When a viewer email questioned his previous remarks that Bill Richardson “looked bad by saying he believed homosexuality was a choice,” Fox News' Bill O'Reilly responded, “I think everybody's got to relax on all this gay stuff.” But, as Media Matters for America has documented, O'Reilly has repeatedly demonstrated his own inability to “relax on all this gay stuff” with a history of controversial, misleading, and false claims about gays and lesbians.
On the August 15 edition of his Fox News television show, Bill O'Reilly responded to a viewer's email questioning his August 14 remarks about Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), who had, at a presidential forum the week before, said that he believes homosexuality is a “choice.” According to the viewer, O'Reilly had said that Richardson “looked bad” by answering as he did. O'Reilly replied: “I think everybody's got to relax on all this gay stuff.” On that August 14 show, O'Reilly had discussed Richardson's August 9 remarks at the Human Rights Campaign/ Logo presidential forum, during which Richardson was asked by singer Melissa Etheridge, a panelist at the forum, “Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is biological?” O'Reilly, hosting “body language expert” Tonya Reiman, had said that the video clip of Richardson's exchange with Etheridge “is one of my favorite clips recently.” He later said of Richardson: "[H]e made a mistake. I think he's mad at himself for blowing the thing about 'Do you feel gays are born?' and he goes, 'No.' " (Richardson subsequently issued a statement saying: “Let me be clear -- I do not believe that sexual orientation or gender identity happen by choice. ... But I'm not a scientist, and the point I was trying to make is that no matter how it happens, we are all equal and should be treated that way under the law.” )
But O'Reilly has repeatedly demonstrated his own inability to “relax on all this gay stuff” with a history of controversial, misleading, and false claims about gays and lesbians. For instance:
- Referring to the ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court striking down state restrictions on the right of same-sex couples to marry, he claimed that, in “10 years, this is gonna be a totally different country than it is right now.” He added: “Laws that you think are in stone -- they're gonna evaporate, man. You'll be able to marry a goat -- you mark my words!” (Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly; 03/29/05)
- While discussing the case of two male Massachusetts prison inmates who requested prison officials' permission to marry, O'Reilly asserted that “this crazy gay marriage insanity -- is gonna lead to all kinds of things like this” like “somebody” coming “in and say[ing], 'I wanna marry the goat.' ” (Radio Factor; 04/13/05)
- He has claimed that the secular progressive movement “would like to have marriage abolished ... because it is not diverse enough.” He explained: “That's what this gay marriage thing is all about.” O'Reilly then warned of the possibility of “poly-amorphous” [sic] marriage, in which “you can marry 18 people, you can marry a duck.” (Radio Factor; 09/14/05)
- O'Reilly has argued that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to nuptials between humans and other species, saying that "[o]ne of the arguments against gay marriage ... is that if it becomes law, all other alternative marital visions will be allowed." He then related the story of a British woman, Sharon Tendler, who “married” a dolphin in Israel. (O'Reilly Factor; 01/04/06)
- While discussing New York City Councilwoman Christine Quinn's decision to boycott Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day parade over the decision by the Ancient Order of Hibernians to ban the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization (ILGO) from marching, O'Reilly attacked Quinn, calling ILGO's potential participation in the parade “inappropriate.” O'Reilly asked, “Why doesn't Ms. Quinn and others who support her wise up?” and stated: “You have your Gay Day parade. You have your Stonewall celebration. You have your Halloween deal, OK? You don't need this.”
He also asserted: “I don't want these people intruding on a parade where little children are standing there, watching” for fear that children would ask, “Mommy, what does that mean?” O'Reilly falsely claimed that "[n]o Irish people are banned from marching in the parade" and likened ILGO's participation in the parade to wearing a shirt proclaiming “I'm queer” to a baptism. (O'Reilly Factor; 03/17/06)
- While discussing gay parents “who wore rainbow colors to signal their homosexuality” during the 2006 White House Easter Egg Roll, O'Reilly asserted: “I think that the Easter egg deal is going to do more harm than good to the cause of gay rights, because most Americans say, 'Enough. This is a kids' event. Don't make it a political event. Don't use a kids' event to try to forward a political agenda, no matter what it is.' ”
Later, O'Reilly repeatedly asked former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown: "[H]ow would you answer a question from a 6-year-old who said: 'Mommy, why are they wearing those rainbow?' -- because it's going to catch their eye. 'Why are they doing that? And who are these people and where is their daddy?' ...'Why? Where's the mommy? Why do they have two daddies?' " O'Reilly concluded: “I think it was inappropriate at the Easter egg roll, just like the St. Patrick's Day thing was inappropriate.” (O'Reilly Factor; 04/17/06)
- O'Reilly has dismissed scientific research on same-sex parenting to assert that "[n]ature dictates that a dad and a mom is the optimum" form of child-rearing. O'Reilly asked “why,” if children suffer no psychosocial deficit from being raised by same-sex parents, “wouldn't nature then make it that anybody could get pregnant by eating a cupcake?” O'Reilly declared that by arguing in favor of same-sex couples' right to raise children, “you're taking Mother Nature and you're throwing it right out the window, and I just think it's crazy.” (O'Reilly Factor; 12/13/06)
- O'Reilly called the San Diego Padres' decision to host a gay pride night and a children's hat giveaway promotion during the same July 8 baseball game “insensitive,” “dumb,” “almost unbelievable,” and a “mistake.” He said it was “insane” to “cluster” gays and lesbians during a “hat giveaway for any kid under 12.” O'Reilly reported that “thousands of gay adults showed up and commingled with straight families,” adding, "[C]lear-thinking people understand it is completely out of context and inappropriate."
When San Diego Pride executive director Ron deHarte said that it “was no different than any other game,” O'Reilly responded, “But you are focusing in and putting more homosexuals into an area. OK? See, that's the problem.” He added: “You're putting it in a kid's face at a baseball game.” He later also asserted: “This is social engineering by the Padres.”
The next day, O'Reilly responded to a viewer's email stating that O'Reilly's “position seems to imply that putting gays and kids together in one place is a bad thing,” adding, "[K]ids are around gays every day." O'Reilly replied: “But not thousands of them, sir. That can be confusing to children.” O'Reilly did not clarify exactly what number of gay people he believed children could safely be around without becoming “confus[ed].” (O'Reilly Factor; 07/11/07 and 07/12/07)
- O'Reilly attacked a July 16 Los Angeles Times article that reported on the fact that while “heterosexuals can [sponsor] their husbands and wives” for green cards, gay or lesbian U.S. citizens cannot do the same for their partners. He said, “Well, what about the triads, OK, you know.” Despite later acknowledging that heterosexual bi-national couples must go through a “process,” O'Reilly argued that if the law changed: "[A]nybody could say, 'Hey, I'm gay. You gotta let in Lenny, my friend over here.' " He added: "[A]re they gonna do a demonstration in front of the immigration authorities? Are they gonna demonstrate their gayness?"
O'Reilly later asserted that "[t]his is social engineering" and went on to compare the legalization of gay marriage to that of “triads,” adding: “I know people in love with three women. And so you're gonna bring that in.” O'Reilly repeatedly asked how same-sex couples would “demonstrate their gayness” before immigration authorities, if a gay or lesbian U.S. citizen were allowed to sponsor a non-citizen partner for a green card. (Radio Factor; 07/17/07)
From the August 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: [Viewer], Ridge Crest, California: “Bill, you said Bill Richardson looked bad by saying he believed homosexuality was a choice. So you're saying politicians need to avoid speaking the truth if their opinions aren't PC?”
I think everybody's got to relax on all this gay stuff. Richardson looked silly trying to explain himself. That was obvious, and that's what I pointed out, and Tonya Reiman concurred.
From the August 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Let's get to Bill Richardson. This is one of my favorite clips recently. Melissa Etheridge, the singer, is interviewing Richardson on the gay channel. Roll it.
[begin video clip]
ETHERIDGE: Do you think homosexuality is a choice, or is biological?
RICHARDSON: It's a choice. It's -- I'm not a scientist. It's -- it's -- you know, I don't see this as an issue of science or definition. I see gays and lesbians as people, as a matter of human decency. I see it as a matter of love.
[end video clip]
O'REILLY: I hate to laugh, but --
REIMAN: He was so uncomfortable. He was so uncomfortable. It was painful to watch.
REIMAN: OK, so you see the constant head-shaking back. He's looking down the entire time. He doesn't want to answer this question, and he doesn't want to be asked this question. At one point during the interview, you know -- he's looking emotional, now -- but you see the sneer come through. And that sneer, that little sneer, tells me that he was kind of aggravated about this.
O'REILLY: Well, he knew he made a mistake. I think he's mad at himself for blowing the thing about “Do you feel gays are born?” and he goes, “No.”
REIMAN: Yeah. Right.
O'REILLY: So, I think he's mad at himself for botching it right from the jump.
REIMAN: It was painful. He was definitely uncomfortable. And all the pauses, the “ahs,” the “ums” --
O'REILLY: He didn't know what to say.
REIMAN: No. He was stumped for sure.
O'REILLY: All right. I've seen that on this program a couple of times. And -- well, there you go.
From the April 17, 2006, edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Joining us now from San Francisco is the former mayor of that town and current radio talk show host Willie Brown.
I talked about this on The Radio Factor today. I think that the Easter egg deal is going to do more harm than good to the cause of gay rights, because most Americans say, “Enough. This is a kids' event. Don't make it a political event. Don't use a kids' event to try to forward a political agenda, no matter what it is.” Am I wrong?
BROWN: I think you are wrong in this particular case because I don't think the movement was for the purpose -- of the showing up was frankly for the purpose of making any political statement.
I think that the people who showed up with their children wanted people to know that children are people of the same sex are absolutely no different from children of the people who are from persons who are heterosexuals.
And I think it's important for that ignorance to be exploded, and I think that's what persons were attempting to do when they showed up on the White House lawn, saying, “These are my kids, and they have two mothers.” “These are my kids and they have two fathers.”
O'REILLY: We talked to the leader of the group on the radio, and she basically said, “Look, we want people to know that same-sex parents have -- don't have the same rights, and we want gay marriage.” And she kind of admitted that it was a political deal.
But how would you answer a question from a 6-year-old who said: “Mommy, why are they wearing those rainbow?” -- because it's going to catch their eye. “Why are they doing that? And who are these people and where is their daddy?” And I mean, it's an Easter egg roll, Mr. Mayor. I mean, why do we have to get into all of that at an Easter egg roll?
BROWN: Well, I think, first of all, I think that kid would also ask: “Why an Easter egg roll? What's that all about?” I think every time an --
O'REILLY: Well, that's about the Easter bunny and Easter time. Come on.
BROWN: Well, and the explanation the mother would offer would be similar, i.e., that kid doesn't know why the Easter egg hunt or the Easter roll, or whatever they call it, and the same would go for people who are wearing those colors.
“Mommy, why are they wearing those colors and why is it that they're two males or why is it there are two females?” She would proceed to tell him, and he would notice that that little kid that he's playing with trying to find the [unintelligible] egg is absolutely no different from himself.
O'REILLY: OK, but do you really --
BROWN: It will begin to remove --
O'REILLY: Do you really want a 6-year-old to get into a homosexual discussion at an Easter egg roll?
BROWN: It would not be a homosexual discussion. She would simply say: “He has two daddies or he has two mothers.”
O'REILLY: But they'll say, “Why?” You know how kids are. “Why? Where's the mommy? Why do they have two daddies?” You know that.
BROWN: Simply because they don't have any other siblings or they don't have any other parents or they don't have any of this or any of that. There's no other explanation. And it's good to start those kids really early understanding that the so-called differences do not exist.
O'REILLY: I disagree with that. I just don't -- I don't mind the protest. I think it was inappropriate at the Easter egg roll, just like the St. Patrick's Day thing was inappropriate.