During Monday night’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly used his ‘Talking Points Commentary’ and an additional panel discussion to race-bait and disseminate misleading information on the issue of marijuana use. O’Reilly first attacked the New York Times, who published an op-ed from its editorial board over the weekend expressing its support for the federal legalization of marijuana. O’Reilly targeted one section of the op-ed that pointed out the great disparity of arrests for marijuana possession compared to hard drugs (such as cocaine and heroin), and that blacks are disproportionately targeted. Below is the relevant paragraph from the NYT piece:
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
This set O’Reilly off, and he decided to push back against the Times and the “far-left” regarding their support for the legalization of weed. O’Reilly insisted that liberals are only supporting this issue due to some misguided notion that blacks are suffering disparate repercussions than whites for marijuana use and possession. During his commentary, O’Reilly threw out a bunch of cherry-picked and essentially unrelated statistics to back up his argument that marijuana should remain illegal and that there should be heavy fines for possession and stiff jail time for selling it.
When it came to federal arrests for marijuana, O’Reilly stated that the vast majority of arrests were for drug trafficking, and that Hispanics not blacks, made up a disproportionately high amount of arrests. Of course, O’Reilly is acting willfully obtuse by tossing out that statistic. The feds are only going to concentrate on major drug cases, not street-level crimes. That is left to local law enforcement. Considering that most large shipments of marijuana moves up from Mexico and Central America, it only makes sense that the majority of those arrested for trafficking the product are Hispanic. Regardless, the NYT board, and others, aren’t talking about drug trafficking when it comes to possession and use of marijuana and the racist nature of law enforcement and prosecution. The fact is, blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites, even though whites and blacks use at roughly the same rate.
O’Reilly also went after marijuana as a ‘gateway’ drug that leads to harder drug use. To bolster his case, he pointed to a Yale study done in 2012. However, what O’Reilly failed to mention is that the same study revealed that young adults who used alcohol and tobacco were twice as likely as those who used marijuana to abuse harder drugs. Also, the Institute of Medicine found that there was “no conclusive evidence that the drug effects of marijuana are causally linked to the subsequent abuse of other illicit drugs.” The host also tried to link marijuana use and possession to the drop in New York City’s murder rate, saying that Rudy Giuliani’s crackdown on violent crime and gangs was directly related to marijuana and that if it is made legal, murder rates will soar.
Below is video of O’Reilly’s commentary and subsequent panel discussion, courtesy of Fox News:
After O’Reilly did his best to scare his old, white viewership with a report seemingly lifted directly from Reefer Madness, he then turned it over to a panel discussion with two guests. One guest, Kevin Sabet, is a co-founder of an anti-marijuana group called Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The other guest, Stephen Gutwillig, is the Deputy Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that looks to reform the current drug laws in this country. Right away, O’Reilly went into full-on race-bating mode. While talking with Sabet and Gutwillig, O’Reilly claimed that “in certain ghetto neighborhoods it’s part of the culture. 9-year-old boys and girls are smoking it.” O’Reilly then claimed that liberals “don’t like that. They don’t want to see them targeted by the cops.”
In O’Reilly’s worldview, inner-city blacks are just irresponsible criminals who allow their children to smoke weed and go to the liquor store. Because, as Sabet pointed out, poor black communities have eight times as many liquor stores as other neighborhoods. Therefore, we should continue to have draconian drug laws in this country and have the police target poor black people far more than whites because we need to teach them responsibility and that their actions have repercussions. The only way to make this country like it once was, which is some idealized version of the ’50s that never really existed, is to harshly punish poor minorities for having the audacity of not being white people living in the suburbs.
Thankfully, culture warriors like O’Reilly are losing this battle. Just like same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana is coming. The majority of Americans favor it and our prison system has become needlessly overrun with non-criminals. Like just about everything else, O’Reilly is on the wrong side of history.
Justin Baragona is the Managing Editor at Politicus Sports as well as Senior Editor at PoliticusUSA. He was a political writer for 411Mania.com before joining PoliticusUSA. Politically, Justin considers himself a liberal but also a realist and pragmatist. Currently, Justin lives in St. Louis, MO and is married. Besides writing, he also runs his own business after spending a number of years in the corporate world. You can follow Justin on Twitter either with his personal handle (@justinbaragona) or the Sports site’s (@PoliticusSports).