Discussing the controversial Boulder High School panel discussion on the June 12 broadcast of The O'Reilly Factor, 630 KHOW-AM co-host Craig Silverman misleadingly claimed that school district officials "want to blame others for something that was inappropriate." But he did not mention that in fact the school board had ruled that the panel's content was appropriate after hearing the full discussion, and had apologized for the fact that some students incorrectly had been required to attend the event.
Appearing on the June 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor to discuss a controversial panel discussion at Boulder High School, 630 KHOW-AM co-host Craig Silverman made the dubious claim that school district officials "want to blame others for something that was just inappropriate." However, Silverman omitted the fact that the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) Board of Education initially had denounced the April panel discussion as inappropriate for high schoolers based on a report of selected quotes from the event, but later reversed its judgment after hearing an audio tape of the full discussion.
Additionally, Silverman asserted that the school board "can't just say 'we're sorry.' Instead, they say we're going to blame Bill O'Reilly. We're going to blame Dan Caplis, Craig Silverman." However, Silverman omitted that in fact, the school board publicly has apologized for the fact that some students incorrectly were required to attend and officially has stated that the make-up of the University of Colorado Conference of World Affairs (CWA) panel about sex and drugs was "not in compliance" with district policy.
Furthermore, host Bill O'Reilly misrepresented a petition drafted, circulated, and signed by Boulder High students as "a petition to make me say I'm sorry about reporting the story and all that nonsense." In fact, the petition states that O'Reilly misreported the content of the panel discussion and slandered the city of Boulder and the principal of Boulder High School.
In response to O'Reilly's question about what to expect that night at a June 12 BVSD board meeting, Silverman echoed his co-host Dan Caplis' belittling of Boulder High students' protest of media misinformation, saying, "I think we're going to have a number of students trying to earn brownie points from their administrators, their teachers." He then attacked the school board:
SILVERMAN: They're circling the wagons in Boulder. Some parents are breaking through, saying, "Hey, this was wrong and you ought to admit it's wrong." But the school board can't just say "we're sorry." Instead, they say we're going to blame Bill O'Reilly. We're going to blame Dan Caplis, Craig Silverman. And they want to blame others for something that was just inappropriate in their high school.
Later in the interview, Silverman reiterated the point:
SILVERMAN: But I agree that the school board needs to step forward. They're the ones responsible. And they should step up tonight and finally say, "This was inappropriate. We acknowledge it. Now let's move on." Instead, they want to blame you, me, and other people.
However, Silverman did not note that, after a Boulder High student complained at a May 8 school board meeting about the content of the panel discussion, board members deemed the panel inappropriate for teenagers and ordered an investigation. In fact, board President Helayne Jones called the panel "a huge mistake." Only after school board members listened to tapes of the entire panel discussion did they declare the content of the presentation appropriate. As the Boulder Daily Camera reported on May 23, "several" board members acknowledged at a May 22 board meeting that previously quotes had been "taken out of context and that the discussion was appropriate for teens." Furthermore, BVSD Superintendent George F. Garcia presented the following as part of his statement to the board at the same meeting:
With regard to this particular panel, my assessment of the entire 90-minute panel presentation including questions is that, overall, the panel was appropriate for presentation to high school students. Its intent was to discuss with students of the risks of engaging in certain behaviors before they are emotionally and psychologically mature enough to cope with their consequences. This is not to state that certain comments were not, in any context, unnecessarily crude or that certain points were not in direct contradiction with district health and conduct standards. They were.
Garcia also acknowledged in his report to the board that the make-up of the panel "was not in compliance" with district policy and that "administrators, faculty and student organizers have been reminded of this policy and will be expected to comply" with it in the future:
My further conclusion is that the make-up of this panel was not in compliance with BVSD Board Policy INB. This policy, adopted in 1987, can be found on the district's web site and is entitled, "Teaching About Controversial Subjects." Though this Board policy has no direct effect upon the Conference on World Affairs staff, it is binding upon BVSD faculty and students and was not followed in so far as the panel did not reflect a broad range of views and perspectives much less opposing points of view. Boulder High School administrators, faculty and student organizers have been reminded of this policy and will be expected to comply with it when determining the make-up of future panels.
Furthermore, contrary to Silverman's assertion that the school board was trying to "blame" others, Garcia's report also noted that the board had publicly apologized for the fact that some students were required to attend the panel, in violation of district policy:
My review indicated that at least some students were required to attend. To the degree that this occurred, it violated existing district and school practice. I have been assured that this error will not occur again. Both district and school administration have publicly acknowledged and apologized for this mistake. As in past years, parents will be notified of the panels ahead of time and students will have the choice to opt out of attending the panel and offered alternative academic opportunities.
During his June 12 show, O'Reilly misrepresented the student petition and dismissed it as "nonsense":
O'REILLY: So now there are some students at Boulder High School who are trying to get a petition to make me say I'm sorry about reporting the story and all that nonsense. And you believe that this is going to be the focal point of what tonight is all about, not demanding the resignation of the school principal, superintendent, and school board president?
But the student petition did not criticize O'Reilly for merely reporting the controversy. Rather, it asked for an apology specifically for his "biased and inaccurate" coverage of the controversy on May 18, which "placed significant amounts of blame directly on Boulder's community." The petition also accused O'Reilly of having "deliberately misrepresented panelists by playing several audio clips of panelists out of context in order to reflect poorly on the panel, school, and community." Boulder High students reportedly have collected approximately 400 signatures for the petition.
As Colorado Media Matters has noted (here, here, here, and here), O'Reilly and Caplis repeatedly have mischaracterized and lied about the panel discussion. Further, O'Reilly, Caplis, and Silverman have been criticized by another media figure, conservative media columnist David Kopel of the Rocky Mountain News, for their on-air misrepresentations about the panel and the ensuing controversy.
From the June 12 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Factor follow-up segment tonight. There's a school board meeting in Boulder, Colorado, tonight reacting to the drug-and-sex scandal at the high school there. Joining us now from Denver with an update, KHOW radio talk show host and attorney Craig Silverman. So, is this -- is this finally getting any traction? Are we going to have outraged parents at this Boulder school board meeting? Or is this going to be more excuses?
SILVERMAN: I think we're going to have a number of students trying to earn brownie points from their administrators, their teachers. They're circling the wagons in Boulder. Some parents are breaking through, saying, "Hey, this was wrong and you ought to admit it's wrong." But the school board can't just say "we're sorry." Instead, they say we're going to blame Bill O'Reilly. We're going to blame Dan Caplis, Craig Silverman. And they want to blame others for something that was just inappropriate in their high school.
O'REILLY: Now, just to go over it, people who didn't see the original story: They had four speakers. The speakers told the kids they could use Ecstasy, an illegal drug; marijuana, an illegal drug. Could have sex with anybody they wanted to have sex with. They should do a variety of things at age 12, 13, and 14. It's all on tape. Tomorrow night after the meeting tonight, we have our Fox News cameras there, I'm going to play a good portion of that tape again and remind everybody how bad this was. Totally inappropriate. So now there are some students at Boulder High School who are trying to get a petition to make me say I'm sorry about reporting the story and all that nonsense. And you believe that this is going to be the focal point of what tonight is all about, not demanding the resignation of the school principal, superintendent, and school board president?
SILVERMAN: Afraid so, Bill. I think your ears are going to be burning because they will be talking about you. They'll be talking about our radio show. And they won't focus on, on the real issue, which was it's inappropriate to tell 14-year-olds on up that they should have sex, do drugs, drink responsibly. Those are poor messages at a public high school. I think it's appropriate for us to be concerned about that.
O'REILLY: Well, it is. I mean, it was so outrageous. And, you know, the only reason we're not playing the tape again is we've played it a lot, but I am going to play it, as I said, again tomorrow. You know, I, this -- people around the country, Craig, they're going, you know, we thought Colorado was a, a traditional state. And, and, and we haven't heard from the governor. We haven't heard from any of the state leaders. No condemnation at all. The press is in the bag. They tanked totally for this. And other people are just going, what happened to Colorado? What happened, Craig?
SILVERMAN: Well, Boulder is God's country. You know it's beautiful if you've been out here. Don't lump all the people of Boulder in together. But I agree that the school board needs to step forward. They're the ones responsible. And they should step up tonight and finally say, "This was inappropriate. We acknowledge it. Now let's move on." Instead, they want to blame you, me, and other people.
O'REILLY: All right. Well, we'll show everybody what happens tomorrow on The Factor. Craig, thanks very much, as always.