After being criticized for saying that a 15-year-old kidnapping victim "liked his circumstances," Bill O'Reilly repeatedly vowed to "apologize" if he was "wrong." The man accused of kidnapping the boy has now been charged with sexually assaulting him as well. In reporting on the new charges, O'Reilly not only failed to apologize, but did not mention his previous remarks at all.
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Despite his repeated vows to "apologize" if he was "wrong" about his "skepticism" over 15-year-old kidnapping victim Shawn Hornbeck's "situation," Bill O'Reilly failed to do so, even while discussing the new sexual assault charges against Hornbeck's alleged kidnapper on the February 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. As Media Matters for America has noted (here and here), on the January 15 The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly said that "there was an element here that this kid [Hornbeck] liked about his circumstances," and added: "The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn't have to go to school. He could run around and do whatever he wanted." Responding to widespread criticism for his remarks, O'Reilly vowed on the January 16, 17, and 22 editions of The O'Reilly Factor to "apologize" for his "skepticism" if his assessment proved "wrong." On January 22, he contrasted his purported willingness to apologize if proved wrong to "gutter snipes" (apparently referring to Media Matters) who "will never apologize. That is the code of the gutter." Nevertheless, on the February 5 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly not only failed to apologize for his remarks, he did not even mention them. Discussing the new charges, O'Reilly claimed: "[W]e all knew this was coming. ... These poor boys [were] subjected to this monster. ... [A]s journalists, we have to say 'alleged' and this, that, and the other thing, but ... we all know what this is."
In addition to claiming that Hornbeck "liked" his "circumstances," O'Reilly said on the January 16 O'Reilly Factor, "I hope he did not make a conscious decision to accept his captivity because" his alleged kidnapper "made things easy for him. No school, play all day long." Hornbeck was abducted at the age of 11 and held for four years. He was recently found in Missouri. Hornbeck's alleged kidnapper, Michael Devlin, was charged February 5 with 71 counts of kidnapping and forcible sodomy, 53 of which relate to Hornbeck. The remaining 18 charges stemmed from the alleged kidnapping of another Missouri teenager, 13-year-old Ben Ownby.
O'Reilly's comments touched off a controversy, and at least one advertiser reportedly removed its advertisements from his program as a result of his comments about Hornbeck. The website Radar reported: "Home-improvement chain Lowe's has pulled its advertising from The O'Reilly Factor following comments host Bill O'Reilly made about Shawn Hornbeck, the 15-year-old Missouri boy who recently returned to his parents after four years in captivity. ... A Fox News spokeswoman confirms the pullout, but says Lowe's advertising had simply been shifted to other programs on the network, not canceled. 'To my knowledge, no other advertisers have taken similar action,' she adds."
Despite the outrage over his remarks, O'Reilly consistently defended his comments and attacked critics, as Media Matters noted (here and here), including referring to Media Matters as a "far-left swamp pit." Yet O'Reilly vowed repeatedly to "apologize" if he was "wrong" in his "skepticism" about Hornbeck:
- January 16 O'Reilly Factor: Responding to a viewer's email demanding that O'Reilly apologize for his remarks, O'Reilly stated: "I might have to do that, but I might not," and defended his comments: "No question this monster Devlin made threats and intimidated Shawn. But teenagers have brains and Shawn had the freedom to get away if he wanted to."
- January 17 O'Reilly Factor: O'Reilly stated in response to a viewer who praised O'Reilly's "courage" in reporting on Hornbeck: "[M]y skepticism about the situation could be wrong. If it is, I will apologize."
- January 22 O'Reilly Factor: Responding to email from another viewer who asserted that "there will be a lot of people eating crow" for criticizing O'Reilly's remarks, O'Reilly stated, "Maybe, maybe not, Mr. Knox [the email's author]. As I said ... I could be wrong, and if I am, I will apologize." O'Reilly, presumably referring to Media Matters, added: "But the gutter snipes will never apologize. That is the code of the gutter."
Yet while reporting on the charges of sexual assault against Devlin, O'Reilly not only did not apologize for -- or even mention -- his previous remarks, he asserted that "we all knew this was coming" and expressed sympathy for "[t]hese poor boys [who were] subjected to this monster." O'Reilly also asserted that Devlin "is never, ever going to get out" of jail "and that "he shouldn't get out, because ... as journalists, we have to say 'alleged' and this, that, and the other thing, but ... we all know what this is."
From the February 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: "Back of the Book" segment tonight: St. Louis prosecutors have charged Michael Devlin with 71 additional counts, including forcible sodomy on both Shawn Hornbeck and Ben Ownby. Thank God Missouri has Jessica's Law, because if Devlin is convicted, he could get and should get life in prison.
Joining us now with an update, Greta Van Susteren, who is leading with this story On the Record, coming up in just over an hour.
OK. You know -- and we all knew this was coming. It's terrible to hear it. These poor boys subjected to this monster. Anything surprise you about the press conference today outlining the charges?
VAN SUSTEREN: No. I mean, it's actually quite predictable. What the prosecution does is it gathers as many as it possibly can charges and charges the defendant with it. The expectation, or at least the hope of the prosecutor, is that the defendant will want to enter into some plea agreement, because if you have 71 charges, believe me, a plea agreement would be a life in prison. And that would be the best thing for the prosecution --
VAN SUSTEREN: -- without a trial, without putting the two young men through it.
O'REILLY: This guy is never, ever going to get out, and he shouldn't get out because, you know, this is -- you know, I know you, as journalists, we have to say "alleged" and this, that, and the other thing, but this is -- we all know what this is.
From the January 22 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: [Viewer], Alamogordo, New Mexico: "O'Reilly, most of the time I do not agree with your viewpoints, but in the Hornbeck case, there will be a lot of people eating crow for comments they made about you."
Maybe, maybe not, Mr. Knox. As I said to Greta, I could be wrong, and if I am, I will apologize. But the gutter snipes will never apologize. That is the code of the gutter.
From the January 17 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: [Viewer], Las Vegas: "Mr. O, it took some serious (courage) -- viewer used another word -- to report this story as it should be reported. Thank you."
Well, you're welcome, sir. But my skepticism about the situation could be wrong. If it is, I will apologize.
From the January 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly. Thank you for watching us tonight. Anger over the kidnapping of two Missouri boys -- that is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo."
Now, last night, I said 15-year-old Shawn Hornbeck might have accepted his kidnapping by that creep Michael Devlin rather than trying to escape. I also said I don't believe much in the Stockholm syndrome -- that is the captive becoming attached to the kidnapper. It happens, but it's rare, and Dr. Dwayne Fuselier with the FBI for 21 years will back me up on that.
Now, Greta Van Susteren disagreed with me and so did many of you. For example, [viewer], who lives in Courtland, Virginia, wrote: "Mr. O'Reilly, your comments regarding Shawn Hornbeck were way out of line. He was an 11-year old child when his victimization began; he's still only 15. Your speculative callousness is shameful. You should apologize to the Hornbeck family and to all your viewers."
Well, I might have to do that, but I might not. This is a complicated, disturbing story that is important for all Americans. After teaching teenagers in high school, it is hard for me to believe that a normal kid would stay in a horrible environment when escape was easy, especially if the child had confidence in his parents. No question this monster Devlin made threats and intimidated Shawn. But teenagers have brains, and Shawn had the freedom to get away if he wanted to.