Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More on O'Reilly's dishonesty

Commenting on footage of of Bill O'Reilly's paid stalker Jesse Watters attempting to physically prevent one of his ambush victims from escaping, I wrote

In the clip, you'll see that when the individual attempts to enter his car and leave, Watters sticks his foot in the door and tries to prevent him from driving off. There seems to me something very wrong with that ... at a visceral level. Trying to physically prevent someone's escape after you stalk and ambush them is a violation of the person's personal space and is threatening behavior. The sort of behavior that might trigger the flight/fight response and escalate a situation to violence.
Alex Koppelman watched the same clip and came to the same conclusion about the potential escalation to violence, but also notes that the dishonesty that O'Reilly and Watters employ actually undermines a respect for the notion of due process

That this particular ambush nearly escalated to violence is bad enough, but what's worse is the way O'Reilly and Watters twisted the facts of the situation. Clearly, no one wants to see a newly convicted sex offender out on the street, certainly not one like the man convicted in this case, whose victim is mentally challenged. But O'Reilly and Watters made it seem as if the judge had a choice in the matter, with Watters even using some loaded language -- "obviously this guy's got some predilection to being soft on sex offenders" -- in a way that seemed to suggest that perhaps Padgett had ulterior motives.

Turns out, unsurprisingly, that the real story differs sharply from the way O'Reilly told it. John Campbell, a local defense lawyer, told Tampa's News Channel 8, "As a matter of law, Judge Padgett had no choice... I would like to see that gentleman locked up as well, but the law doesn't allow for it." According to Campbell, unless it was shown that the convict is a flight risk, he had to be let out on bail pending appeal.

Moreover, as he does in most cases -- Terkel's was an exception -- O'Reilly claimed that the only reason he sent Watters out for the ambush was that they had contacted Padgett, who'd refused to speak to the show. That may be true, but it ignores an important fact: As News Channel 8 reported, "Under Florida law, sitting judges are not allowed to discuss pending cases."

O'Reilly's broadcast has inspired protests from local residents. It's also done some damage to our legal system, the idea that people are entitled to due process. Cable news shows focusing on crime generally oversimplify the law, but this sort of thing is on a different level entirely. In O'Reilly's world, if a judge acts in a way we don't like, then it's time to get him, facts and law be damned. That sort of attitude won't end well for anyone.

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