FOX News Channel host Bill O'Reilly accused the Democratic National Committee (DNC) of illegally funding "character assassins" to attack President George W. Bush on behalf of Democratic Senator John Kerry.
In a broad-ranging diatribe against "George Soros, MoveOn.org, all of these people," O'Reilly claimed that Democratic Party money is funding and controlling so-called "527" groups (the independent political fundraising and advocacy organizations known by the section of the tax code that defines them), which, if true, would be a violation of federal law. "Democratic money is actively paying these people. All right? George Soros and MoveOn.org and all of these people are tied in with the hierarchy of the DNC [Democratic National Committee]," he said.
O'Reilly's condemnation of character assassination was ironic given his own extensive history of smearing his opponents, voluminously documented by Media Matters for America. In the past few months alone, O'Reilly has doctored a quotation to suggest that George Soros wished his own father dead; smeared former Clinton administration official John Podesta; compared Michael Moore and Al Franken to a Nazi propagandist and Hollywood celebs to Nazi faithful; attacked the son of a victim of the September 11 terrorist attacks; compared journalist Bill Moyers to Mao Zedong; and equated liberal entertainers and authors with Fidel Castro and serial killer Ted Bundy on more than one occasion.
From the August 2 broadcast of The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: John Kerry and Edwards can -- can say that [they condemn negative campaigning], but they're being a little bit hypocritical if they don't address the character assassins, which have been hired by the Democratic Party: George Soros, MoveOn.org, all of these people.
They have hired character assassins. All right? And this has been going on for a year now. Democratic money. Only Democratic money, has flowed into these places, these torch websites. And the most bitter, defamatory stuff has flowed out of them.
It's like Don Corleone didn't pull the trigger. He was always at his home surrounded by loved ones, and meanwhile the button men were out knocking people down in the street.
Republicans on talk radio primarily, and sometimes in print, but they have very little outlet, do launch personal attacks against John Kerry, obviously. I mean it's obvious they do that.
But they're not funded financially by the Republican Party. Rush Limbaugh and all those guys throwing the bombs into the Democratic camp aren't getting checks from the RNC [Republican National Committee].
Democratic money is actively paying these people. All right? George Soros and MoveOn.org and all of these people are tied in with the hierarchy of the DNC. That's the difference.
Now it's nasty on both sides, but once you have an organized funnel of money going in to pay character assassins, then you can't have your candidate stand there and say oh, we're not going to do that.
The truth is that federal election and tax law explicitly forbids 527s from sharing funds or coordinating operations with political parties, as The Washington Post explained on March 10. O'Reilly produced no evidence to support his assertion that the Democratic Party has illegally "hired" such groups to attack Bush or his suggestion that, in contrast with radio host Rush Limbaugh, pro-Democratic 527s are "getting checks from" the DNC. Indeed, such illegal funding is highly unlikely given the intense legal scrutiny by Republican attorneys and campaign finance watchdog groups. O'Reilly also neglected to mention that 527s aligned with Republicans are also raising money, as the Post reported.
O'Reilly's claim that the DNC funds these groups is particularly improbable given that, as The New York Times explained on May 16, the "new significance" of 527s stems from "their ability to raise money without restriction ... now that there are limits on candidates and parties as a result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law." If the DNC were capable of raising enough money to establish "an organized funnel of money going in to pay" the 527s as O'Reilly claimed, then the impact of such groups would probably decline, since their fundraising advantage over party committees is what facilitated their increased significance in the first place.
At one point in his rant against "character assassins," O'Reilly called former Vermont Governor Howard Dean "a mean, nasty SOB":
O'REILLY: Now, I don't think Kerry is a bad man, and I don't think he has the stomach to go out and carve people up. ... He isn't Howard Dean. Howard Dean is a mean, nasty SOB. He enjoys that.