FOX News host Bill O'Reilly claimed that "there's no data at all" to support Senator John Kerry's claim that "thousands of people were suppressed in their effort to vote" in the 2004 presidential election. But The Washington Post reported that in Ohio alone, between 5,000 and 15,000 potential voters left without casting ballots.
On the January 18 edition of FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly aired a clip of Kerry's January 17 speech to Boston's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Annual Memorial Breakfast. In his comments, Kerry noted: "Thousands of people were suppressed in their effort to vote. Voting machines were distributed in uneven ways. In Democratic districts, it took people four, five, 11 hours to vote, while Republicans sorted through in 10 minutes."
Following the clip, O'Reilly declared: "I don't know what he's talking about. I don't know one person who waited 11 hours to vote in this country." His guest, University of Pennsylvania assistant law professor Nathaniel Persily, noted that "there were reports of long lines, particularly in Ohio" and said of Kerry's allegations, "I think people are looking at this right now." But he added: "We certainly don't have any evidence of that yet." O'Reilly followed up: "There's no data at all, is there?"
In fact, The Washington Post found substantial data indicating that thousands of voters, particularly in Democratic counties, faced daunting lines at the polls, and that many were unable to vote. From the Post's December 15, 2004, article:
Electoral problems prevented many thousands of Ohioans from voting on Nov. 2. In Columbus, bipartisan estimates say that 5,000 to 15,000 frustrated voters turned away without casting ballots.
In Columbus, Cincinnati and Toledo, and on college campuses, election officials allocated far too few voting machines to busy precincts, with the result that voters stood on line as long as 10 hours -- many leaving without voting. Some longtime voters discovered their registrations had been purged.
After the election, local political activists seeking a recount analyzed how Franklin County officials distributed voting machines. They found that 27 of the 30 wards with the most machines per registered voter showed majorities for Bush. At the other end of the spectrum, six of the seven wards with the fewest machines delivered large margins for Kerry. Voters in most Democratic wards experienced five-hour waits, and turnout was lower than expected.
In Knox County, some Kenyon College students waited 10 hours to vote.
O'Reilly concluded by calling Kerry dishonest and a "sore loser":
I don't like this. I don't think Kerry does himself any good saying this. I think he sounds like a sore loser. I think he's painting a picture that is not true, that Democrats had a harder time voting than Republicans. I do not believe that. I haven't seen any evidence of it.