On his radio and television shows, Bill O'Reilly offered up numerous falsehoods and misrepresentations while discussing the Senate's consideration of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
On the June 5 broadcasts of his Fox News television show, The O'Reilly Factor, and his nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, Bill O'Reilly offered up numerous falsehoods and misrepresentations while discussing the Senate's consideration of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Despite claiming, on his radio show, that he does not “care” about gay marriage, that he does not “think it's a threat to the union;” and that same-sex marriage is “not a big issue” to him, O'Reilly argued extensively in apparent opposition to same-sex marriage on both of his shows. He repeatedly suggested that the legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to other “alternative” marriages like polygamy; claimed that the Netherlands has allowed humans to marry animals; misrepresented the effects of legalized same-sex unions in Scandinavian countries; and baselessly suggested same-sex parenting is harmful to children.
Human to animal nuptials
Continuing a pattern of linking same-sex marriage to bestiality, O'Reilly claimed, on his radio show, that in the Netherlands, if "[y]ou want to marry a duck ...you can do it over there." He offered no evidence to support his claim.
O'Reilly has repeatedly warned that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to interspecies nuptials, as Media Matters for America has noted. So far, his predictions include marriages between humans and goats (here and here) and between humans and ducks. Additionally, O'Reilly has sought to bolster his theory by highlighting the story of a British woman, Sharon Tendler, who “married” a dolphin in Jerusalem in January, in a “modest ceremony” that, according to the Associated Press, Tendler “acknowledged had no legal bearing.”
Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands
On both his shows, O'Reilly misrepresented marriage statistics in three Scandinavian countries -- Sweden, Norway, and Denmark -- as well as the Netherlands.
In addition to claiming that the Netherlands permits formal man/beast relationships, O'Reilly also suggested on The O'Reilly Factor that the Netherlands' legalization of gay marriage has “change[d]” the country by leading to an increase in out-of-wedlock births. During a discussion with William N. Eskridge Jr. and Darren R. Spedale, authors of Gay Marriage: For Better or For Worse? What We've Learned from the Evidence (Oxford University Press, June 2006), O'Reilly stated that the “conclusion you have come to ... that there hasn't been that much change” in countries that have legalized gay marriage, is wrong because “in the Netherlands ... births outside of marriage” have “doubled.” In fact, “out of marriage” births have increased steadily since 1995, six years prior to the legalization of same-sex marriages.
Later in the show, after his interview with Eskridge and Spedale, O'Reilly misrepresented their findings, arguing to Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers that Eskridge and Spedale's research found that the legalization of same-sex relationships had an effect on “regular marriage.” O'Reilly stated, "[A]s I talked to the authors of the book, there's no question, based upon their research, which is gay friendly," that in societies that have “embraced gay marriage, regular marriage” has “declined.”
But, the authors found no such cause and effect. To the contrary, their research found that in countries that recognize same-sex relationships in some legal form, the rate of heterosexual marriage actually increased, while divorce rates decreased, as they made clear during their appearance on the June 5 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: OK. And your conclusion you have come to, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that there hasn't been that much change.
But in the Netherlands, there has, and births outside of marriage, that's doubled. But in the rest of the countries -- Denmark, Norway, Sweden -- Mr. Eskridge, it's basically the same. Although in Norway, this is very interesting, in the southern part of Norway, more conservative part of the country, births outside of marriage much lower than the liberal northern part.
ESKRIDGE: Well, interestingly, Mr. O'Reilly, what we found in Denmark, which has had registered partnerships since 1989, the marriage rate had actually been falling in Denmark until '89. The divorce rate had been rising.
ESKRIDGE: And the rate of non-marital births went up from 11 percent in the early '70s to over 45 percent in the late '80s. And the interesting thing is after Denmark recognized same-sex unions, the marriage rate went back up, the divorce rate fell, and the rate of non-marital children stabilized. And in the last five years, it's stabilized at a lower level than in 1989.
O'REILLY: All right, Professor, but --
ESKRIDGE: So, one of the things we show in the book is that the situation from a traditional point of view actually improved in Denmark.
ESKRIDGE: But the point is that, in Sweden, we've seen some of the same trends that we saw in Denmark. So, in Sweden, the rate of marriage had been plummeting before 1994, when they adopted same-sex unions. The rate of marriage has been increasing in Sweden since 1994.
O'REILLY: I think we can draw this -- this is what I'm drawing from all of your data. The gay marriage, per se, the marriage of homosexuals, doesn't really impact on straight marriage for those who want a traditional union.
But it does, Mr. Spedale, it does lead to a more libertine or permissive society in the sense that marriage itself then is de-emphasized as we see in Sweden. And more and more people cohabitate.
SPEDALE: No. I think that's not true. I think exactly we saw the opposite. And that's why these statistics are so interesting. In Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, in each of those countries, after they passed their gay marriage type laws, their registered partnership laws, the rates of heterosexual marriage went up per capita. The rates of heterosexual divorce went down.
During his discussion with Powers, O'Reilly also baselessly claimed “that children ... are better off with a mom and a dad in a traditional married state.” In fact, studies have consistently found that children raised by gay or lesbian parents suffer no adverse effects to psychosocial development. In 1995, the American Psychological Association (APA) released a report compiling summaries of numerous students on the effects of same-sex parenting on their children. The report concluded:
[T]here is no evidence to suggest that lesbians and gay men are unfit to be parents or that psychosocial development among children of gay men or lesbians is compromised in any respect relative to that among offspring of heterosexual parents. Not a single study has found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect relative to children of heterosexual parents. Indeed, the evidence to date suggests that home environments provided by gay and lesbian parents are as likely as those provided by heterosexual parents to support and enable children's psychosocial growth.
In 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported on the psychosocial development of children reared by same-sex parents. The report noted:
A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children's optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes.
And concluded: “Parents' sexual orientation is not a variable that, in itself, predicts their ability to provide a home environment that supports children's development.”
Additionally, in June 2004, the APA announced its opposition to “legislation proposed at the federal and state levels that would amend the U.S. Constitution or state constitutions, respectively, to prohibit marriage between same-sex couples.” In doing so, the APA noted:
Gay and lesbian parents are as likely as heterosexual parents to provide healthy and supportive environments for their children. Lesbian and heterosexual women do not differ markedly either in their overall mental health or in their approaches to child rearing. Nor do lesbians' romantic and sexual relationships with other women detract from their ability to care for their children. Recent evidence suggests that gay and lesbian couples with children tend to divide child care and household responsibilities evenly and to report satisfaction with their relationship.
Studies of various aspects of child development reveal few differences among children of lesbian mothers and heterosexual parents in such areas as personality, self-concept, behavior, and sexual identity. (The limited data on the children of gay fathers suggests similar findings.) Evidence also suggests that children of lesbian and gay parents have normal social relationships with peers and adults. Fears about children of lesbian or gay parents being sexually abused by adults, ostracized by peers, or isolated in single-sex lesbian or gay communities have received no scientific support.
Same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue
Responding to a caller's assertion that gay marriage is a civil rights issue comparable to previous state bans on interracial marriage, O'Reilly claimed that such arguments don't “hold up” because “most of the country did not want Jim Crow laws.” Continuing, O'Reilly asserted: “Most of the country was appalled by the apartheid in the South, and it was obvious to the federal government that they had to intervene. There was no outcry throughout the rest of the country against righting the wrongs of civil -- of the denial of civil rights.”
But, in fact, contrary to O'Reilly's assertion that "[t]here was no outcry" over “righting the wrongs of civil ... rights” and his suggestion that the majority of the population opposed racially discriminatory laws, when the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that laws banning interracial marriage were unconstitutional in Loving v. Virginia, the vast majority of the country opposed interracial marriages. According to a 1968 Gallup poll (subscription required), 73 percent of the public disapproved of interracial marriage. In fact, it was not until 1997 -- 30 years after the Loving ruling -- that the Gallup poll showed a majority of Americans approved of such marriages.
From the June 5 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: OK. So, Bush is, you know, made a pretty good case that this isn't about gay marriage, it's about telling judges you can't do this. Now, they do it in abortion, they do it in a lot of other issues. And it is clear the people of the United States want heterosexual marriage between two people, all right, to have a special position in our society. That is clear by a referendum in California and a referendum in Oregon -- two very liberal states. The referendum said we want to keep heterosexual marriage as a standard for what marriage should be.
Now, do I care about -- does Bill O'Reilly care about gay marriage? No. I don't care. All right. If you're gay and you want to get married, I suggest you go to Canada and get married. They'll marry you there. Or have a commitment ceremony and get your -- get your picture in The New York Times 'cause they'll put your picture in there. All right. Do whatever you want that makes you happy. I don't care.
Do I think it's a threat to the union? No. Gay marriage, to me, not a big issue. But I will tell you this. If gay marriage becomes a reality, then polygamy has to be legalized, because you can't say one alternative group is OK and the other isn't. That's not equal protection under the law. So, if you legalize gay marriage, then polygamy has to be legalized.
O'REILLY: And if you go to Holland, you'll go to all these other places, you'll see that. The courts there'll let anybody get married to anybody. You want to marry a duck? You can do it over there. OK. And it's basically, we don't really care. Whatever makes you happy. This is the Western Europe model you can do.
Now, here, we're much more traditional -- much more traditional. So, that's what this is all about. It's about telling judges that you cannot basically say what the definition of anything is going to be -- overriding the will of the people.
In Massachusetts, they won't even let the folks vote on it. All right. That oppressive Supreme Court in Massachusetts made the ruling and they won't let the folks vote. They're stopping the folks from voting. That's not democracy.
CALLER 1: I just wanted to say, and not in a confrontational way, but I really do believe that it is a question of bigotry when people don't agree with gay marriage, because I don't believe that it is an attack on the institution of marriage. I don't buy the whole activist judge BS. I just really think that it's people repulsed by homosexuality or they're ignorant to it. And I think that, one day, we'll look back in the history books, like we do on slavery, and say, “I can't believe our country didn't stand up for the people” --
O'REILLY: All right, let me ask you a question. Let me ask you a question, [caller].
CALLER 1: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
O'REILLY: Do you believe that because Americans don't want polygamy that they are bigoted toward polygamists?
CALLER 1: But I don't think it's fair to equate homosexual --
CALLER 1: -- homosexuals as polygamists because homosexuals are everywhere, Bill. I mean, they're not just like this weird little clique that -- that only exist in freaky little --
O'REILLY: OK. But -- but, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
CALLER 1: I mean, I think that --
O'REILLY: It's -- it's a choice -- it's a choice that you make. I mean, you can argue you were born --
CALLER 1: No.
O'REILLY: -- you can argue you were born homosexual, but these people, these polygamists, will say, “Hey, I was born wanting to have two or three wives. That's a natural state of affairs. I'm attracted to more than one woman. And my Bible tells me” -- 'cause they all hide behind that, the polygamists do -- “that I have a right to do this. This is what the Lord wants.”
So, it seems to me, [caller], with all due respect to your position, which I understand, that you're being selective. Because if you say that you're bigoted, if you oppose gay marriage, then you have to say you're bigoted if you oppose polygamy. Because there's no -- there -- there isn't any difference. They're both alternatives to the societal norm of heterosexual marriage.
E.D. HILL (co-host): And you can't claim that there is, you know, they're not enough so it doesn't count. There are more, you know, gays --
O'REILLY: Well, let, let me put it this way. There would be more polygamists if it were legal, than gays, because I know a bunch of people would say, “Hey.” I mean, you know.
HILL: You kidding?
O'REILLY: If what you say is true, that traditional marriage will fall and homosexual marriage will gain parity, why is it, in very liberal states like California and Oregon, that people vote it down time after time after time. Why?
CALLER 2: Well, it -- the same -- the same kind of argument you can say why blacks and whites weren't allowed in the South to marry each other and even the ministers were preaching against it --
O'REILLY: Doesn't hold up. That doesn't hold up.
CALLER 2: Well, the fact is --
O'REILLY: Because, wait, wait, wait, [caller]. It doesn't hold up because most of the country did not want Jim Crow laws. Most of the country was appalled by the apartheid in the South, and it was obvious to the federal government that they had to intervene. There was no outcry throughout the rest of the country against righting the wrongs of civil -- of the denial of civil rights.
But here, in the most liberal states, you have voters going out and saying no. So, what you have then is a country firmly behind giving heterosexual marriage an elevated place for stability, I believe. Firmly behind it. Every poll shows it. Every state shows it.
Yet, the will of the people here is being overturned by one or two judges who say, “I'm smarter than everybody else. I'm going to make law.” That's what this is all about.
From O'Reilly discussion with Powers on the June 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: OK. Now Kirsten, as I talked to the authors of the book, I -- it would -- there's no question, based upon their research, which is gay friendly, by the way, all right, that societies that are embraced to gay marriage, regular marriage, OK, has declined and cohabitation has increased. Is that a byproduct of gay marriage?
POWERS: Well, I don't think we know what causes stuff to happen in different countries. I mean, it could be that there is just a trend that's going on already where people, like they were saying, are cohabitating. People are becoming more sort of liberal with their ideas of what relationships are and so, they're just not getting married. We don't -- we don't know that the connection is --
O'REILLY: Well, OK. But I think the bottom line on this, Kirsten, is that children, I think you would agree, are better off with a mom and a dad in a traditional married state. Would you not agree with that?
POWERS: I don't think there is any evidence to support what you just said.
POWERS: I think two gay people can raise a child perfectly well.
O'REILLY: As well as a man and woman?
POWERS: And look at -- look at the foster care system. All these kids who are with heterosexual couples who are being -- who are being --
O'REILLY: I want to get this on the record. So, you believe that -- you believe that same-sex people can make -- raise a child as well as a man --
POWERS: Absolutely. Yes.
O'REILLY: Then why would nature have a man and a woman?
POWERS: I don't know. All I know is I know gay people who have raised children, and they've turned out wonderfully.
POWERS: So, I mean, I've seen it with my own eyes.