Fox News motormouth Bill O’Reilly will appear at a benefit for It Happened to Alexa, a rape victims’ support foundation, and some observers feel that, based on his previous on-air remarks about rape, this is akin to having Chris Brown be the spokesperson for Valentine’s Day. Read and discuss.
(March 10th, 2009) Rape survivors and their supporters across the country are angered by the choice of Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly to appear at a fundraiser to be held by a New York rape victims’ support foundation, It Happened to Alexa, in Florida on March 19th, and are petitioning the organizers to replace O’Reilly as the keynote speaker. They say that the choice of O’Reilly is inappropriate, given statements he has made on his shows in the past which suggest that victims of sexual violence are at least partly to blame for their being attacked.
The statements in question were made about Jessica Moore, 18, who was raped and murdered in 2006, and Shawn Hornbeck, 15, who was abducted in 2003 at the age of 11 and repeatedly abused during 4 years of captivity. O’Reilly is quoted as saying about Hornbeck that “”there was an element here that this kid liked about this circumstances.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.” About Moore, he said, “She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning.” He called Moore and her friend, who separated after their car was towed, “moronic”.
The ad hoc group Concerned Citizens Against Sexual Violence are petitioning members of the Foundation’s board in an effort to have O’Reilly replaced with another speaker. They say that this step became necessary after phone calls and emails to executive director Ellen Augello at the Foundation’s office proved ineffective, many of them – including some from rape victims – going unanswered, according to the group.
The issue, first flagged on February 28th by Fox News watchdog site Newshounds, gained momentum last week after it was highlighted by Keith Olbermann on Countdown. Olbermann variously awarded O’Reilly gold, silver and bronze as “Worst Person in the World” over four straight nights, for his insistence on speaking at the Foundation’s luncheon. Since then, close to 900 rape survivors and supporters have signed the Concerned Citizens petition expressing their disgust and dismay at the Foundation’s choice of speaker.
“I was 14 years old when I was raped by a stranger who had a knife”, writes one. ‘My family didn’t believe me at first. Once they did believe me, they told me I ‘let things get out of control’. I’m alive today in spite of the rapist, in spite of my parents, and in spite of my four suicide attempts. In allowing Bill O’Reilly to [speak], you would send the message to a nation of women who have suffered terribly that they could, somehow, have done something different: fight harder, stay inside instead of going out, wear different clothing, take a taxi instead of walking. The victims of rape are without blame NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCE, and where a misogynist like O’Reilly suggests otherwise, the suffering of victims is doubled.”
A spokesperson for the petition organizers says that the target of their effort is Bill O’Reilly rather than the It Happened to Alexa Foundation itself, whose mission they praise as “laudable”. However, a statement by foundation director Augello that O’Reilly is speaking about his new book, and not on rape , cuts no ice with those who support the petition, and the foundation is beginning to come in for some criticism from rape victims. “As a rape survivor,” writes one signer, “I am absolutely APPALLED at the It Happened to Alexa Foundation’s choice to have Bill O’Reilly speak at their fundraiser on March 19th. What on Earth could they possibly be thinking? It’s all about the $$$$ and for them to pretend otherwise is absolutely vile.”
The petition was accessible via www.onemorevoice.net.