Monday, March 23, 2009

O'Reilly's Latest Adventure in Ambush Journalism

Brace yourselves, you may think that I am not feeling well after I tell you this:

I want you to watch at least a portion of The O'Reilly Factor tonight. I know, I know...sounds like I've lost my mind, but go with me on this for a moment.

Amanda Terkel over at ThinkProgress, has posted an interesting account of her being ambushed by producers from The O'Reilly Factor. To provide a bit of context to the situation, it is important to know that Terkel recently wrote a piece critical of comments made by Bill O'Reilly. The comments made by O'Reilly back in August, deal with the issue of rape; in particular, the rape and killing of an 18 year-old girl named Jennifer Moore:

Now Moore, Jennifer Moore, 18, on her way to college. She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning. She’s walking by herself on the West Side Highway, and she gets picked up by a thug. All right. Now she’s out of her mind, drunk.

As Terkel points out, O'Reilly's comments were part of a larger discussion on the dangers of drunkenness. O'Reilly also used the example of Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic tirade and concluded:

"I think it’s safe to say that if Mel Gibson didn’t get drunk, he wouldn’t be in this terrible situation he finds himself in and if a young woman, 18-year-old Jennifer Moore of Harrington Park, NJ, didn’t get drunk, she’d be alive today.”

The issue in this case, as Terkel wrote about, is that O'Reilly seems to be implying that this young woman bears some responsibility for being raped and murdered because of the way that she dressed and because she had consumed alcohol. Terkel wrote about these comments because O'Reilly was slated to speak on March 19 at the Alexa Foundation, a group committed to supporting rape survivors, and it seemed interesting regarding O'Reilly's past comments outlined above.

Now that you know the background, here is the interesting part. Terkel says that while she was on vacation with a friend this past Saturday, O'Reilly's producer, Jesse Watters, ambushed her and demanded that she apologize for causing "pain and suffering" to rape victims and their families.

Many of you know that Bill O'Reilly has a history of using so-called "ambush journalism" to distort serious issues and then use these pieces to launch attacks on those who are ambushed from the comfort of his studio and without a chance for adequate response from the subjects of his smears. This is what we have come to expect from O'Reilly. What is interesting in this case is the context of the ambush. Here is a clip from Terkel's aforementioned piece:

I expect O’Reilly to air this “interview” at some point this week, possibly as early as tonight. I have no expectation that he will show the entire altercation or give the entire story about what happened, so here is the full account, offering a glimpse inside the O’Reilly harrassment machine:

– The Stalking: Watters and his camera man accosted me at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, in Winchester, VA, which is a two-hour drive from
Washington, DC. My friend and I were in this small town for a short weekend
vacation and had told no one about where we were going. I can only infer that
the two men staked out my apartment and then followed me for two hours. Looking back, my friend and I remember seeing their tan SUV following us for much of the trip.
– The Ambush: Shortly after checking into our lodgings, we emerged and immediately saw two men walking toward us calling out my name. Watters said he was from Fox News, but never said his or his companion’s name, nor did he say he was with The O’Reilly Factor.
– The Surprise Attack: Watters immediately began asking me why I was causing “pain and suffering” to the Alexa Foundation. He never gave me the context for his questions. Confused, I repeatedly asked him what he was talking about and whether he could refresh my memory, but he just continued shouting his question.
– The Evasion: I said that it was inappropriate for O’Reilly to imply that just because a woman may be drunk and/or dressed in a certain way, she should expect to be raped. Watters asked me whether I had listened to the interview (which I had) and claimed that O’Reilly had made the comments in the context of a commentary on Mel Gibson/drunkenness. When I tried to ascertain why he was attacking ThinkProgress in particular — even though other sites had also covered the story — he said that we were part of the “smear pipeline,” which also included the “Soros-funded” Media Matters. He ignored my comments when I asked if Fox News also smears people.
– Setting A Guilt Trap: Watters ended the charade by demanding that I look into the camera and apologize to the Alexa Foundation and rape victims. I told them that I don’t speak through Fox News and if someone from the Alexa Foundation would like to personally call me, I’d be happy to speak with that person.
More Stalking: The camera man then continued to film me as I walked down the block. After a few minutes while I waited at the light to cross the street, Watters called him back and they left.

As Terkel predicted, it now appears that O'Reilly plans to air the segment on tonight's show. So now that you know all of this information, watch The O'Reilly Factor tonight and see how the ambush is spun, how O'Reilly spins his own comments that Terkel criticized, and who O'Reilly may bring on to attack both ThinkProgress and Amanda Terkel. Terkel says that she was never asked for a statement or to appear on O'Reilly's program prior to the ambush and that she has unsuccessfully contacted FoxNews for a response to the incident.

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