The left-wing attacks on Bill O’Reilly of Fox News have caused many to conclude that he’s a conservative. He denies that, and recently invited me on his “O’Reilly Factor” show to point out that on major issues such as global warming, homosexual rights, and the death penalty, he parts company with conservatives.
O’Reilly, for example, highlights outrageous crimes, especially those against children, and he has mounted a campaign against the VH1 cable channel for using convicted killers as rock stars. Yet he opposes capital punishment under any and all circumstances. He insists that America has a “moral question” about “taking a life” through use of the death penalty, even though the Gallup Poll shows 72 percent of the public in favor of it.
O’Reilly’s “moral question” doesn’t have anything to do with guilt or innocence because he says that Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, whose guilt was never in doubt and who was convicted of killing 168 people, should have been spared the death penalty as well. O’Reilly believes that McVeigh “would have suffered much more had he been sentenced to a life of hard labor” at a “military style” camp in Alaska that would be “in effect a gulag.”
McVeigh’s death by lethal injection, which was quick and painless, doesn’t compare with the suffering endured by his victims. However, Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation and Diane Clements and Dudley Sharp of the anti-crime group Justice For All told me they didn’t think that O’Reilly’s alternative to capital punishment is a serious proposal that stands even a remote chance of being put into effect. The ACLU, which even opposes the return of chain gangs, would sue to stop it, and the courts wouldn’t permit a gulag-style prison anyway. But the proposal makes O’Reilly look tough while ruling out the toughest punishment. It looks like he’s spinning in his own “No Spin Zone.”
In the same manner, O’Reilly acted outraged that a two-hour videotape of convicted killer Richard Speck was released in the 1990s that showed him in prison inebriated and dressed like a woman. “He bragged about the drugs he was taking and the sex he was having,” noted O’Reilly, adding, “?it is no wonder that most Americans support the death penalty.”
What O’Reilly didn’t mention was that a jury found Speck guilty of the murder of eight student nurses, and a judge ordered him put to death. Speck stayed alive in prison, using drugs and alcohol and behaving like a homosexual, because a fickle Supreme Court overturned capital punishment statutes and his death sentence. Since then, of course, capital punishment has been ruled constitutional again.
O’Reilly comes across as conservative because he employs heated rhetoric about criminals like Speck and attacks groups such as the ACLU. But O’Reilly agrees with the ACLU and the liberal judges on capital punishment. That’s not spin, that’s fact.
The case of Oscar Ray Bolin, a serial killer and rapist whose seventh trial on murder charges was recently shown on Court TV, demonstrates how these judges operate. The evidence against Bolin was overwhelming. He was convicted in six trials of killing three women and sentenced to death six times, but all of the convictions were overturned by the liberal Florida Supreme Court. In an outrageous and ridiculous series of decisions, the court said that because one of the witnesses against him was his former wife, her testimony should have been excluded under Florida’s spousal-privilege rules.
It is noteworthy that one of the witnesses against Bolin during the penalty phase of one of his trials was a corrections officer assaulted by Bolin during an attempted jailbreak.
When then-Illinois Governor George Ryan commuted the sentences of 167 killers, it turned out that a surprising number had killed prison guards and fellow inmates while incarcerated. Donna Payant, a New York corrections officer, was sexually mutilated and brutally killed by a convicted killer who had received life in prison for a previous murder.
Even in O’Reilly’s theoretical gulag-style camp, the prisoners would require guards whose lives would be at risk. More victims like Donna Payant would, therefore, be possible, and the taxpayers would be required to feed and care for these killers for the rest of their lives. Timothy McVeigh, on the other hand, is gone for good, can’t murder again, and can’t appear on VH1.