O'Reilly repeated "Silent Night" falsehood

››› ››› SAM GILL

Bill O'Reilly once again resurrected his misleading claim that a Wisconsin elementary school "sang a whole different lyric to 'Silent Night,' " erroneously attributing the school's changed lyrics to political correctness. In fact, the new lyrics were merely part of a 1988 Christmas play called The Little Tree's Christmas Gift.

On the January 11 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly resurrected his misleading claim that a Wisconsin elementary school "sang a whole different lyric to 'Silent Night.' " Referring to his January 3 appearance on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, O'Reilly claimed that the Wisconsin school's purported plans to change the lyrics of "Silent Night" constituted a "vivid" example of the so-called "war on Christmas."

As Media Matters for America has previously documented, and the weblog Think Progress originally noted, the changed lyrics were actually part of a Christmas play about a lonely tree lamenting his state to the tune of "Silent Night." Although a December 20 Washington Post article reported that the play has been performed at churches throughout the country -- and was written by the music director of "former president Ronald and Nancy Reagan's church in California" -- the adapted lyrics nonetheless inspired controversy. Moral Majority Coalition founder and chairman Jerry Falwell, along with conservative legal group Liberty Counsel, decried what they called a "secularized rendition" of the song and threatened to sue, ultimately forcing the school to change its Christmas program.

From a December 27 article in the Wisconsin State Journal:

The Liberty Counsel declared victory when the school announced that children would sing the traditional lyrics to "Silent Night," and the girl playing the lonely Christmas tree would merely recite the words to "Cold in the Night" during the play. Falwell congratulated Ridgeway for having a Christmas epiphany like Ebenezer Scrooge. And the national spotlight in the far-right's imaginary "war against Christmas" moved on.

From the January 11 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: So I'm saying to myself, gee, you know, I stopped this three weeks ago, why are these people continuing to do all this? I mean -- what -- OK, you don't believe it. I don't care whether you believe it or not. Dave Letterman doesn't believe it. Do I care? I gave David Letterman two vivid examples: one of "Silent Night" in Wisconsin. Little kids sang a whole different lyric to "Silent Night." And the other in Memphis, Tennessee, where a woman was told in the library she could have the manger scene, but not the holy family, baby Jesus, or the wise men. They're still not sure about the shepherds.

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