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MSNBC's O'Donnell Distorts O'Reilly, Touts 'Proof' Out-of-Wedlock Birth Not So Bad

Media Research CenterOn Monday's The Last Word on MSNBC, host Lawrence O'Donnell claimed to present "proof" that FNC's Bill O'Reilly was wrong in his July 22 comments on race to warn about the negative effects of out-of-wedlock births on the black population.

The MSNBC host also managed to take O'Reilly out of context as O'Donnell suggested that the O'Reilly's comments were not relevant to Trayvon Martin because he was the product of a two-parent family, the FNC host, in reality, was arguing that out-of-wedlock birth leads to high crime rates among the black population, which leads to people having elevated fear of young black men.

And, while O'Donnell claimed that O'Reilly "defended" the shooting of Trayvon Martin, O'Reilly actually asserted that "it was wrong for Zimmerman to confront Martin based on his appearance," which hardly amounts to a total defense of Zimmerman's actions.

O'Donnell teased the segment by predicting that O'Reilly would be "embarrassed." O'Donnell: "Yes, right here on a cable news program, a story that we can all feel good about. Democrats, conservatives, liberals, Republicans, everyone except possibly Bill O'Reilly, who might be a little embarrassed about how he's manipulated some of the talk around this kind of story."

In another plug, the MSNBC host promised that he would present "proof that Bill O'Reilly is not the sociologist he thinks he is."

The segment began with a clip of President Obama responding to Zimmerman's acquittal, with O'Donnell then charging: "Bill O'Reilly hated that speech, hated it. He angrily took to his microphone to defend the killing of Trayvon Martin because, quote, "he was a stranger to Zimmerman and was dressed in clothing sometimes used by street criminals," O'Reilly's words."

The MSNBC host's quote of O'Reilly omitted his next line: "It was wrong for Zimmerman to confront Martin based on his appearance. But the culture that we have in this country does lead to criminal profiling because young black American men are so often involved in crime the statistics overwhelming."

After playing a clip of O'Reilly linking crime to out-of-wedlock birth, O'Donnell ignored his point about the role that the fear of crime played in Zimmerman and Martin's confontation and instead lectured: "Never mind that Trayvon Martin was the son of a very involved and loving father. And never mind that Barack Obama grew up without a father and went on to do rather well for himself and be a credit to his single mother."

O'Donnell then recounted the story of two young black men -- Justin Porter and Travis Reginal -- who are successful college students and were both raised by single mothers, as if their success proves that single parenthood is not generally detrimental to children. O'Donnell:

And in our next segment, I will have the honor of introducing you to two young black men Bill O'Reilly has never met. They went to high school together in Jackson, Mississippi. Now, one is at Harvard and the other is at Yale. They will both tell you why they owe their success to their heroic single mothers.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Monday, August 5, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC:

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: And in the spotlight tonight, an uplifting, inspirational story, a truly positive news story. Yes, right here on a cable news program, a story that we can all feel good about. Democrats, conservatives, liberals, Republicans, everyone except possibly Bill O'Reilly, who might be a little embarrassed about how he's manipulated some of the talk around this kind of story. That's coming up.

(...)

O'DONNELL: Coming up, proof that Bill O'Reilly is not the sociologist he thinks he is, especially when he's talking about American single mothers. That's coming up. In the spotlight, we are going to introduce you to two remarkable young men who wrote essays in Sunday's New York Times about growing up with their single moms in Mississippi and making the tough choice to go off to Harvard and Yale. Yes, for them it was a very different choice than it is for most students. It wasn't an easy thing to do. You'll hear their stories coming up.

(...)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.

O'DONNELL: Bill O'Reilly hated that speech, hated it. He angrily took to his microphone to defend the killing of Trayvon Martin because, quote, "he was a stranger to Zimmerman and was dressed in clothing sometimes used by street criminals," O'Reilly's words. Then, O'Reilly played amateur sociologist and described what he saw as the biggest problem in Trayvon Martin's world this way.

BILL O'REILLY, FNC: The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family. Right now, about 73 percent of all black babies are born out of wedlock. That drives poverty. And the lack of involved fathers leads to young boys growing up resentful and unsupervised.

O'DONNELL: Never mind that Trayvon Martin was the son of a very involved and loving father. And never mind that Barack Obama grew up without a father and went on to do rather well for himself and be a credit to his single mother.

O'REILLY: And it has nothing to do with slavery. It has everything to do with you Hollywood people and you derelict parents.

O'DONNELL: Derelict parents. Nothing to do with slavery. The struggles of black America have nothing to do with slavery in Bill O'Reilly's very narrow and uneducated mind. The first government report that analyzed family structure in black America was written in 1965 by Daniel Patrick Moynihan for President Lyndon Johnson to urge the President to action in the war on poverty. The Moynihan report's analysis on slavery compared American slavery to Brazilian slavery, which lasted 20 years longer than slavery in other countries. It also compared American slavery to other countries to make the point that American slavery was, quote, "the most awful the world has ever known."

The Moynihan report began with slavery, began with slavery in its analysis of black family structure in this country. The report then had a separate section on Reconstruction and on Jim Crow, and the particular agonies that were then reserved for black men. The report went on to consider what Isabel Wilkerson's masterful book calls "The Great Migration."

The Moynihan report went on at length about unemployment and poverty and how no group has suffered more in the employment market than black men. Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson tells that story movingly and with scholarly rigor in his important 1997 book "When Work Disappears." Professor Wilson and his friend, the former Harvard professor Moynihan, would never consider discussing or analyzing family structure in the black community if that discussion did not begin at slavery and include all the dynamic factors, good and bad, that have shaped the black American experience since slavery.

And unlike Bill O'Reilly, they have both praised the determination and creativity that most black women have brought to mothering, including single mothers. And in our next segment, I will have the honor of introducing you to two young black men Bill O'Reilly has never met. They went to high school together in Jackson, Mississippi. Now, one is at Harvard and the other is at Yale. They will both tell you why they owe their success to their heroic single mothers.

(...)

Both of those stories were told in yesterday's New York Times by Justin Porter, who will soon be a sophomore at Harvard, and Travis Reginal, who will soon be a sophomore at Yale. They are important stories on many, many levels, including helping us understand the troubling finding in a recent study showing that most low income students who have top SAT scores do not apply to America's top colleges while 78 percent of students with similar test scores and higher incomes apply and get accepted at those colleges.

Joining me now, Yale sophomore Travis Reginal, the son of Nicki Reginald, and Harvard sophomore Justin Porter, the son of Sarah Perkins.

(...)

-- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center