(This section contains background information about our petition. If you would like to read the text of the actual letter of petition which will be sent to the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, please click the link marked "letter" under the photo of Bill O'Reilly.)
Bill O'Reilly is scheduled to speak at a fundraising luncheon for the rape survivors advocacy groupIt Happened To Alexa Foundation at the Ritz Carlton in Manalapan, Florida, on March 19th, 2009. This is, simply, outrageous.
According to its website, the purpose of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation is to "help support rape survivors through the trauma of the criminal trial, in the hopes that more survivors will go through with the prosecution in order to put these perpetrators behind bars...[and to] assist rape victims families with travel expenses during the litigation process."
A laudable mission, indeed. But not only has O'Reilly been accused of sexual harassment at work (settling out of court and paying his accuser a multi-million dollar sum); he also has a history of making blame-the-victim comments about sexual assault, including the following:
"These two girls come in from the suburbs and they get bombed, and their car is towed because they're moronic girls and, you know, they don't have a car. So they're standing there in the middle of the night with no car. And then they separate because they're drunk...
"Now Moore, Jennifer Moore...She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff... So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at two in the morning. She's walking by herself on the West Side Highway, and she gets picked up by a thug... And the thug takes her over to New Jersey in the cab and kills her and rapes her and does all these terrible things to her..." (Bill O'Reilly, The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, 8/2/06)
"And the question is, why didn't [11-year-old Shawn Hornbeck, kidnapped, held and raped for 4 years] escape when he could have?...The Stockholm syndrome thing, I don't buy it...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...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." (Bill O'Reilly, Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, 1/15/07)
We can only presume that the board of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation were unaware of O'Reilly's history when they extended the invitation to him. But unfortunately, all objections to O'Reilly's appearance since then have been met with a polite rebuttal.
We consider it wholly inappropriate that Bill O'Reilly should be given the opportunity to promote his new book* by associating himself with an organization that does such laudable work on behalf of rape victims.
Please join us in asking the It Happened to Alexa Foundation to withdraw their invitation to Bill O'Reilly and replace him with another, more appropriate, speaker.
*(According to an email from Ellen Augello of the It Happened to Alexa Foundation, O'Reilly is attending to talk about his book, not to speak on the topic of rape.)
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If you do comment please remember to be polite and stay on topic. Insults and accusations directed at the Alexa Foundation are likely to create feelings of ill-will, which are counterproductive and will also play into the hands of those who are trying to politicize this issue now that it is receiving more media attention. Remember, the issue is not one of "left" or "right", but of right and wrong, and the problem is not the foundation; it is Bill O'Reilly.
On behalf of rape/abuse survivors and those who support them, we thank you for your support.
(edited 15:12pm gmt, 6/5/09)
Dear Board Members,
We the undersigned wish to request that you withdraw your invitation to Bill O'Reilly to speak at your fundraising luncheon at the Ritz-Carlton in Manalapan, Fla., on March 19th.
We believe that although your invitation to him was made in good faith it is entirely inappropriate given O'Reilly's history of public slurs against victims of sexual violence - such as comments he made about kidnapped child abuse victim Shawn Hornbeck (2007) and murdered rape victim Jennifer Moore (2006) - suggesting that they somehow "asked for it" by their mode of dress or other behavior. These comments were broadcast across the United States and received a great deal of attention; they have not been forgotten.
It is also well known that Bill O'Reilly settled a sexual harassment suit out of court at the eleventh hour, paying his former producer an undisclosed sum alleged to be upwards of $2 million. This, too, received a great deal of publicity not only across the US but abroad, and is a story well known to almost everyone who has ever heard of Bill O'Reilly.
It seems a shame that your Foundation and the laudable work you do, arising out of a personal tragedy, should become associated in the minds of the public with a man who has been seen to deliver a message that victims of sexual violence are somehow to blame or even complicit in the harm done to them. Bill O'Reilly's apparent lack of sensitivity towards those who have been victims of sexual assault sends a message that is not only harmful to women but actually undermines the work of your Foundation by lending support to the myth that sexual violence is somehow not completely and utterly the responsibility of the perpetrator.
While we recognize that withdrawing your invitation to Bill O'Reilly at the last moment will be a difficult and possiby contentious decision to make, we believe that the publicity your Foundation will receive for doing the right thing will not only be extremely positive and widespread, but will give heart to victims of sexual assault and send a positive message to women all across America.
Keep up the great work. Look what you've accomplished!
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