Monday, January 7, 2008

Bill O'Reilly and the Constitution

You've no doubt heard about and likely seen a video clip of Bill O'Reilly at an Obama rally in Nashua, NH on Sunday. O'Reilly took exception to an Obama staffer who was blocking O'Reilly's camerman's shot of the event. O'Reilly "gently" (O'Reilly's term) pushed the staffer out of the way. I just saw a clip of this on The Factor, and it will likely be all over YouTube soon.

There's no doubt that O'Reilly did put his hands on the staffer, and pushed him out of the way. It was certainly not overly violent, but it was physical.

What interests me most about this event was O'Reilly's justifcation of his actions. He pushed the Obama staffer out of the way, O'Reilly said on The Factor tonight, because he was standing up for "the Constitution".

What part of the Constitution would that be?

The First Amendment, and its insistence that Congress make no law abridging "freedom of speech or press"?

Well, let's allow that O'Reilly and his camerman were press, and their freedom to videotape Obama was being abridged by the Obama staffer. Was that staffer an agent of the government?

Not the last time I checked.

But he would have to be, in order for the Constitution to be invoked.

For there is nothing whatsoever in the Constitution that says people running for office have to permit cameras in their faces.

I have no sympathy for political staffers who get in the way of the press. But it would be nice if O'Reilly had a slightly better grasp of the First Amendment.

Or, if he had shown a little more sympathy for Andrew Meyer, whose First Amendment rights were indeed abridged when cops pulled him out of a John Kerry event in Florida last year. At that time, O'Reilly's appreciation of the Constitution only went as far as ridiculing Meyer for his "don't taze me, bro" plea to the police.

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Full disclosure: I've been on the Factor several times (see my YouTube clips), and on O'Reilly's radio show, too, and in fact was told to "shut up" by O'Reilly last time I was on his radio show - this past October. But I actually consider that a badge of honor, and therefore don't hold it against O'Reilly...
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