Just as there are no words to describe that dark poisonous sensation right before you vomit, I can't seem to find the words to recount Bill O'Reilly's latest nauseating spectacle. But here goes: Back in January, Michael Devlin, a 41-year-old pizza parlor manager, was arrested soon after he abducted an 11-year-old on his way home. Police discovered the boy in Devlin's home along with enough evidence to convict the creep on dozens of child abduction and kidnapping charges. They also found a 15-year-old boy who had disappeared four years before while bicycling near his home in eastern Missouri.
The chattering heads swarmed down on the case, questioning why the boy had stayed with his kidnapper despite his access to Internet and telephone communication. But O'Reilly chose to go farther, suggesting that the boy's four-year captivity with a violent predator was a school-free cakewalk. (To watch video of the show, go here or here; or read the transcript.)
If your stomach is as queasy as mine, here's a small taste of the bile he passed: "No, I am not buying this, if you're 11 years old or 12 years old or 13 and you have a strong bond with your family. Even if the guy threatens you this and that. You're riding your bike around, you got friends -- the kid didn't go to school. There's all kinds of stuff, if you can get away, you get away ... The situation here for this kid looks to me to be a lot more fun than what he had under his old parents. He didn't have to go to school. He could run around and do whatever he wanted."
And when his guest, Greta Van Susteren, suggested that some kids like school, he retorted: "Well, I don't believe this kid did. And I think when it all comes down, what's going to happen is, there was an element here that this kid liked about his circumstances."
Along with such comments, he rants rather incoherently about the boy's piercings and his "taunting his parents on his Web site" (details from the case he had no business making conclusions about). In short, he does his best to impugn this kid's character and imply his complicity. Tuesday, Devlin pleaded guilty to the last of a series of charges that will put him behind bars for many lifetimes to come. During the proceedings, he described torturing the boy for several days, then attempting to kill him. Remarkably the boy managed to talk him out of it in exchange for promising to do whatever he wanted. Nowhere are there descriptions of a fun, school-free, bike-riding life. Media Matters, which has been covering this story along with Crooks and Liars and True Crime Weblog, reminded readers that "O'Reilly vowed on the January 16, 17, and 22 editions of The O'Reilly Factor to 'apologize' for his 'skepticism' if his assessment proved 'wrong.'" Tuesday night O'Reilly reported on Devlin's guilty pleas, adding: "I'm not going to name the boys, because the boys have been through enough." Say what? After he suggested that the kid was having fun as the captive of a sexual predator?
There is something useful about this case -- he's so wrong, and the victim of his ignorance is so innocent, that O'Reilly's cruelty is fully unmasked in the process. This isn't a political case, where throwing knives at your target can be excused as so much partisan hardball; this is a story about a child who has survived a horrendous ordeal only to be used as some sort of fodder for arguments about why liberals are soft on crime. Fittingly, O'Reilly also declared Tuesday night that he had nightmares after reading the FBI reports, but it's doubtful he has lost any sleep over his own glib acts of malice. According to Media Matters, O'Reilly has never apologized.