Bill O'Reilly seized on the story of a shoeless man who was helped by a New York City police officer to call for cuts to government programs that help the poor.
O'Reilly opened his Thursday show by recounting an incident in November in which Officer Lawrence DePrimo bought a pair of boots for Jeffrey Hillman, a man in Times Square who had bare feet. A tourist took a picture of the DePrimo giving the boots to Hillman, and the image was widely circulated on the Internet.
While Hillman was initially said to be homeless, it has since been reported that he has an apartment. O'Reilly presented this fact as if it were a devastating revelation -- “here's the sad truth,” he said before informing his viewers that Hillman has a home. O'Reilly also claimed that Hillman “has enough resources to live his life in a dignified manner.”
What O'Reilly did not tell his viewers is that Hillman was homeless prior to last year. Nor did O'Reilly mention that Hillman uses veterans benefits to help keep his apartment.
NBC New York reported, “Hillman used to be homeless, but entered shelter in 2009 before moving into an apartment secured by Veterans Affairs in 2011, city officials said. He pays his rent using a lifetime voucher for homeless veterans and his Social Security income.”
O'REILLY: Obviously, Officer DePrimo is a patriot, but here's the sad truth. Mr. Hillman's not homeless. He has an apartment, paid for by you and me. He's on government assistance. He has enough resources to live his life in a dignified manner. Yet Mr. Hillman doesn't do that. He prefers the street. And the boots Officer DePrimo have gave him have disappeared. Now, I'm not judging Hillman. Most cases like his involve substance abuse or mental illness. However, we must be honest. The government cannot provide a decent life for Hillman, no matter how much money it spends. We're already giving the guy tens of thousands of dollars a year, and it is doing nothing. There are millions of Americans like Jeffrey Hillman, and we all need to understand that some people simply will not -- will not -- save themselves.
While O'Reilly claimed not to be “judging” Hillman because most “cases like his involve substance abuse or mental illness,” he began the segment by saying that "[a]ll of us need to wise up, and fast," and went on to use his abridged version of Hillman's story to demand cuts to entitlement programs.
O'Reilly alleged that Americans who receive food stamps and Medicaid, along with those employed by the government, are being “subsidized” by people employed in the private sector and that this relationship is unsustainable. (This is classic Fox News “makers vs. takers” rhetoric.)
Of course, O'Reilly's assertion omits a basic fact about food stamps: Many beneficiaries of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program already have jobs.
O'Reilly also issued a dire warning: “If the federal government doesn't wise up and impose some discipline on the incredible, incredible entitlement spending, America's economy will eventually collapse.”
In presenting cuts to entitlement spending as the top priority, O'Reilly ignores that federal revenue is at a historic low and that most economists agree that the best way to address the deficit through both higher taxes and reduced spending.