This checks and balances deal the Founders set up has worked pretty well for us here in America. We have a process whereby the most powerful people in the public sector can be held accountable for their actions by other powerful people. Hi there, Richard Nixon. But there is no oversight on the press, which is a private enterprise. We get a free pass, and now that's beginning to hurt the nation.
As you may know, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is cracking down hard on Howard Stern and his outrageous brethren by fining companies that employ them if the shock jocks venture into the murky world of "indecency." You can't have sex on your front lawn, and you can't detail sexual activity on the airwaves owned by the public. Fine. But, to be fair, "indecency" should be explicitly defined by the FCC.
When it comes to the news media, there is no FCC to fine us when we do something unsavory like intentionally mislead the public. Let's cite a few examples, and please forgive me, because some of these exhibitions are personal. Unfortunately, I am a primary source these days in confronting declining media standards.
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When a fanatical Shi'ite militia attacked American troops in Iraq, many in the press labeled the situation "an uprising." But it wasn't. It was a well-planned power grab attempt directed by a militant cleric with ties to Iran. An uprising is when regular folks throw off those in power. The collapse of the Berlin Wall was an uprising.
But many newspaper editors chose to headline an "uprising." Some simply made a mistake, but others wanted to put the worst possible face on that action for political reasons. That is deceitful.
Here's another example. As you may know, The New York Times has done everything it could to disparage Mel Gibson and his movie about the death of Jesus. The Times lost the battle but continues its jihad.
Last week, Times reporter Anne Thompson played down the success of the film and wrote this: "(Gibson) was able to deploy partisan news-media pundits like Fox's Bill O'Reilly … to appeal to their constituents to show their support by seeing the movie."
Thompson's statement is flat out false. I never recommended the film. I told Gibson on television the movie was too violent. That's on the record. And when I attempted to ask the Times to supply evidence that Gibson had "deployed" me, Ombudsman Daniel Okrent refused to take my call.
The declining standards in journalism extend to television news as well. Recently, right-wing bomb thrower G. Gordon Liddy appeared on CNN and MSNBC and asserted that my radio program was a "failure." Westwood One, the company that syndicates the show, fired off a memo to those networks providing detailed information proving the opposite. Both CNN and MSNBC refused to correct the record.
I could give you dozens of other examples, but the point is that press accountability no longer exists in this country. Ten years ago, most of the media policed itself at least somewhat. Today, that's rare.
What's changed is that many press outlets are now run by ideologues on a mission. The gloves of fairness are off. These editors have set the journalistic rules on fire, and there is no one to put out the flames. Thus, Americans who depend on information to make responsible decisions about their country are often hoodwinked.
One more example. A few years ago, The Washington Post ran an article that said I lied about my upbringing, that I was not raised in Levittown, N.Y., as I stated. The article was intended to damage my credibility.
That untruth was picked up by scores of media outlets and was even exploited by a major publishing house.
Over Easter I was rummaging through the attic at my mother's home. There I found the deed to the house from 1951. It was sent to my parents by the County Trust Company. The address on the deed is Levittown.
Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show 'The O'Reilly Factor.' His Web site is www.billoreilly.com.