On the November 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly claimed that the lone dissenter in a Florida school board's vote to end school closings for some religious holidays canceled a planned appearance on the show after succumbing to "pressure" from opponents of her vote. But the dissenting school board member, Jennifer Faliero, told a different story to a Tampa Tribune columnist, saying that she "had a conflict" because of her daughter's soccer game. She also said of O'Reilly's claim, "I cannot fathom how that came out of his mouth."
O'Reilly previously termed as "absurd in a Judeo-Christian country" a request to the Hillsborough County, Florida, School Board to schedule a school closing for the Muslim holiday Eid Al-Fitr. That request, by a group of Muslim families, ultimately resulted in the board's October 25 vote of 5-1, with Faliero dissenting, to end school closings for Yom Kippur, Good Friday, and the Monday after Easter and replace them with three secular off-days. Students would still be permitted to stay home without penalty for religious observances. An October 26 Tampa Tribune article reported that Faliero said she had checked with other lawyers and that she believes Good Friday is a secular holiday: "It is now about the Easter Bunny. ... They have taken religion out of it completely." The St. Petersburg Times reported that Faliero also disagreed with a school board attorney's opinion that recognizing religious holidays violates the Constitution. "Why can't we recognize Eid?" Faliero asked. "I just don't get it."
O'Reilly said that Faliero was scheduled to speak on his October 27 show; that program featured Brian Blair, a Hillsborough County commissioner, criticizing the school board. During that show, O'Reilly told viewers, "[W]e were supposed to have Jennifer Faliero, the one school board member who voted against this. She was told by the other members that she'd be ostracized if she came on the program."
But Tampa Tribune columnist Dan Ruth -- in a November 2 column headlined "Bill O'Reilly's Lies, Lies, Lies Strike Again!" -- reported that Faliero had a very different reason for canceling: She "had a conflict" because her daughter had a soccer game. Of O'Reilly's assertion that outside pressure forced her cancellation, Ruth quoted Faliero denying that she had been pressured out of appearing on O'Reilly's program, noting, "Her daughter had a soccer game Thursday." Ruth's article continued:
"I don't know how somebody from New York [O'Reilly] could come up with a comment like that," Faliero said, noting that she never spoke to other board members because it would violate the Sunshine Law and she didn't feel the least bit ostracized because of her vote.
"I cannot fathom how that came out of his mouth," she said.
In response to Ruth's column, O'Reilly repeated his claim on the November 2 show, stating that "she [Faliero] canceled. And we found out it was because of pressure, which the woman subsequently admitted." O'Reilly then attacked the Tribune, saying that he was "viciously smeared" and calling Ruth a "far-left character assassin columnist."
From the November 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: The lone vote against this madness came from Jennifer Faliero, who immediately booked on The Factor. She told us she was excited to get out her point of view. But later, she canceled. And we found out it was because of pressure, which the woman subsequently admitted. Now, we reported all of this to you honestly and fairly, but almost immediately, I was attacked in The Tampa Tribune newspaper, called a liar in a news article and viciously smeared by the paper's far-left character assassin columnist.