It's hard to know who deserves the most blame: Bill O'Reilly's staffers, whose apparent lack of research really hung their boss out to dry, or O'Reilly himself, for blustering on ignorantly in a manner that confirmed just about every negative thing his critics say about him. Then again, the segment he shared with the Independence Institute's David Kopel on the June 4 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, his Fox News staple, produced more than enough ignominy for everyone other than Kopel to get his fair share.
Like KHOW radio host Dan Caplis, who recently guested on his show, O'Reilly has recently been on the warpath about an April 10 panel discussion at Boulder High School affiliated with the University of Colorado-Boulder's Conference on World Affairs, charging speakers with promoting teen sex and drug use. Many observers would have expected Kopel to join the crusade. After all, he's a major player in the Independence Institute, an area think tank that typically lists to the right, and his biweekly Rocky Mountain News media column analyzes the press from a solidly conservative perspective. However, Kopel is a parent at Boulder High, and his knowledge of the situation there gives him a very different perspective on this culture-war brouhaha.
In his June 2 column headllined "Talk-Show Hosts Amok," Kopel noted that school officials had reprimanded employees who'd failed to restate the policy that anyone uncomfortable with the subject matter could opt out, and also chastised those who failed to provide more balance on the panel. Given that only one parent at the school had complained about the panel in the first place (Priscilla White, who, with her husband, Fleet White, were onetime buddies of John and Patsy Ramsey), Kopel viewed these actions as appropriate. As such, he castigates Caplis for trumping up a controversy by taking comments out of context -- including one example that Kopel described as "nearly libelous." Likewise, he faulted O'Reilly in the following passage:
Heedless of First Amendment case law, O'Reilly proclaimed that the panel's speech constituted a crime. The only crime was perpetrated by the O'Reilly producer who, attempting to ambush interview school board President Helayne Jones, criminally trespassed into her garage.
Unsurprisingly, O'Reilly responded to Kopel's offering by challenging him to appear on his show. Kopel accepted, and as is made clear by the segment, viewable as part of Colorado Media Matters' thorough and accurate post on the topic, he treated Kopel like sex-drugs-and-rock-and-roll advocate from the loony left. At one point, O'Reilly said, "[Y]ou're out of touch with America, man. You're a secular progressive. You're a guy who doesn't have any boundaries" -- and subsequently added, "[I]f you're not a secular progressive, then I'm Donald Duck, Mr. Kopel."
O'Reilly had better get a sailor suit, sans the pants. As Rocky opinion guru Vince Carroll properly emphasized in a subsequent item, Kopel oversees a website called Marylinks.org that's devoted to online resources and scholarship about the Virgin Mary. In the introduction to the site, Kopel writes that "each of these links will help you see someone's understanding of or relationship with Mary. I hope this page helps you consider, create, or strengthen your own spiritual or intellectual links with Mary." Marylinks.org is included in two webrings, entitled "Hearts of Jesus and Mary" and "For the Love of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
This contradiction was too rich for even Independence Institute head Jon Caldara to resist. Here are excerpts from his latest newsletter addressing the topic:
As I have said repeatedly, I agree with Bill O'Reilly that everyone should be outraged by the panel on sex, teens and drugs at Boulder High School. The panel was unbalanced and in direct violation of Boulder Valley School District policy. And parents and all concerned citizens should make their voices heard. But outrage is no excuse for O'Reilly and others broadcasting erroneous information that greatly misrepresents the story.
In some cases, quotes were taken out of context in order to sensationalize the story and some statements were just false including two of the following claims:
O'Reilly stated that all students were required to attend the panel. That it false. A few teachers -- not all -- brought their students to the panel, which was in direct violation of district policy. Those teachers have been reprimanded.
O'Reilly stated that the "same people" have been invited back next year. This is simply false.
What's more the district responded. It has now changed the policy so all students in the future must "opt in" to such a panel with parental permission; the panel itself was in violation of district policy given that it didn't have opposing views, for which the district has admitted error and apologized.
Trust me, the last thing I enjoy doing is coming to the defense of any government school bureaucracy, but the administration deserves some credit for taking action to prevent this from happening again.
Even more troubling was O'Reilly's use of ambush journalism, which I would expect from the likes of Michael Moore, including having a reporter follow a school board member into her garage, cameras rolling, even after she requested him to leave her private property...
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
After pointing out the facts on the O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly threw the last insult to his guest, our Dave Kopel: "if you're not a secular progressive Mr. Kopel, than I'm Donald Duck."
Seeing that Dave is a very devout, church going man, who like all of us here at Independence, has dedicated himself to battle for personal and economic liberty, it's very hard to show how he is either secular or progressive.
Then the only logical conclusion is that Bill O'Reilly must be Donald Duck.
Jon Caldara, Vince Carroll and Colorado Media Matters agreeing about something? Clearly, Bill O'Reilly is able to bring ideological opposites together -- at least when it comes to concurring that he made an idiot out of himself. Quack, quack. -- Michael Roberts