The truth that hurts: Bill O'Reilly really hates being called a nativist
On Friday's O'Reilly Factor, BillO dragged on Edward Schumacher-Matos, who'd had the audacity to recently pen the following words in an op-ed piece:
The fury of Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs and other nativists in response to the news that the prime suspect wanted for the murder of Chandra Levy is an illegal immigrant from El Salvador could easily be dismissed as racism.
O'Reilly indeed tried to blame the Levy murder on illegal immigration (perhaps as a way to deflect attention from the fact that BillO's longtime favorite suspect, Gary Condit, was now clearly innocent).
Having the nativist quality of this kind of "reportage" quite accurately pointed out nonetheless infuriated O'Reilly, who began arguing with Schumacher-Matos that all he's ever argued for is a system in which illegal immigrants busted for crimes in the USA be deported.
But as Schumacher-Matos pointed out in his Miami Herald column this week, O'Reilly's agitation has gone well beyond such limited measures. Indeed, it's a major component of how he slags the "liberal media":
In the Levy case, television-editorialist Bill O'Reilly and other immigration restrictionists were harshly critical of the AP story, accusing it and The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and network news shows of ''blatant press dishonesty'' for omitting that status from their stories. He accused them of pursuing an agenda to give amnesty to the country's 12 million illegal immigrants, who, he added, are responsible for ``millions of serious crimes over the past 10 years.''
Indeed, O'Reilly has gone after the New York Times in particular on these grounds.
Of course, if O'Reilly really only wanted to reform deportation procedures for undocumented immigrants busted for committing crimes, no one would be calling him a racist. But we all know the reason he keeps bringing up illegal immigrants and crime: It's an easy way of demonizing the people O'Reilly has at other times declared are going to swamp "white culture."
Media Matters has the goods on this:
For his part, Bill O'Reilly will often take a story of a specific crime and treat it as though it were a matter of national urgency. For example, he devoted segments on 13 separate programs to discussion of a case in Virginia Beach in which a drunken driver, who happened to be an undocumented immigrant, killed two young women in a traffic accident. As tragic as these deaths were, drunken drivers kill dozens of people every day; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 16,885 fatalities in alcohol-related auto crashes in 2005.
O'Reilly was hardly on a crusade against drunken driving; his interest was in the fact that in this case, the driver was an undocumented immigrant. O'Reilly brushes aside arguments that such cases are unrepresentative -- and even makes attempts to link immigration to terrorism. "If the local authorities, and they should be part of homeland security, were to be more vigilant on criminal illegal aliens, notice the word criminal, and track them harder, the Fort Dix thing [a thwarted plot to kill U.S. soldiers] would have been caught sooner," he said in June. "The deaths of the Virginia Beach thing which we talked about. And all of these guys at 9-11 were stopped by local police." When O'Reilly is unavailable, his compatriots will pick up the slack. "The never-ending criminal alien revolving door," said guest host and conservative columnist Michelle Malkin last August. "Another heinous crime, another illegal alien suspect with a mile-long rap sheet, another bloody tragedy wrought by open borders." O'Reilly also uses the immigration issue to bash "the left": "The most extreme elements in this country want open borders, blanket amnesty, and entitlement for foreign nationals who have come here illegally, and generally want to change the demographics in the USA so political power can be assumed by the left," he said last October. "That is the end game."
I'm sure he didn't read a word after that opening sentence, but O'Reilly could stand to learn a little by reading the rest of Schumacher-Matos' column:
But complicating matters is that most Americans probably agree with them.
The immigration restrictionists point to Salvadoran Ingmar Guandique, who is in prison for knife attacks against two other women, as an example of illegal immigrant crime run amok. "About a half million serious crimes have been committed by illegal aliens over the past 10 years," declared O'Reilly.
Some polls show that as many as three-fourths of Americans believe that immigrants cause crime to rise. Crime by illegal immigrants in particular has stirred such unease that even liberal communities such as San Francisco and the Washington suburb of Montgomery County, Md., known for providing sanctuary to the undocumented, are now moving to turn in some felony suspects to immigration authorities.
The lurid nature of immigrant-related cases, many reported spectacularly in the media, feed public insecurity. In Montgomery County, for example, illegal Latin American immigrants were charged last year for the murders of a 14-year-old honor student on a bus and a 63-year-old woman in her home.
But in all the furor, there is this hitch: The perception of high crime rates by illegal immigrants is pure myth. And it is misdirecting public policy about what we really should do to stop illegal immigration.