Fox's Bill O'Reilly used his national platform to launch a crusade against openly gay Colorado lawmaker Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-2) over his opposition to a law that would institute mandatory minimum sentences for sexual predators who target children, repeatedly suggesting that Ferrandino's opposition to the measure might be linked to his support for gay marriage.
During the February 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly criticized Ferrandino for opposing "Jessica's Law," a measure that would impose a 25-year sentence on those found guilty of sexually assaulting children. Law enforcement experts and victims' advocates in Colorado have deemed Jessica's Law unnecessary, noting that current Colorado laws "already go beyond what Jessica's law mandates."
During the segment, O'Reilly joined Colorado Rep. Libby Szabo (R-27) in attempting to link Ferrandino's opposition to the bill to his homosexuality and support for civil unions. O'Reilly also promised to hold Ferrandino "personally responsible," threatening that his life would soon "take a turn for the worse":
O'REILLY: Now this Ferrandino, I understand he is the, what, the first openly gay House Speaker in Colorado. He was a fervent gay marriage person. He objected when gay marriage was first tabled because they sent it into the same committee to kill it that he sent Jessica's law in. All of that true so far of this guy?
SZABO: So far you're correct.
O'REILLY: All right. So this guy doesn't want tougher mandatory sentences. Have you talked to him about it? Has he said anything to the press about why not?
SZABO: You know, I don't know that the press in Colorado, they covered this issue very well on, on my side of the issue and on Mr. Lunsford's side of the issue. But I don't believe he was willing to speak to them because obviously he's protecting somebody. Obviously the victims hold more credence with him -- I mean not the victims-- the perpetrators hold more credence with him than the child victims do.
O'Reilly continued his campaign on the March 4 edition of his show, which opened with a tease once again linking Ferrandino's support for civil unions to his alleged unwillingness to protect kids "from sexual predators":
Later in the show, O'Reilly accused Ferrandino of attempting to usher in a "secular paradise" in Colorado, citing his support for LGBT equality:
O'REILLY: He put it into a committee that he knew it was going to kill it. Yet the same guy that you're looking at, gay marriage, he's a big gay marriage guy, big marijuana legalizer, there he is. And when I worked in Colorado more than thirty years ago, Jessica's Law would have passed like that when I was there. It wouldn't have even been close. But now, as you said, you have this influx of people from the outside who want to impose a secular paradise, much like they have in Boulder, Colorado, where the university is, and that's infected the entire state.
As Think Progress' Zack Ford noted, O'Reilly's insistence on linking Ferrandino's support for LGBT equality to his opposition to Jessica's Law is a transparent attempt to prey upon fears that gay men are more inclined to engage in, or at least endorse, pedophilia - a position that O'Reilly has previously supported:
It's hard to justify anything about this "campaign" of O'Reilly's as journalism. It seems increasingly apparent that he is simply manipulating the fact that Ferrandino is gay to prey on viewers' fears that the Speaker is thus somehow more likely to be endangering children.
According to The Denver Post, O'Reilly's campaign against Ferrandino is already bearing fruit. Following O'Reilly's first segment on the topic, Ferrandino received a number of angry e-mails about his position, including one from a viewer hoping that Ferrandino's 14-month-old foster daughter is raped.