On March 1, ThinkProgress picked up on a story by News Hounds, which noted that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly — who has made controversial comments about rape victims in the past — was slated to speak at a March 19 fundraiser for the Alexa Foundation. The group is committed to supporting rape survivors.
Our post — which never criticized the Alexa Foundation — highlighted the fact that in the past, O’Reilly has implied that women who dress in a certain way or consume too much alcohol should perhaps expect to be raped. Here is what he said on his radio show on Aug. 2, 2006, about Jennifer Moore, an 18-year-old woman who was raped and murdered:
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.
O’Reilly’s comments about Moore were part of a larger segment about the dangers of drunkenness. His other example was Mel Gibson going on a drunken tirade and yelling anti-Semitic comments. “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,” said O’Reilly. “And if a young woman, 18-year-old Jennifer Moore of Harrington Park, NJ, didn’t get drunk, she’d be alive today.”
This weekend, while on vacation, I was ambushed by O’Reilly’s top hit man, producer Jesse Watters, who accosted me on the street and told me that because I highlighted O’Reilly’s comments, I was causing “pain and suffering” to rape victims and their families. He of course offered no proof to back up this claim, instead choosing to shout questions at me.
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.
This weekend, we contacted Watters and Loren Hynes, who works in Media Relations at Fox. We have yet to receive a response from them, or anyone else at the network, on Saturday’s incident.
The main issue remains: O’Reilly should offer an apology/explanation of why, when a woman is raped and murdered, it’s relevant what she was wearing or how much she was drinking. O’Reilly never asked me for a statement nor invited me on his show before sending Watters to harass me. Since I’m a 5 ft, 100 pound woman with an opinion that he doesn’t like, perhaps O’Reilly believes I deserve to be treated this way.