Last night, Fox News
hot-air balloon complete asshole Bill O'Reilly aired a segment about the controversy over his speech at a benefit in Manalapan. He framed it as a battle between good and evil.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the possible conflict of interest O'Reilly might have speaking at the event -- put on by the It Happened to Alexa Foundation -- given his remarkable comments about a rape victim a few years earlier. (See that post here.)
Yesterday we learned that O'Reilly has been sending his henchmen after another blogger who picked up the story. I was really hoping there might be a Fox News producer waiting in the bushes as I left the office yesterday. No such luck.
But I watched O'Reilly's show last night with interest (as opposed to any other time I happen to see the show, when I watch it with only disdain).
Jump for a summary of the segment and video of what was waiting in the bushes this morning.
About 48 minutes into the show, O'Reilly began his "reality check" by telling his viewers he was introducing them to a story about "good and evil." It came on after segments about Barack Obama's P.R. skills and his regular body-language-analysis session. O'Reilly had teased the controversy discussion at every commercial break with the question: "Why did the far left harm a rape victim and her family?"
He started with some background on Alexa Branchini, the woman who was raped in her dorm just two weeks into her first semester at Boston University in 1999. The man who committed the crime is now serving 40 years, but before and during the trial, defense attorneys used stall tactics and claimed the incident was consensual. After Alexa's experience, her family started the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, dedicated to helping the families of rape victims.
"A few months ago, I was asked to headline a benefit for Alexa's foundation," O'Reilly said. "Of course I said 'Yes.' The event last week in Palm Beach, Florida [Manalapan], was a big success. The elegant Ritz Carlton hotel was terrific, the generous the crowd the best. We all admire Alexa's courage."
So far, so good, right?
"Now, for the evil part," O'Reilly said.
"Last month, after the charitable event was announced, a bunch of far-left loons picked up some propaganda from the hate group Media Matters that said I am unsympathetic to the plight of crime victims, a preposterous lie. Along with America's Most Wanted, the Factor has done more for the victims of crime in America than any other television program on the air."
That's right. O'Reilly says he loves victims! When he called that girl -- the one who had been raped and murdered -- a moron, it was out of love. Because he loves victims even more than... more than... Chris Hansen. And Chris Hansen loves the shit out of victims.
"A preposterous lie." Not the more convoluted type that he prefers.
O'Reilly continued: "Elements at NBC then encouraged the loons to protest the Alexa Foundation... Perhaps the worst garbage came from the Center for American Progress. Amanda Terkel led that charge."
Then he showed a clip zooming in on a woman in glasses, under whom was superimposed the title "Amanda Terkel FAR-LEFT BLOGGER."
We hear the voice of an O'Reilly producer saying:
"You wrote a blog about Bill O'Reilly going to speak for this rape function, this charity group. And you attacked him personally. And you attacked the foundation. And you brought a lot of pain and suffering to this group. What's your reaction?"
Terkel responded, "What I remember was highlighting a comment that Bill O'Reilly said. And that's what I remember doing. I don't remember attacking the foundation."
The producer asked if she's heard the segment in question. She said she did. He asked about something else O'Reilly discussed later in the segment and she says she didn't hear that part, just the part where it seems like O'Reilly was blaming the girl for her own rape.
The producer: "You didn't hear it, did you? Because you're just dishonest."
"I listened to the portion that I highlighted."
"You didn't hear the entire thing. You don't know the context. And you owe everyone an apology because you brought a lot of pain and suffering to this rape victim. And this foundation and her family."
Cut back to O'Reilly: "Ms. Turkel is certainly a villain."
Then O'Reilly said "the man behind the curtain" is NBC President Jeff Zucker. O'Reilly worked in a shot about how GE, NBC's parent company, is a failing corporation.
The link between Turkel and Zucker isn't clear. Perhaps someone confused them, like they might confuse a loofah and a falafel.
O'Reilly: "So we have a brave young woman and her fine family subjected to pain imposed by the likes of Jeff Zucker. In white-collar circles, it doesn't get much more evil than that. And that's the reality check."
Then he introduced "crime victim advocate" Wendy Murphy. Murphy gushes all over O'Reilly.
"Well, you know, Bill, after you were there last week, [the family] was obviously so pleased with the success." Murphy said the family was so distraught by this petty protest nonsense that Alexa "literally had to quit her job."
Murphy, with her lips pulled tight and her eyes bulging, said, "All she's ever done since being brutally raped at knifepoint is try to heal and help others... But it not only hurt her. Because she had to quit her job -- she was working with poor, disadvantaged kids -- all those kids are without Alexa's advocacy."
A paraphrase of the rest of the conversation:
O'Reilly: Wendy, you are like a saint. This Turkel woman is evil, but she wouldn't be so evil if not for NBC. Why are some people so evil?
Murphy [shouting]: I just don't understand. These people are so good. Why would these evil people want to hurt them? These people are almost as good as you, Bill. And you are the best human being alive!
O'Reilly: I know. I couldn't believe that woman didn't want to have sex with me either. Wait, what were we talking about?
Up next came O'Reilly's nightly "pinheads and patriots" segment, in which he -- honest to God -- showed footage of women in stars-and-stripes bikinis in front of a waterfall and called them patriots. The pinhead of the night was Tom Hanks, for giving the finger to a paparazzi photog.
I called It Happened to Alexa again today, with no response.
Now, someone could probably say that any grief the people in the foundation have experienced as a result of inviting Bill O'Reilly is their own fault for inviting such a controversial figure. But that simply isn't true. That would be blaming the victim, like calling a girl who was raped and murdered "moronic" for walking around drunk.
The people who protested the group or criticized Alexa are inexcusable and wrong.
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And so is Bill O'Reilly, whose own dismissive attitude toward victims (and dare I say women in general) was really at the heart of this controversy. He can claim to defend crime victims more than anyone else (did you hear that, Nancy Grace?), but the truth remains, if something so horrible happened to a female in O'Reilly's family and some asshole called her a moron, he would be the loudest, angriest person out there.
He can try to make this about the political groups that bring these stories to the surface (the audio and video were up for years before this controversy), but that ignores the issue. It also ignores his mistake and the fact that without the right-wing versions of those groups, he'd never have anything for his radio or television shows.
Video of the whole thing: