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A New Definition Of Asking For It

Amanda Terkel, a writer at the Center for American Progress's blog Think Progress, recently had the temerity to criticize Bill O'Reilly's selection as the speaker at a fundraiser for the Alexa Foundation, a group dedicated to supporting rape survivors. As Terkel pointed out, O'Reilly had said some ugly stuff about rape victims in the past--along the lines of, if they dressed a certain way or drank too much, then they shouldn't be surprised if they're raped--so maybe he wasn't the best person to be raising money for this group.

For making this observation, Terkel experienced the following:

– The Stalking: Watters and his camera man accosted me at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, in Winchester, VA, which is a two-hour drive from Washington, DC. My friend and I were in this small town for a short weekend vacation and had told no one about where we were going. I can only infer that the two men staked out my apartment and then followed me for two hours. Looking back, my friend and I remember seeing their tan SUV following us for much of the trip.

– The Ambush: Shortly after checking into our lodgings, we emerged and immediately saw two men walking toward us calling out my name. Watters said he was from Fox News, but never said his or his companion’s name, nor did he say he was with The O’Reilly Factor.

– The Surprise Attack: Watters immediately began asking me why I was causing “pain and suffering” to the Alexa Foundation. He never gave me the context for his questions. Confused, I repeatedly asked him what he was talking about and whether he could refresh my memory, but he just continued shouting his question.

– The Evasion: I said that it was inappropriate for O’Reilly to imply that just because a woman may be drunk and/or dressed in a certain way, she should expect to be raped. Watters asked me whether I had listened to the interview (which I had) and claimed that O’Reilly had made the comments in the context of a commentary on Mel Gibson/drunkenness. When I tried to ascertain why he was attacking ThinkProgress in particular — even though other sites had also covered the story — he said that we were part of the “smear pipeline,” which also included the “Soros-funded” Media Matters. He ignored my comments when I asked if Fox News also smears people.

– Setting A Guilt Trap: Watters ended the charade by demanding that I look into the camera and apologize to the Alexa Foundation and rape victims. I told them that I don’t speak through Fox News and if someone from the Alexa Foundation would like to personally call me, I’d be happy to speak with that person.

– More Stalking: The camera man then continued to film me as I walked down the block. After a few minutes while I waited at the light to cross the street, Watters called him back and they left.

This is pretty typical behavior for O'Reilly, and Terkel's blog post is just the latest in what's rapidly becoming a new genre: "The I Was Ambushed by O'Reilly for Criticizing Him and Now I'm Going to Tell You What Happened Before He Airs the Tape" essay. (I'd say Hendrick Hertzberg's offering remains the genre's masterpiece.) But O'Reilly's treatment of Terkel seems particularly ugly--and actually kind of scary. It's one thing to ambush a 60-something male New Yorker writer on the streets of Manhattan; it's another matter entirely to trail a 20something female blogger to a small town in Virginia and accost her there. I realize O'Reilly makes a lot of money for Fox--and that this whole controversy will probably even make the network more money, as a few more viewers (even those who hate O'Reilly) might now watch his show to see how he handles the Terkel footage--but this is just gross. And it makes me think that stuff like this--which admittedly makes me queasy--might not be so unjustified, after all.

--Jason Zengerle