Of all the media entities that have ignored the case of Shawna Forde and her killer Minutemen, the silence at Fox News has been the most egregious and noteworthy -- particularly because Bill O'Reilly is fond of criticizing other news organizations for supposedly "ignoring" stories that he has deemed eminently newsworthy (even if, in fact, they haven't really ignored them at all, or it's in fact a story of dubious veracity).
So naturally we were pleasantly surprised when O'Reilly began tackling the Forde case last night with his panel of legal "experts," Lis Wiehl and Kimberly Guilfoyle -- and, to no one's great surprise, it was nothing but a pack of lies, disinformation and grotesque distortions, from start to finish.
For instance, here's O'Reilly's opening, having just discussed yet another case of an "illegal immigrant" having committed a murder, one of O'Reilly's favorite schticks:
O'REILLY: Now -- exact opposite on the political spectrum, in Arizona. A woman member of the Minutemen breaks into an illegal alien house?
No, that's wrong: Both Raul Junior Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia (as well as Gina Gonzalez, the girl's mother) were American citizens, born and raised in Arivaca.
And from a factually false opening, it goes rapidly downhill: Both Guilfoyle and Wiehl begin trading in even more factually wrong characterizations of Forde and her relationship to the Minuteman movement. Guilfoyle was perhaps the worst:
GUILFOYLE: This woman has some, um, problems otherwise. This wasn't really about immigration -- this was a woman who is a criminal, was working with this group to do drug ripoffs.
O'REILLY: She's a criminal herself.
GUILFOYLE: Yes. The organization she belonged to was Minuteman American Defense, otherwise known as MAD. But I did a lot of research on this case, and essentially she was using this organization to say, 'I'm gonna do rip-offs of drug cartels to fund my group.
O'REILLY: Ohhh, so she joined the group to find out where illegal aliens who might be dealing narcotics.
Wiehl at least points out that Forde didn't join MAD -- she founded it. But that's the least of the issues here: What's more important is that in fact this case had everything to do with immigration, which was the entire fuel motivating Forde's radicalism: She saw herself as a Minuteman "willing to take it to the next level" -- and she was using the drug money to do that.
Indeed, as we reported early on, she intended to metastasize MAD with the money so that it became a kind of super-militia whose larger purpose was to take on the federal government, not just over immigration but a whole panoply of related "Patriot" movement issues.
This wasn't about ordinary criminality: It was about right-wing radicalism. As Tim Steller at the Arizona Daily Star reported back then, she was talking to a lot of people about her plans for the group:
Accused ringleader Shawna Forde told her family in recent months that she had begun recruiting members of the Aryan Nations and that she planned to begin robbing drug-cartel leaders, her brother Merrill Metzger said Monday in a telephone interview from Redding, Calif.
"She was talking about starting a revolution against the United States government," he said.
In any event, at this point things in the O'Reilly Factor discussion became nothing but a farrago of falsehoods:
WIEHL: She was kicked out of two other organizations.
O'REILLY: Oh, she got kicked out of the Minutemen?
WIEHL: Well, that was the point. She was such a nut that she was kicked out of Minutemen. She started her own organization.
O'REILLY: All right, so her scam was, she would enter suspected drug dealers' homes and steal their drugs.
WIEHL: She thought he had $4,000 bucks in drug money, she wanted to go in there and get that money with her two accomplices.
O'REILLY: She killed how many people?
WIEHL: She killed the man, she killed the 9-year-old child --
O'REILLY: She killed a 9-year-old.
WIEHL: Yes. The mother of the 9-year-old was on the phone --
GUILFOYLE: She was present, she wasn't the shooter.
O'REILLY: Now, does she get the death penalty? Has she been sentenced?
GUILFOYLE: She is now eligible for the death penalty. The jury is considering it. Her defense at the time was, 'It wasn't me. It was the girlfriend of one of my codefendants.'
O'REILLY: But it doesn't matter, because she was convicted of the murders.
O'REILLY: So she's gonna go. All right, so then, uh --
GUILFOYLE: And she should -- and the Minutemen organizations don't want any association with her.
O'REILLY: And we want to emphasize that she was kicked out --
WIEHL: She was not part of the Minutemen.
GUILFOYLE: One of them, she was kicked out within 40 minutes of attending her first meeting!
WIEHL: She lied, she said she was leader, she wasn't any of those things.
O'REILLY: So she covered her own stupid organization as a cover for her own criminal activities.
GUILFOYLE: That's correct.
O'REILLY: Then she got what she deserved.
Both Wiehl and Guilfoyle are simply lying here: Shawna Forde was a significant figure in the Minuteman movement in Washington state for the better part of two years before she headed to Arizona. She appeared onstage in Everett with Minuteman Project cofounder Jim Gilchrist at a big Minuteman rally in 2007, and appeared on a public-TV town hall as a spokesman for both the Minutemen and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which later -- much later -- repudiated her as their spokesman.
And while it's undeniable that she was bounced from a number of Minutemen gatherings -- not for being a nutcase who was too extreme, but for being a mouthy and unpleasant person -- the movement nonetheless was ripe territory for her self-aggrandizing style. She was kicked out of the Washington state chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps not because they found her too extreme, but because she was caught stealing from the back bedroom of one of the local Minutemen's home.
Just to demonstrate how dishonest they are being here: Where does Guilfoyle get the anecdote that she was kicked out of one group within 40 minutes?
Well, from Steller's superb reportage for the Arizona Daily Star, which included this little nugget about her serial rejections by a number of Minutemen:
In August 2008, Forde showed up uninvited at Camp Vigilance, used by the Minuteman Corps of California and the private group Border Patrol Auxiliary as a base for patrols, said member Carl Braun. She was ejected after 40 minutes.
Last October, she showed up at a camp near Three Points where the Minutemen Civil Defense Corps had a group, Simcox said. There, too, she was ejected not long after arriving, he said.
But let's go back and read the lede to that story:
Shawna Forde was a rogue, many border-security activists say, or an impostor or a criminal.
They say the woman now charged in connection with the home invasion and shooting deaths of an Arivaca marijuana-trafficking suspect and his 9-year-old daughter was not really one of them.
But interviews with so-called Minutemen and their critics, as well as reviews of recently scrubbed Web sites, suggest Forde was well-placed in the border-security movement and represented a persistent radical wing.
"Shawna Forde was very much a known entity in this movement and, to some degree and to different folks, tolerated for quite some time," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino.
Here's Shawna bragging to Scott North of the Everett Herald in early 2009 about her border-patrolling activities in the Arivaca area:
Additionally, she claimed herself that she was "not insignificant to this movement":
Of course, Forde is a well-established liar and braggart with the opposite of credibility. But in this case, it was true -- largely because, through thick and thin, she had a loyal and longtime defender in Jim Gilchrist, the cofounder of the Minuteman Project.
Indeed, as North reported over a year ago, Gilchrist was running updates on Shawna's border patrols on his Minuteman Project web site even after the Flores murders -- in a report that tried to blame the murders on illegal immigrants. Moreover, he then corresponded with her by e-mails to query about the story that the authorities were after her:
Gilchrist stood by Forde when her ex-husband was shot, after her reported rape and after her mysterious shooting, when she was wounded in the arm. When The Herald in February revealed Forde's history of childhood felonies and teenage prostitution, Gilchrist said what mattered more was her ability to overcome a troubled past.
"She is no whiner," he wrote at the time. "She is a stoic struggler who has chosen to put country, community and a yearning for a civilized society ahead of avarice and self-glorifying ego."
Gilchrist remained in touch with Forde after she left Everett without giving detectives a chance to question her closely about the attempted murder of her ex-husband.
On the Minuteman Project Web site, Gilchrist continued to post press releases and Forde's dispatches detailing her Arizona border exploits.
One of the last arrived on May 31, just hours after the Arivaca killings.
Forde reported that she and her group had been in "boots on the ground" patrols of the border for eight days and had observed thousands of pounds of dope being smuggled into the country.
"A (sic) American family was murdered 2 days ago including a 9 year old girl," Forde wrote. "Territory issue's (sic) are now spilling over like fire on the US side and leaving Americans so afraid they will not even allow their names to be printed in any press releases."
In a few days Gilchrist began receiving e-mails from a Minuteman in Tucson who had previously let Forde's teenage daughter live at his home. The man asked Gilchrist why a SWAT team had shown up at his door looking for Forde.
"I called her," Gilchrist said. "She was as calm as can be."
Forde told him there was no cause for worry. The man, she said, was a disgruntled former member of her group.
At the same time, though, she was sending out a list of 17 people around the country she wanted contacted if she was arrested or killed. After her arrest, Gilchrist learned he was 10th on her list.
He and Steve Eichler, executive director of the Minuteman Project, almost certainly were among the last people Forde e-mailed before her June 12 arrest. They talked about adding her and her officers to their Web site's list of national Minutemen leaders.
"The border is going to be HOT. Good things to come my brother," Forde wrote Eichler that morning. She was in police handcuffs later that day.
Gilchrist has since scrubbed references to Forde from his Web site. He says she appears to have cloaked her true self behind the Minutemen movement.
"We all have to be aware that there are individuals who have motives other than altruistic ones," he said. "But you don't know until they present themselves."
I wouldn't want either of these legal "experts" as my attorney. Not if they claim to have done heavy "research" into a story and then the best they can come up with is a pack of falsehoods.
But that's about the best we can ever expect to get on The O'Reilly Factor.