O'Reilly baselessly claimed University of Oregon permits "attack [on] Christianity," but "wouldn't allow ... an attack on a minority group"
Research ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
Bill O'Reilly has baselessly claimed that the University of Oregon has allowed its students to "attack Christianity," because a student-run newspaper recently published controversial cartoon images of Jesus but "wouldn't allow this if it was an attack on a minority group." In fact, the student paper -- The Insurgent -- is not the official University of Oregon student paper, and, according to the university's president, the school has no editorial control over what it publishes. Moreover, in publishing the Jesus cartoons, The Insurgent was apparently responding to a rival paper's decision to publish controversial cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, which have sparked Muslim outrage and rioting in Europe, a fact that O'Reilly repeatedly ignored in his coverage of the issue.
In recent days, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has baselessly claimed that the University of Oregon has allowed its students to "attack Christianity" because a student-run newspaper recently published controversial cartoon images of Jesus. During the May 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly claimed that the university "wouldn't allow this if it was an attack on a minority group" and called for Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer to be "fired" for allowing the images to be published. But O'Reilly has ignored two key facts in his coverage of controvesry. First, the student paper, The Insurgent, is not the official University of Oregon student paper, and, according to Frohnmayer, the school has no editorial control over what it publishes. Moreover, in publishing the Jesus cartoons, The Insurgent was apparently responding to a rival paper's decision to publish controversial cartoons of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, which have sparked Muslim outrage and rioting in Europe. Despite hosting the editor of the rival paper to discuss the Insurgent controversy, O'Reilly has never mentioned nor expressed similar outrage for the Oregon Commentator's decision to publish the Mohammed cartoons.
The University of Oregon has several student-run papers, including the Daily Emerald, The Insurgent, and the Oregon Commentator. Each receives some student funding from the university, but they are run independently of the school.*
In its March issue, The Insurgent published 12 cartoon images of Jesus. The Insurgent stated that it was publishing the images in response to Muslim rioting over the Danish publication of controversial Mohammed cartoons and also as a response to the Oregon Commentator's publication of the Mohammed cartoons the same month.
On the May 17 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly hosted Commentator editor Tyler Graf, who defended the Insurgent's right to publish the Jesus cartoons. O'Reilly disagreed, but nevertheless declared the Commentator to be a "responsible" paper, and the Insurgent to be "irresponsible." At no point during the interview did O'Reilly note the Commentator's decision to publish the Mohammed cartoons.
Moreover, despite O'Reilly's repeated insistence that Frohnmayer is a "coward" for not intervening or disciplining the Insurgent for the cartoons, as The Register-Guard newspaper of Eugene, Oregon, noted on April 27: "The Insurgent is not a university publication nor university supported." The Insurgent, along with the Commentator and others, do, however,receive non-taxpayer supported, mandatory "student incidental fees," and O'Reilly has consistently misrepresented the control Frohnmayer has over those fees. For instance, on the May 17 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly stated:
O'REILLY: [I]t's the old freedom of speech dodge, and this is what Frohnmayer is hiding behind, a former gubernatorial candidate in Oregon, I should add. And -- but it doesn't wash. Because, if any student publication funded by student dollars put a KKK out or a Nazi thing out, immediately the university would step in and say it violates the standards of this university. Since you have an office on campus, since you are using student funds, you have to cease and desist. You know it and I know it.
But, contrary to O'Reilly's repeated assertions, Frohnmayer has stated that he has no legal control over the content of the Insurgent or the Commentator. In his response to the controversy, Frohnmayer both condemned the cartoons and stated that Supreme Court precedents prohibited him from taking any disciplinary action:
Thank you for your note about the student publication, The Insurgent. I share your concern about the offensive nature of the content contained within the publication. I understand why it may seem as if the University should have prevented publication or should take some action against those responsible for the publication. The Student Insurgent is not owned, controlled or published by the University of Oregon and is funded with student fees. Therefore, the University cannot exercise editorial control over its content.
Further, neither the University itself, nor the Associated Students of the University of Oregon, can exercise control over content by using a threat of removal of fee support. The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken on this matter. The Rosenberger and Southworth opinions restrict a public university's ability to make decisions about incidental fee allocations on the basis of the content or viewpoint expressed by a recognized student group. Simply put, neither content nor viewpoint is a lawful basis for denying an allocation of incidental fees to a student group.
From the May 22 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: Now, The Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon, a very liberal paper, then writes this article -- actually it's an editorial -- yesterday. Quote: "In response to Fox News commentator, Bill O'Reilly's charge that the University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer is a disgrace and a coward that needs to be fired, Frohnmayer shot back, 'Being called names by him is being -- like being called ugly by a frog.' "
It's not a bad line for Frohnmayer. The -- back to the editorial: "The only time problem with using the bombastic O'Reilly and a frog in the same simile is the disservice it does to a defenseless amphibian's reputation."
Uh, that's wit according to the Eugene newspaper. "Be that as it may, we come not to bury O'Reilly, but to praise Frohnmayer -- but to praise Frohnmayer -- for his appropriate, balanced effort to condemn deliberately offensive cartoons published in the campus newspaper while trying to help the public understand the important free speech principles involved in the debate." Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
OK. It's just garbage, it's just garbage. Because, again, they wouldn't allow this if it was an attack on a minority group. They would not.
From the May 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Thank you for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly.
In the "Personal Story" segment tonight, a disturbing story out of Eugene, Oregon, and one that may offend some viewers.
In the March issue of the student Insurgent, a campus publication at the University of Oregon, partially funded by student fees, the image of Jesus is disrespected in shocking ways. Apparently, the students putting this garbage out hate Christianity and believe it is a destructive force in the world. So they used their tiny platform to abuse those who believe in Christianity.
Now, all of this would be inconsequential if not for the fact that the University of Oregon has done nothing about it, even though some students have filed grievances. The university president, Dave Frohnmayer, has done little, saying only the display was not wise. Frohnmayer is too afraid to appear with us this evening.
But joining us now from Portland is Tyler Graf, the editor of the Oregon Commentator, another student publication at the university, and Jethro Higgins, a junior at the school who's upset by the publication.
Mr. Graf, it's the old freedom of speech dodge, and this is what Frohnmayer is hiding behind, a former gubernatorial candidate in Oregon, I should add. And -- but it doesn't wash. Because, if any student publication funded by student dollars put a KKK out or a Nazi thing out, immediately the university would step in and say it violates the standards of this university. Since you have an office on campus, since you are using student funds, you have to cease and desist. You know it and I know it. But in this case you can -- you can brutalize the image of Jesus and nothing is done.
O'REILLY: Don't you think this is an extreme attack on a religion?
GRAF: Oh, yeah, I do not --
O'REILLY: I mean, we're talking about the most extreme, vile provocation a publication can make. Now, if it's off campus, and if it's private money, it's under the freedom of speech. But Frohnmayer has the obligation.
GRAF: Well, I don't think Frohnmayer has much to say in this.
O'REILLY: Of course, he does. He can shut it down tomorrow. He's the president of the college.
GRAF: Then you'd open up a lot of lawsuits.
O'REILLY: Well, so what? What's he there for? What's he there for? Isn't he there to have standards?
GRAF: I think he is there to have standards, but I think you have to understand Frohnmayer's way of handling issues on campus. He's very laissez-faire about these things.
O'REILLY: Yeah, I know.
O'REILLY: Listen, I understand that. And that means he needs to be fired. The board of directors of the universities of Oregon need to move him out and bring in somebody who can respect the traditions of the university.
GRAF: Yeah, I know. They're definitely aware now. One of the reasons why they are aware is because my publication, which runs a website -- we put the issue up online.
O'REILLY: OK. But the question is why -- why isn't there a student outcry over this?
GRAF: I think there is a student outcry over this.
O'REILLY: I haven't seen it.
GRAF: Well, there have been a lot of -- there have been petitions filed. There have been grievances filed. The fact of the matter is, though, that there's very little that student government can do in this instance.
O'REILLY: OK. But I know there would be protests if it were, as we mentioned, KKK or Nazi stuff. There are no protests visibly here. And I'll tell you why.
GRAF: That's an absurd thing to say. I don't think any publication would do that. I mean, this is an anarchist -- this is an anarchist-Marxist publication. They have strange views.
O'REILLY: I understand, and that's why there shouldn't be any student money in a publication like that.
GRAF: But my publication is a conservative-libertarian publication.
O'REILLY: Are you responsible? Yes. You are responsible. They are irresponsible, and that is where the president of the university comes in. And this man, Frohnmayer, is a coward and needs to get out.
Gentlemen, thanks very much. We appreciate it.
From the May 18 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, with Dave Lang of the Eugene chapter of the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic fraternal organization) and Rev. Carl Schlichte of the Newman Center at the University of Oregon's St. Thomas More University Parish:
O'REILLY: You're going to be waiting a long time. I mean this happened during Holy Week in March, and it's now the end of May, and Dave [Frohnmayer], as you put it, is hiding under his desk.
LANG: Yeag, there's no question about that, Bill.
O'REILLY: So, what do we do here, gentlemen? I mean, you are two leaders of the Christian community. I mean, I can't lead this crusade. I'm furious about it, because I think this is just a violation of the taxpayer, a besmirchment of the university, and Frohnmayer ought to be removed from his position. But I can't do it.
SCHLICHTE: Well, that's -- one part of our position has always been -- the Newman Center staff position has been encouraging the students to avail themselves of the ways that they can address this wrong in a way that we, as an outside organization of the university, simply can't do.
I mean, if I were to send a letter of protest to President Frohnmayer or the associated students, you know, they would look at it: "Oh, the Catholics are upset. How nice," you know, move on. But the students, however, are part and parcel of the university, and we have always encouraged the students to --
From the May 18 broadcast of The Radio Factor:
O'REILLY: OK. We asked the president of the University of Oregon to come on the program. He is too afraid to do so. His name is Dave Frohnmayer. Today, he said in the press that -- he attacked me, of course. This is the way they always do it. "Bill O'Reilly doesn't know what the first amendment from the back of his own hand, which is a shame because he takes full abuse of it," says the president of the University of Oregon, Dave Frohnmayer.
We're gonna do a follow up on TV tonight. Now, Frohnmayer has an obligation to the University of Oregon, to the state of Oregon, because it's a taxpayer-funded institution, to have standards on his campus. This is hate speech. Frohnmayer is a coward. He is afraid of the radical students who put this out. Frohnmayer has to go, has to go. Because you cannot have a major state-funded university using student union money for this kind of hate speech.
If it were KKK, Nazi stuff, Frohnmayer would've shut it down in a heartbeat. But it's OK to do this and to attack Christianity in this way. It's not OK. It's wrong; it cannot be funded by, by student fees. And Frohnmayer is a coward and has forfeited the intellectual high ground -- has to go.