Oct
14
2003

O'Reilly 'Responds' to FAIR

Though never mentioning FAIR by name, Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly responded to a recent FAIR action alert correcting statements the host made about the L.A. Times and its coverage of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

O'Reilly was harshly critical of the paper for reporting allegations that Schwarzenegger had a long record of groping and harassing women. This coverage amounted to a double-standard in O'Reilly's eyes: "Do you think the L.A. Times sent a squad of reporters to Arkansas to investigate Bill Clinton's problems with women? No, it did not." As FAIR pointed out, the L.A. Times was one of the first media outlets to report the allegations that Clinton used Arkansas state troopers to arrange and cover up his sexual affairs.

O'Reilly responded last night (10/13/03) by reading the following letter from a viewer:

Edward Frew, Melbourne, Australia: "Mr. O'Reilly, you mentioned the L.A. Times went after Schwarzenegger but did not aggressively investigate Bill Clinton's situation with women. In fact, such a piece did appear on December 21, 1993."

O'Reilly then offered this illogical response:

Mr. Frew, with all due respect, you need to stay off the left-wing websites, which is where you came up with that. The article you cite was headlined "Troopers Say Clinton Sought Silence on Personal Affairs: The White House Calls Their Allegations About the President's Private Life Ridiculous." The story was reported giving both sides of the controversy. It was not an attempt to dig up anything and did not level accusations or exonerate Mr. Clinton. It was simply a news piece. Stay off the websites with the left-wingers, all right? You're never going to get the truth. And the right-wingers, probably the same thing.

So was O'Reilly admitting an error? Probably not--though it's hard to see how reading the headline from a story that was the result of an investigation one claimed did not exist would prove one's point.

It's also unclear why O'Reilly would claim the L.A. Times story "was not an attempt to dig up anything and did not level accusations or exonerate Mr. Clinton." As the paper described the charges in the second paragraph of the story, the state troopers "describe a pattern of deception and indiscretions and say that he required them as state employees to go beyond their duties as bodyguards to help him conduct and hide these activities."

O'Reilly is correct that the L.A. Times reported "both sides of the controversy" when it investigated Clinton. But that was also true of the paper's reports on Schwarzenegger. When it broke the story on Schwarzenegger's alleged sexual abuse October 2, the L.A. Times gave space to Schwarzenegger's campaign spokesman Sean Walsh to deny the stories, reporting that Walsh thought "such allegations are part of an escalating political attack on Schwarzenegger as the recall election approaches." The L.A. Times headline also conveyed that message: "Women Say Schwarzenegger Groped, Humiliated Them; The Acts Allegedly Took Place Over Three Decades. A Campaign Aide Denies the Accusations."

O'Reilly's syndicated column, which runs in various papers across the country, also includes a variation of his original charge--just days after hundreds of people wrote to O'Reilly pointing out his error in response to an October 10 FAIR action alert. In the version that ran in the New York Daily News (10/13/03), O'Reilly wrote: "Did the Times send a squad of reporters to Arkansas to investigate Bill Clinton's situation with women? Did that paper spend its resources probing into the backgrounds of Cruz Bustamante and Tom McClintock? It did not." The L.A. Times, it should be noted, did extensive reporting on Bustamante and McClintock's ties to Indian casino interests.