Bill O’Reilly Still Reaching on Immigrants and Crime

At the top of his show last night (7/7/10), BillO’Reillynotified viewers that the Factor had “investigated”how much crime in Arizona is committed by undocumented immigrants,explaining: “What we found may surprise you.”

“Telling the truth in the illegal immigration controversy, that is the subject of this evening’s Talking Points Memo,” O’Reilly began hiscommentary.

Now that would be a surprise, given that O’Reilly spent weeks drumming up hysteria about Arizona’s soaring crime rate (crime has been dropping for years) and attributing this to the surge in immigrants (which would run contrary to the research documenting lower crime rates in areas with higher immigration populations).

O’Reilly played a clipof ArizonaRep. Trent Franks saying on another Fox News show, “About half of all of the violent crime in Maricopa County is committed by illegal immigrants.”

So O’Reilly decided to check this out, and according toMaricopa County authorities, they are “holding about 1,100 illegal aliens charged with committing violent crimes….If the violent illegal aliens comprise about 15 percent of the total prison population in the county, they couldn’t possibly commit 50 percent of the violent crime.”

He concluded:

But the overall point here is that the truth must be told in the illegal immigration debate. And the congressman had it wrong. Overall, crime has dropped in many border counties because the recession has inhibited some illegal immigration. Fewer jobs, fewer illegal crossings.

Again, thisflies in the face of what O’Reilly had been saying before. His support forthe new Arizona anti-immigrant law was based on the alarming “crime wave” facing the state. Now he’s saying there isn’t one. But his explanationis still wrong-headed; crime has been declining for years in Arizona (along with many other big cities), so a recent drop in immigration due to the recession wouldn’t explainanything.

O’Reilly seems to be saying that he was wrong (without, you know, saying so), buthe’s still hanging on to the idea that crime is down is because immigration has declined–which he has no way of proving. Perhaps because it isn’t true.

Univision anchor Jose Ramos was the next guest on the show, and he poured more cold water on O’Reilly’s theory:

RAMOS: Well, the problem is we keep on repeating misinformation. People are going to believe it.

O’REILLY: But I just gave you, actually, the latest factual information.

RAMOS: And I can give you three indisputable facts. First, crime is down in all the country.

O’REILLY: No, just the one I just told you.

RAMOS: Yes, according to — I’ll get to Arizona. According to the Department of Justice.

O’REILLY: And that’s what I said.

RAMOS: Despite the fact that immigrant population has more than doubled in all the country. Second, American Majority Foundation found that in the states, including Arizona, with the largest immigrant population, crime has declined more than in other states.

And finally, this is important, according to the FBI–


RAMOS: –crime has gone down in Arizona. So are you going to argue with the FBI?

O’REILLY: I’m going to tell you this. I gave right in the Talking Points Memo the most accurate information available. And we got 1,100 people sitting in Maricopa County jail charged with violent felonies. 1,100. That’s a catastrophe.

A pretty straightforward explanation, despite O’Reilly’s interruptions and non sequiturs.

After Ramosleft, O’Reilly complained to another guest about Ramos’ “theoretical nuttiness.” He was apparently being serious.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.