So I'm flipping through the channels tonight and skip across the Fox Noise Channel (okay, the Fox News Channel, but MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has coined Fox News as "Fox Noise" and that's much funnier) and Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera are screaming at one another. Certainly putting the "noise" in "Fox Noise." And, say what you want about O'Reilly, he doesn't get millions of viewers for nothing. The shouting match, and table pounding got me interested and kept me watching, at least for a few minutes.
Apparently the dispute surrounded the tragic death of a young girl in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. Tragic, but not the kind of issue you would think would cause such a raucous debate between O'Reilly and Geraldo. The genesis behind the vocal disagreement though was that O'Reilly blamed the death not on the the fact that the driver was drunk, but the fact that the driver was an illegal immigrant, and in O'Reilly's opinion, should have been deported from the country long ago. Geraldo objected to O'Reilly's characterization of the tragedy, saying that the death of the young woman had nothing to do with the driver's immigration status and everything to do with the driver's drinking, which is completely irrelevant and unconnected to whether he was an immigrant or a naturalized citizen or a US born citizen. It led to this exchange, which is a must see, and which I first saw online over at the great TV News blog TV Newser (and in the interest of full disclosure, they found on the blog of Oliver Willis, a left-leaning political blogger).
I never thought I would agree with Geraldo on something, but at least in this instance, he's right, and O'Reilly is clearly wrong. No matter what your views on immigration are, and whether you think we need amnesty or a wall across the Mexican border, the fact that O'Reilly has taken this woman's death and turned it into a crusade against illegal immigration is just completely wrong and in many ways, takes the focus off what our attention should be on, and that's crusading not against illegal immigration, but drinking and driving. Every death caused by a drunk driver is such a needless tragedy. When there are cabs and designated drivers and any number of other possible ways to get home from the bar or stadium or house party, there is simply no excuse for driving while intoxicated on any substance and those that kill people when they drive drunk should be dealt with harshly.
Yes, O'Reilly is right. If we had tougher borders and a tougher immigration policy, there would be less illegal immigration, and maybe this illegal immigrant who caused this death wouldn't have ever been in the United States. But, driving while being an illegal immigrant didn't cause the car crash. Alcohol did. And as Geraldo said (am I really quoting Geraldo now? Wow) it wouldn't have mattered if the driver was an illegal immigrant or if he was an Irish American or a Jewish American or anything in between if he was drunk. And for O'Reilly to take advantage of this woman's death to make a point on illegal immigration is just sleazy. Maybe if he crusaded as vocally against drinking and driving as he does against illegal immigration, less people would die. And I think that's a campaign everyone from Republican to Democrat from Red State to Blue State can get behind. Let's stop drinking and driving.
To be fair, I'm not a big O'Reilly fan (can't you tell?). He is entertaining (in small doses) and when he reads mail at the end of his show he can be funny (again, in small doses -- can you tell I don't like praising O'Reilly?) but sometimes he just goes off the wall and I don't understand how he hasn't alienated half his audience by now. There's a reason why Keith Olbermann's ratings continue to grow at a rapid pace for his news show which airs opposite that of O'Reilly. Because of incidents like this. Yes, O'Reilly had me watching for the segment he had with Geraldo. And he hooked me in, wanting to know more about this incident and why he and Geraldo looked like they were going to have a fist-fight in the studio. But, when I learned more, I just became disgusted. And that can't help ratings. Or, at least. It shouldn't.
It's just frustrating because O'Reilly has such a huge platform and reaches so many people. And he could have used this tragedy to go after those who drink and drive and use his bully pulpit to demonize those who drive while intoxicated. And instead he warped the whole thing into this illegal immigration rant, which I understand is a big issue. But whatever one's thoughts on immigration are (and I'll be honest, I don't really have any because I haven't studied the issue enough and don't know enough of the facts on either side to join one or the other), it just wasn't in play in this case. But drinking and driving was, and O'Reilly missed an opportunity to do some good in that campaign, and that's a shame.