Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly is targeting the first openly-gay House Speaker in Colorado, Mark Ferrandino, for opposing a bill instituting mandatory sentences for sexual predators who target kids, implying that the Speaker is protecting child rapists and stonewalling the measure to exert retribution for the GOP’s decision to block a civil unions bill.
The outburst came after the so-called Jessica’s Law — named after 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford who was sexually assaulted and buried alive by a man convicted of exposing himself to a 5-year-old girl — was sent to committee and rejected in a party-line vote this February. The measure “would have imposed a mandatory sentence of at least 25 years before parole on an offender who commits a sexual assault against a child.”
During an interview with Rep. Libby Szabo (R) — the sponsor of Jessica’s law Colorado — in February, the two speculated that since Ferrandino is gay, he may be hiding something or protecting someone by failing to support the legislation:
O’REILLY: Now this Ferrandino I understand he is the — what, the first openly gay House Speaker in Colorado. He was a fervent gay marriage person. He objected when gay marriage was first tabled because they sent it into the same committee to kill it that he sent Jessica’s law in. All that true so far of this guy?
SZABO: So far you’re correct.
O’REILLY: All right. So this guy doesn’t want tougher mandatory sentences. Have you talked to him about it? Has he said anything to the press about why not?
SZABO: You know, I don’t know that the press in Colorado, they covered this issue very well on — on my side of the issue and on Mr. Lunsford’s side of the issue. But I don’t believe he was willing to speak to them because obviously he’s protecting somebody. Obviously the victims hold more credence with him — I mean not the victim— the perpetrators hold more credence with him than the child victims do.
In reality, the measure had very little support from the law enforcement community or victims’ advocates in Colorado. The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and Colorado Office of the Public Defender all argued that Jessica’s Law wasn’t necessary and Republicans themselves failed to introduce it when they had the majority.
Instead, the party has used it as a political weapon to attack Democrats, as they did in the 2010 election after a similar measure failed in 2009. The bill has failed four times now in Colorado.
Colorado already imposes mandatory sentencing for crimes of violence and the courts “have the discretion of meting out very long sentences for sex offenders. The State Public Defender’s office said that Colorado currently has the “harshest sex offender (sentencing structures) in the country,” and that “sex offenders in Colorado already go through rigorous hoops before they’re able to receive an early release from their sentences.” Not a single Coloradan testified in favor of the measure.
However, since the O’Reilly segment aired, Ferrandino has “received nasty e-mails, including one that he said was from a viewer telling him he hoped Ferrandino’s 14-month-old foster daughter gets raped.” The Speaker may still be in O’Reilly crosshairs, as the host indicated during the February interview with Szabo that his reporters plan to “ask him” about the measure. “[H]is life is going to get for the worst. I’m going to hold this guy Ferrandino personally responsible. Yes, I am going hold him personally responsible,” O’Reilly said.