Fox News host Bill O'Reilly renewed his false attacks on Media Matters, claiming that we, along with the Democracy Alliance, an organization of donors formed to support progressive groups, and other recipients of funding from Alliance donors, represent a "left-wing Mafia" dedicated to "nefarious purposes." O'Reilly leveled specific attacks at Media Matters -- making the blatantly false suggestion that we "give directions to" the homes of O'Reilly and others in order to "intimidate good people who may want to come into the public arena as politicians or commentators" and calling us "character assassins" and a "smear website" that "lie[s]."
Over the course of two segments during the July 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly falsely attacked the Democracy Alliance, an organization of donors formed to support progressive groups, and the recipients of funding from Alliance donors, such as Media Matters for America, as a "left-wing Mafia" dedicated to "nefarious purposes." O'Reilly leveled specific attacks at Media Matters -- making the blatantly false suggestion that we "give directions to" the homes of O'Reilly and others in order to "intimidate good people who may want to come into the public arena as politicians or commentators" and calling us "character assassins" and a "smear website" that "lie[s]."
O'Reilly's two July 18 segments were in response to a July 17 Washington Post article on the Democracy Alliance, titled "A New Alliance Of Democrats Spreads Funding." The article named more than a dozen donors who are members of the Alliance and a dozen groups, including Media Matters, that have received funding from Alliance members. O'Reilly nonetheless denounced the effort's purported "secrecy and money to defame." During the first segment, with Center for Responsive Politics communications director Massie Ritsch, O'Reilly asked: "Is this not the left-wing Mafia, sir? Come on." When Ritsch pushed back, acknowledging that there are similar conservative groups, O'Reilly responded: "All right. If you come up with a right-wing Mafia that rivals this, I want to know it":
O'REILLY: Right, but here you can't. You can't or you won't get any money from these people. So you have to swear you won't tell where the money comes from. Number 1, I don't think that's democracy. I don't like that. I think that's nefarious. How about that word? Number 2, Number 2, in order to even get in this group, you've got to pay up front $25,000 right away. Then $30,000 a year in dues. And then promise to give $200,000 annually to far-left groups.
RITSCH: It's a heavy obligation. And it's far more that [sic: than] you could contribute to political campaigns, for example.
O'REILLY: A heavy obligation? This is the Mafia. Is this not the left-wing Mafia, sir? Come on. Isn't it?
RITSCH: If it is the left-wing Mafia, there is a right-wing Mafia that is far ahead and has been going on for years.
O'REILLY: All right. If you come up with a right-wing Mafia that rivals this, I want to know it.
RITSCH: Washington is full of institutes, think tanks, foundations, and centers --
O'REILLY: I don't care what Washington is. If you can come up with a right-wing group that has a secrecy agreement, that requires you to come up with about $300,000 just to play the first year, you come up with that group, I want to know about it.
O'Reilly then said of the groups that receive funding from Democracy Alliance donors, "These are groups designed to assassinate characters, and I'll prove it." O'Reilly's "proof" consisted of listing some of the recipients -- such as Media Matters, the Center for American Progress, and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) -- and then simply saying: "These are character assassins":
O'REILLY: That's nice. Wait, wait, wait. These are groups that -- you just put sugar on it. These are groups designed to assassinate characters, and I'll prove it. Media Matters gets money from these people. ACORN. Emily's List. Center for American Progress. These are assassins. These are character assassins. Come on, Mr. Ritsch. You know what this game is.
RITSCH: It is a game. And our concern is who is going to fund the center? The center is where debate happens, where stuff actually gets done. And if all we have is an arms race on the right and the left, sniping from the left and right, what are we going to accomplish? That's our concern.
O'REILLY: This is the left-wing Mafia. That's what this is.
O'Reilly's second segment on the Democracy Alliance featured conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, who joined with O'Reilly in smearing Media Matters. O'Reilly claimed that "this money is going to be used for, as I said, nefarious purposes," such as "smear websites" that "can say anything about Laura Ingraham or Bill O'Reilly they want to say," adding: "They can lie. They can give directions to our homes. ... It intimidates good people who may want to come into the public arena as politicians or commentators." This is blatantly false. Media Matters for America has never published the home address of any politician or member of the media. Such tactics, however, are common among right-wing bloggers. As Media Matters has noted, Rocco di Pippo of The Autonomist weblog published the home address of Linda Spillers, the New York Times photographer who took photos of the weekend homes of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney, and another Autonomist blogger, known as Ted, provided directions to the home of Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
O'Reilly also falsely claimed that Media Matters -- which monitors, analyzes, and has corrected misinformation from both O'Reilly and Ingraham, transparently documenting our analysis by providing transcripts, and audio and video files to bolster our publicly sourced research -- "bludgeoned" radio host William Bennett for speaking "metaphorically" about aborting black children to reduce the crime rate. Ingraham agreed, referring to Media Matters as "disgusting." O'Reilly also referred to nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh's lingering legal problems with prescription drugs as "a total setup."
From the July 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: OK. I'm not happy, and I'll tell you why.
O'REILLY: Because this money going to be used for, as I said, nefarious purposes. And here's how it's going to be used. The pipeline is the money goes to smear websites, right? Gets into the smear websites. And the websites can say anything about Laura Ingraham or Bill O'Reilly they want to say. OK?
O'REILLY: They can lie. They can give directions to our homes.
INGRAHAM: So what?
O'REILLY: OK. Well, puts us some physical danger, Number 1.
INGRAHAM: No. I'm not worried.
O'REILLY: There's defamation, Number 2. Well, you're much more courageous than I am. Defamation, Number 2. And they can --
INGRAHAM: No, I'm not, but -- they're losers.
O'REILLY: -- and they can basically do all of these things. But it comes out of the smear websites and it goes into the far-left newspaper columnists.
INGRAHAM: It's not working, though, Bill, Bill --
O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. It does work. Here's how it works.
INGRAHAM: Soros spent $50 million in 2004. It doesn't work.
O'REILLY: Laura, here's how it works. It intimidates good people who may want to come into the public arena as politicians or commentators. It intimidates them. They don't want to put themselves --
INGRAHAM: I disagree. I hate to disagree with you, Bill, but I disagree. If someone is intimidated by George Soros and Media Matters, then they have no business being in politics or in our business. If you can't stand up for what you think is right and for the values that you think most Americans hold and for what you think is good for this country, then get out of the game, get out of the kitchen, whatever you want to call it, because these people are going to do that. That's the nature of this game. That has been politics for longer than you and I have been alive, and it's going to continue to be politics. And I understand what you're saying. I mean, it's amplified because of the new media and the Internet and everything.
O'REILLY: I'm not going to go over the Limbaugh thing in Palm Beach, which was a total setup. I'm not going to go over Bill Bennett, who said a remark metaphorically, and it was used to bludgeon him. And this kind of stuff -- I know you're just saying, hey, you gotta to take it. This kind of stuff is dangerous, Number 1, because kooks are out there.
INGRAHAM: Well, it's disgusting. It's disgusting.
O'REILLY: It is. And that's what's going on here. That's the big, big use of the money.
O' Reilly's attacks on Media Matters as a "smear website" and "character assassins" are nothing new -- O'Reilly is frequently featured on the Media Matters website as one of Fox News' more prolific sources of conservative misinformation, and was even crowned "Misinformer of the Year" in 2004.