In remarking on a controversy surrounding upcoming Veterans Day activities in Berkeley, California, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly blasted singer-songwriter and Berkeley Veterans Day Committee chairman Country Joe McDonald for his involvement. On the October 19 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, O'Reilly said that "pinheads" in Berkeley named McDonald as chairman; he then quipped, "[W]hy don't you ask Fidel Castro?" But O'Reilly's comments misconstrue the controversy and misleadingly smear McDonald, the original event organizer.
The Berkeley controversy resulted from a proposal by McDonald to invite Bill Mitchell, a co-founder of anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan's Gold Star Families for Peace, to speak at a Veterans Day ceremony, according to Knight Ridder news service. Some city council members and veterans' groups raised objections, saying that Veterans Day is "neither the time nor place" for an "antiwar rally." Divisions over McDonald's proposal have prompted the apparent cancellation of the ceremony.
While the proposal of Mitchell did instigate the controversy, O'Reilly's understanding of McDonald's involvement in Veterans Day is inaccurate. O'Reilly misleadingly implied that McDonald had somehow hijacked Berkeley's Veterans Day, questioning the "pinheads" who would say, "[Y]eah, let's get Country Joe to be the Veterans Day guy." But as the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out, Berkeley avoided celebrating Veterans Day for years, and it was, in fact, McDonald who reinstated observance of Veterans Day in Berkeley and spearheaded several other efforts to honor veterans. McDonald, a noted peace activist and Vietnam War protester who wrote the antiwar song "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag," is a Navy veteran.
From the October 19 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: Talking about insane, Berkeley, California, the most insane town in the U.S.A., has canceled a Veterans Day ceremony because the organizing committee is split over the political content. This is great. This is really good. The chairman of the organizing committee for Veterans Day is Country Joe McDonald, of Country Joe and the Fish.
O'REILLY: You know nothing about your country. Anyway -- yeah, let's have Country Joe be the chairman of the Veterans Day committee. It's -- all right. You think I'm making this up. This is not made up. This is true. All right, so now they were going to have as their keynote speaker the founder of Cindy Sheehan's organization, Gold Star Families for Peace, on Veterans Day.
O'REILLY: No, I mean, the pinheads that walk around, you know, with the 18 earrings in the nose, they don't watch The Factor, they don't know I'm there. I mean, those aren't the kind of people that are -- yeah, let's get Country Joe to be the Veterans Day guy. That's a good idea. You know, why don't you ask Fidel Castro? All right, is he busy?