Thursday, September 05, 2002
Bill O'Reilly's bad week: Usually I like Fox News' Bill O'Reilly. While I don't always agree with him, I think he does good work -- but this week hasn't been kind to Fox News' wunderkind.
Exhibit A is his participation in a Saudi public relations campaign to keep American Pat Roush's now-adult daughters in the world's largest women's prison -- Saudi Arabia.
For a complete overview of O'Reilly's faux pas, read this piece by National Review's Joel Mowbray.
Bill O'Reilly has done some great journalism, and he's even achieved major reforms on important issues. Maybe that impressive track record made him a little too ambitious in this instance: He decided he could in one month solve a 16-year ordeal. There was no way he could have — nor should he have tried. With genuinely good — but sorely misguided — intentions, he stepped all over a situation he never should have inserted himself into in the first place.
But no matter how much damage O'Reilly caused — though he did some specific good — the real villain in this tale is the State Department. State bought into the lie that Alia and Aisha were "happy" as part of a "statement" they gave to the consular officer — and then State immediately lied to the American public about the condition under which the lies were made.
O'Reilly's interview and explanation of the circumstances surrounding the London trip lay bare the ridiculous assertion by State over the weekend that Alia and Aisha were "on vacation." This lie was meant to hoodwink Americans about the real nature of the trip — which was for Saudi p.r. purposes — and disguise it as some voluntary, spontaneous action by the girls. It was no such thing.
State's greater sin than lying, though, was to put the seal of legitimacy on the Saudi scam. State did not have to be the Saudis' lackey, but it chose to be.
I concur with Mowbray's assessment that O'Reilly was trying to do a good deed, but he failed miserably. Once again, the Saudis demonstrate that they're not our friends.