On the October 3 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly took a quote grossly out of context to falsely accuse a Massachusetts judge of condoning child abuse. In fact, in stating in 1988 that "[A]buse is not always painful or unpleasant," Suffolk Superior Court judge Margo Botsford -- then a state prosecutor -- was arguing for extending the statute of limitations for prosecuting such crimes because children do not always realize right away that they have been abused.
Condemning Botsford for what he characterized as a light sentence she handed down in a case involving sexual abuse by a Catholic priest, O'Reilly, who has frequently discussed child abuse on his Fox News program, The O'Reilly Factor, cited a July 21, 1988, Christian Science Monitor article quoting Botsford -- then an assistant district attorney in Middlesex County -- as saying "Abuse is not always painful or unpleasant." A caller later challenged O'Reilly, wondering if the statement was taken out of context. O'Reilly conceded that the Monitor may have removed the context, but "I am taking it from their report."
But the article actually preserved the full context of Botsford's quote. It reported on legislative attempts in Massachusetts to extend the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children, so that offenders may be prosecuted even after abused children have reached adulthood. Botsford argued for the extension. From the July 21, 1988, Christian Science Monitor:
[State Sen. Carol] Amick's proposal of a 10-year extension proved controversial to a number of state senators who are lawyers. ''Evidence class is one of the first classes you take in law school. And you learn the fresher the evidence is in your mind, the better your memory is,'' Ms. Hayes [legislative assistant to Sen. Amick] says.
''It was easier for them to accept an extended statute of limitations for criminal cases where you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone has sexually abused you. In civil cases you just have to prove that a preponderance of evidence demonstrates that someone sexually abused you,'' Hayes says.
She points out that the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff's shoulders in civil cases as well as criminal. And the very fact that it has been so long since the alleged abuse took place will make it tougher to convince the judge, she says.
"A child often does not come forward with charges of sexual abuse because of threats or intimidation by the abuser. Abuse is not always painful or unpleasant," says Margot Botsford, assistant district attorney of Middlesex County in Massachusetts.
''Parents of abused children may do it under the guise that it is normal, acceptable behavior, so children don't see it as wrongful right away,'' says Mr. Horowitz. He compares sexual abuse to the perpetration of fraud - an extended statute of limitations is necessary because the victim does not know right away that a crime was committed.
As the Monitor made clear in its full quotation of Botsford, she was not defending the sexual abuse of children. Rather, she was arguing that children do not always recognize immediately that they were the victims of a crime, and prosecutors must have the ability to bring charges years later, when those victims come to understand what happened to them.
From the October 3 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: Now -- [laughing] I'm reading this -- I'm tearing the newspaper up as I'm reading the damn thing. Now, the judge, Margo Botsford, is a notorious left-wing kook who has been serving on the bench in Massachusetts since being appointed by [former governor] Michael Dukakis. At every turn, Margo Botsford has been soft on child sexual predators, every time, every time.
O'REILLY: Let me just read you one more quote from this Margo Botsford. This is back in 1988. She told The Christian Science Monitor, quote, "Abuse is not always painful or unpleasant."
E.D. HILL (co-host): What? What? No, no, no -- say it again.
O'REILLY: She told The Christian Science Monitor in 1988, as she was assistant district attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, Margo Botsford, quote, "Abuse is not always painful or unpleasant."
HILL: Then why would it be called abuse?
O'REILLY: Right. Just want to get you an idea --
HILL: That is --
O'REILLY: -- of why --
HILL: -- incredible.
O'REILLY: It is. The whole thing is.
O'REILLY: -- why Jessica's Law has to happen. You cannot let children's safety be in the hands of judges, because there are too many bad judges.
HILL: Well, she says stuff like that, and then a year later Dukakis appoints her?
CALLER: Yeah, I have a question in regard to that guy's statement. Is it possibly taken out of context in that he was meaning, you know, even though a child's not aware that they're being injured or damaged or harmed, that they're still --
O'REILLY: You're talking about the judge's statement that abuse is not always harmful. It's a she, by the way. Look --
CALLER: Okay, but --
O'REILLY: John --
CALLER: Is that possible --
O'REILLY: Sure it is.
CALLER: - [Inaudible] condemning that.
O'REILLY: Absolutely possible.
O'REILLY: It's absolutely possible the statement was taken out of context by The Christian Science Monitor. I am taking it from their report. However, the history of this woman has been to be sympathetic to violent pedophiles since she's been on the bench and since she was a prosecutor in Massachusetts. That's her history. You see? If it walks like a duck, you know what I'm talking about?