Report entertaining but unfair

By Kevin Wilson, Freedom Newspapers

Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” is a hate-mongering show, and its viewers and advertisers believe Muslims are lazy, and Democrats are communist slime maggots whose views would embarrass Nazis.

At least that’s the statement I would make if I were applying Bill O’Reilly’s journalistic standards to his own program. Stay with me.

On Monday night’s “Factor” program, O’Reilly turned his attention to DailyKos, the largest political blog in the world with 500,000 daily visitors. The site, O’Reilly charged, is one of the “worst examples of hatred America has to offer.”

To back up his point, he cited four comments on DailyKos. The comments, which were not attributed to any individual, said the world would be better off without White House Press Secretary Tony Snow and Vice President Dick Cheney, the pope is a primate and some attacks on Iraqi coalition forces are legitimate.

Insensitive comments, to be sure, but it’s conflation in the worst sense to infer all of DailyKos’ visitors and editors endorse each and every comment on their site.

As of 1:55 p.m. Tuesday, there were 2,085 comments on the 15 most recent blog posts. I’m sure at least one comment contradicts another, and when people have reasoned discussions the “pope is a primate” commenter isn’t taken seriously.

Conflation aside, the proper action would be to bring these four comments to site creator Markos Moulitsas, and he could have made the case that four or five people will say deplorable things when 500,000 can hide in the Internet’s anonymity.

Instead, a “Factor” producer brought these four comments to JetBlue CEO David Barger outside of his apartment. JetBlue is a corporate sponsor of the YearlyKos political convention, which brings together Democratic-leaning voters who use the Internet to spread political beliefs. Barger was asked if his company’s sponsorship is an endorsement of the pope as a primate.

Barger responded JetBlue’s customers are, “pretty smart people, (and) they’ll draw their own conclusion.”

O’Reilly concluded, “It is beyond belief that a company like JetBlue would sponsor hatemongers like the DailyKos.”

I’ve never flown JetBlue, but I’ve drawn my own conclusion, and it was furthered when Moulitsas shared some of the e-mails he’d
received from “Factor” viewers on the DailyKos site. He was called a “commie slime maggot” and his site an “evil, fascist organization.”

One e-mailer even said, “I have never seen so much hate (and) you would (have) embarrassed Nazis.”

Consider what O’Reilly’s program did Monday night. He and his producers took four unattributed comments, or 0.000008 percent of the blog’s daily visitors. They used those comments to characterize the entire site and accused a corporate sponsor of compliance.

In the name of being “fair and balanced” like Fox News boasts, those who disagree with O’Reilly could take the same action. I doubt
O’Reilly would find it fair if e-mails sent to Moulitsas were attributed to him in front of sponsor CEOs.

Granted, it’s fun to imagine if karma came back on O’Reilly, and his show’s sponsors were asked on a public street to justify comments his viewers made.

It would be entertaining television. But it wouldn’t be good journalism.