Bill O'Reilly falsely portrayed a San Francisco Chronicle editorial -- about California's proposed "Jessica's Law" -- as based only on concerns for the civil rights of sex offenders. In fact, the editorial was strongly in favor of increased child protection but questioned the effectiveness of the proposed law.
Bill O'Reilly quoted a San Francisco Chronicle editorial out of context in order to misrepresent the Chronicle's objections to a child molester bill and to claim that "the protection of children in America" from sexual predators has become "a liberal versus conservative issue." On the January 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly falsely portrayed the Chronicle editorial's criticism of California's proposed "Jessica's Law" -- a mandatory minimum sentencing law for child molesters -- as based only on concerns for the civil rights of sex offenders. In fact, the editorial was strongly in favor of increased child protection but questioned the effectiveness of the proposed Jessica's Law.
O'Reilly claimed during the "Talking Points Memo" portion of the January 19 program that "[v]irtually all opposition to Jessica's Law ... is coming from the left." As an example, he quoted a January 19 editorial from the "liberal" San Francisco Chronicle:
O'REILLY: For example the liberal San Francisco Chronicle today said this, quote, "For parents, no issue is as great as their children's safety. It's time for elected officials to tone down the rhetoric and get to work on an effective alternative to the seriously flawed 'Jessica's Law.' "
He then asserted:
O'REILLY: The Chronicle doesn't like the law because once a sexual predator is released from prison, that person's movements and living quarters would be monitored by the state.
O'Reilly's excerpt was the last sentence of the editorial and omitted any mention of the actual reasons the Chronicle argued against passage of California's version of "Jessica's Law," proposed in both California houses by Sen. George Runner and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, husband and wife, and recently rejected in committee by both the California Assembly and Senate.
The Chronicle detailed several potential problems with the law. First, it described concern that residency restrictions would force offenders into rural communities, though it did note that Sen. Runner discounted that concern as "totally bogus." Second, the editorial noted that "[a]n 80-page analysis" of the bill "raised myriad other questions about the potential side effects of its extensive rewrite of sentencing laws." From these "potential side effects," the Chronicle wrote specifically of "various problems with satellite tracking of parolees -- including reliability problems that cause law enforcement to chase many false alarms." It is this worry that prompted the Chronicle to state: "There is good reason to question the value of such an extensive monitoring program proposed in the Runners' bills."
The editorial did mention "concerns about its [the bill's] civil-liberties implications," but only in the same sentence as the bill's "great potential for unintended consequences." For these reasons, the Chronicle also wrote that it opposed the Runners' attempt to put the measure on California's public ballot. The Chronicle said that "[t]he ballot box is no place to settle an issue of this complexity and importance to public safety." Rather, the editorial urged legislators to look to alternative bills promoting child safety:
Instead, all legislators committed to being effective against crime should work together for a more targeted measure to reduce the danger to our children. Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, has introduced an alternative (AB50) that increases prison terms and parole for certain sex offenses against minors, directs more resources into prevention programs and tightens conditions on parolees -- including restrictions on entering schoolyards, playgrounds, video arcades or other areas frequented by minors. The legislative analysis of AB50 notes that California is one of only 11 states without an in-prison treatment program for sex offenders.
O'Reilly has repeatedly misquoted and falsely attacked newspaper editorials on laws regarding sex offenders. In May 2005, O'Reilly misquoted a Houston Chronicle editorial on a "Jessica's Law" in Florida. O'Reilly falsely claimed that the editorial said the law was "too harsh" on convicted sex offenders; in fact, the editorial questioned the effectiveness of the safeguards put in place once the convicts are released on parole. O'Reilly later apologized for misquoting the editorial but continued to criticize it. In September 2005, O'Reilly falsely characterized a Hartford Courant editorial as opposing mandatory minimum prison sentences for child sex offenders. In fact, the editorial did not take a position on mandatory minimums; rather, it explored proposals for enhancing post-incarceration monitoring of convicted sex offenders' movements.
From the January 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Since I am very tired of ideologues on both sides smearing their opponents, I was hoping the protection of children in America would not become a liberal versus conservative issue, but it has. Virtually all opposition to Jessica's Law, which mandates strict prison terms for felony battery on a child, is coming from the left.
For example the liberal San Francisco Chronicle today said this, quote, "For parents, no issue is as great as their children's safety. It's time for elected officials to tone down the rhetoric and get to work on an effective alternative to the seriously flawed 'Jessica's Law.' "
The Chronicle doesn't like the law because once a sexual predator is released from prison, that person's movements and living quarters would be monitored by the state.
Now reasonable people can sharpen any law, but left-wing opposition to drastic punishment for child molesters is misguided.