilty to child molestation in Franklin County, Ohio. As part of the plea bargain Judge John Connor gave him five years probation. The governor, the attorney general and O'Reilly all called for the judge to be taken off the bench immediately.

But an editorial in the Dayton Daily News asked the government not to ignore the evidently inappropriate lightness of the sentence but just to remember to go through the proper judicial channels, noting that, quote, “Governor Taft, Attorney General Petro and Mr. O'Reilly should realize on a very personal level the importance of a legal system not inflamed by the politics of the moment. Mr. O'Reilly was sued by a female colleague for allegedly making sexual harassing telephone calls. Governor Taft recently had his own run-in with the law for ethics violations. Mr. Petro has been accused of soliciting political contributions from lawyers who receive state contracts. All three men could have been destroyed by a rush to judgment of the kind they are now inciting.” That editorial elicited this response from the Big Giant Head:

O'REILLY (video clip): Time now for the “Most Ridiculous Item of the Day” and perhaps the most vile and irresponsible editorial I have ever seen in an American newspaper. The Dayton Daily News personally attacked the governor of Ohio, the attorney general of that state, and myself for calling for the ouster of Judge John O'Connor [sic]. The editor of the Dayton Daily News, Jeff Bruce, apparently believes Connor should not be sanctioned for giving probation to a child rapist and is smearing anyone who disagrees with that.

OLBERMANN: To which Jeff Bruce clarified: “They say only two things happen when you wrestle a pig. You get muddy and the pig enjoys it. ... Here's what's really happening: Mr. O'Reilly is upset with the newspaper because in an editorial we referred to his recent legal history in which he was accused of sexual harassment. His producer threatened that unless we published an apology they would resort to their 'bully pulpit.' That's what they've done. This isn't about being soft on child molesters. It's about Bill O'Reilly getting even.” Surprisingly enough, Mr. O'Reilly had to respond -- again.

O'REILLY (video clip): The consequences of child sexual abuse, The Factor is now going to list on billoreilly.com the media organizations we deem soft on child predators. We saw Vermont newspapers in Bennington and Rutland protect Judge Edward Cashman, and now in Ohio, the despicable Dayton Daily News has actually launched personal attacks on the Ohio governor, the attorney general and myself for calling for the ouster of Judge John Connor who gave a child rapist probation. The editor of the Dayton newspaper, Jeff Bruce, is also lying about a conversation he had with us and has called me a pig. He's quite a guy.

OLBERMANN: Many of us have had the fickle falafel of fate pointed at us -- Al Franken, Andrea Mackris [former O'Reilly Factor producer who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O'Reilly], even me; lots of historical facts, of course. But perhaps the combatant who has lasted longest in the joust joins us now. Bill O'Reilly would probably think me his best friend when compared to David Brock, the president of Media Matters for America. And David, I'd hope that you would take that as a compliment. Thanks for joining us.

BROCK: Thanks for having me on, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Is this typical for O'Reilly? Mischaracterize what someone said, smear them and then when they respond smear them and mix in some righteous indignation and insist, “I never resort to personal attacks”?

BROCK: Yeah, absolutely, Keith. As you know, we at Media Matters closely monitor the O'Reilly shows, both the television and radio shows, and this is absolutely part of a pattern. In this case, there is a gross misrepresentation by O'Reilly of what the paper said; they didn't say what he said they said. And this is a part of dishonest pattern of media criticism on his part. And we've documented other cases of, particularly attacks on local newspapers, on this subject of child sex offenders -- saying that the Houston Chronicle, for example, thought a child-sex-offender law was too harsh, when that's not what the Chronicle said, and O'Reilly had to admit he was wrong. Saying that the Hartford Courant in Connecticut opposed mandatory minimums; when you look at the editorial, they didn't even mention mandatory minimums. So this is part of a pattern -- and also, the attacks on his critics. We have him on the record, and we have a video on our website at mediamatters.org where he is on the record saying he doesn't do personal attacks, and then we have several clips of calling [Sen.] John Kerry [D-MA] a sissy, saying [Sen.] Barbara Boxer [D-CA] is a nut, and calling Media Matters vile and despicable.

OLBERMANN: As I pointed out here before, if he didn't do personal attacks, he'd be a mime. Do you think, having watched this as carefully as you do, that something is escalating within him? I mean, first there was the threat to the callers to his radio show who mentioned my name -- they are gonna get the Fox police after them. Then, the threat to the Dayton Daily News demanding an apology. We didn't even mention the fact that he gave out the email of this man, Jeff Bruce, on TV on Monday. This stuff is bordering on harassment now. Does the emergency brake on the O'Reilly Express seem to have broken off to you?

BROCK: Well, you know, it's always hard to explain what goes on in Bill O'Reilly's mind, so --

OLBERMANN: If anything.

BROCK: -- I'm not really going to try to do that. But I think it's fair to say in the past couple of years that Bill O'Reilly has gotten more scrutiny. More people are aware of the dishonesty, the serial lying that goes on on that show, and that he's systematically is misinforming the public, and he doesn't seem to have a lot of humor about that criticism. But the criticism is entirely valid, and people can go to our website and see that we reproduce the audio and the video transcripts of every item we do, and it's so it's all there for people to see, and it's all documented. And clearly, he doesn't -- he's not comfortable with the scrutiny.

OLBERMANN: Here on this program, we have probably spent too much time chronicling what he does, but he does just toss up these softballs at us, and it's too much fun. But give me the serious answer to this: Why does it matter? Why does he merit monitoring or scrutiny? What threat does he pose?

BROCK: Well, I think the serious answer is The New Yorker has a profile of the show this week called “The Fear Factor,” and they say in there that O'Reilly today occupies in cable news world the same position that Walter Cronkite occupied for network news. So. clearly. he has an impact, he's affecting the public debate, he's the face of Fox, which is the top cable-rated channel. You know very well that studies have shown that Fox viewers were systematically misinformed on really important things. They falsely believe that Saddam was tied to 9-11. So, all this matters. And by the way, Bill O'Reilly has popped up lately on the Today show. So this is not just a matter of Fox; it's a matter of really documenting that he's misinforming the public, and we think media matters.

OLBERMANN: Yeah, we heard about that Today show thing. That got around the building. But give me -- just so people know in case they don't, your history with him, or the Media Matters history with him. When he refers to the rest of us echoing left-wing smear merchants, he's referring to your site, isn't he?

BROCK: He is, yeah. And on three occasions last fall, he specifically talked about our site as the worst political smear site in America and has called our staff vile and despicable ankle-biters. And it is the case that it is our mission to document the falsehoods on that show, and we post all of that to our website at mediamatters.org, and we view ourselves as a resource, but our research can be checked by others. We have never said that he said anything that he didn't say, so we're very accurate in that. And so, that's really the history, I think, that he hasn't been systematically, in this way, monitored and analyzed before, and it's clearly getting to him.

OLBERMANN: And it's clearly for the public benefit. We thank you for it. And it's a good thing he didn't use any personal attacks in describing Media Matters for America. David Brock of that organization. Great thanks.

BROCK: Thank you.