No one can compound stupidity like The Fester, Bill O’Reilly. Last week he assailed John Edwards for his remarks about homeless veterans. O’Reilly, without making any attempt to ascertain the facts, claimed that Edwards “had no clue” and that, if there were any homeless vets, there weren’t very many.
The proof of the veteran’s plight was so easily attainable that O’Reilly had to concede that the problem did indeed exist. But being O’Reilly, that didn’t mean conceding that he was wrong or apologizing. To the contrary, after embarrassing himself with comments that he admits are immature, he demanded an apology from Edwards, the guy whos was right in the first place. His reasoning was based on an element of the debate that he had to invent.
O’Reilly: “Certainly there are homeless veterans, but it’s not because of the economy. It’s mostly because of addiction and mental illness, something politicians can do little about.”
However, Edwards never claimed that the economy was to blame. He only raised the issue of homeless vets to bring attention to the situation and to assert that America can do better. He was looking for solutions, not blame. But even O’Reilly’s made-up excuse exposes his dishonesty and/or stupidity. First of all, if government can do so little about addiction and mental illness, why do they invest so much in programs for precisely that? Secondly, according to experts, mental illness is only one of the contributors to homelessness:
“Mental illness, financial troubles and difficulty in finding affordable housing are generally accepted as the three primary causes of homelessness among veterans, and in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan, the first has raised particular concern.
Iraq veterans are less likely to have substance abuse problems but more likely to suffer mental illness, particularly post-traumatic stress, according to the Veterans Administration. And that stress by itself can trigger substance abuse. “
So O’Reilly was wrong about the problem’s severity, he was wrong about Edwards’ positions, and he was wrong about the causes. And sadly, O’Reilly seems only to be concerned about veterans if they are having financial difficulties. If the problem is psychological or drug related, then to Hell with them. But even on the financial front O’Reilly can’t help but deceive and distort. He claims that amongst those living below the poverty line…
“Ninety-seven percent have a color TV, 78 percent a DVD player, 80 percent an air conditioner, 73 percent a car or truck, 63 percent cable or satellite TV, and 43 percent of poor households in the USA own the home they are living in.”
That nonsense was lifted from the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector who for years has been peddling the notion that America’s poor are living large on the taxpayer’s dime. O’Reilly and Rector are using faulty analysis and outright falsehoods to attempt to reincarnate Ronald Reagan’s fictional welfare queens. On August 27, 2007 Rector wrote an article that included the statistics above and arrived at this conclusion:
“Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is equally far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by the press, liberal activists, and politicians.”
Rector has been shoveling this garbage for some time and he even plagiarizes himself because the exact same paragraph appears in a nearly identical article he wrote for the Heritage Foundation three years earlier on September 15, 2004. But Rector has bigger problems than self-plagiarism or propagandistic redundancy. His analysis must be purposely deceitful, as it is so far off from even the sources he cites. The tip off was the 97% of the poor who supposedly have a color TV. In fact, that is the percentage of ALL Americans with a TV (does anyone have a black and white TV?).
The statement that “the typical American defined as poor by the government has…” all of the items Rector lists is profoundly ignorant. The survey says only that these items are owned in these percentages, not that all of the poor own all of the items. So some may have a car, and others may have an air conditioner, etc.
The actual stats, according to the Department of Energy study Rector himself footnoted, are 40% have a color TV, 32% a VCR/DVD player, 27% an air conditioner, 27% a car or truck, 26 percent cable or satellite TV, and 13% own their home. That’s a long ways from the lies O’Reilly and Rector are spewing.
On some level though, you have to admire O’Reilly for having the audacity to be so monumentally wrong and still maintain his air of pompous superiority. His ability to acknowledge that Edwards was right but that he, O’Reilly, wasn’t wrong is classically egomaniacal. And using this occasion to expand on his lies about homeless vets and the poor overall perfectly embodies the meaning of the title of his screed: Dishonesty In Politics And In Media by Bill O’Reilly.