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Bill O'Reilly's wrong on gays and the Padres

(This article was published in 2007).

Using intellectually corrupt arguments to keep gay people from engaging in a free-market economy: That's the subject of today's talking points memo.

On July 8, a group of gay people bought about a thousand group tickets to the San Diego Padres' home game against the Atlanta Braves. On the same night, the Padres were giving away a free floppy cap to kids age 14 and under. Three nights later, Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly launched into a 10-minute attack on the Padres and their gay fans.

"It is almost unbelievable, but the San Diego Padres scheduled a promotion for gays on the same day the team gave away hats to kids," O'Reilly said. "So thousands of gay adults showed up and commingled with families."

There is so much wrong with this statement, I could have written a chapter of our book on it. Come to think of it, I did. O'Reilly asserts that the Padres scheduled this event, as though the Padres decided they wanted to have a bunch of gay people at their ballpark so they found some and sold them tickets. If O'Reilly had read "The Outsports Revolution," he'd know that this isn't how it works. People in the community, whether they're gay men, pregnant women, Muslims, Jews, union workers or members of a local softball league, decide they want to support their local team. Those people then pick a date, call the team's group-ticket sales office, and request tickets. The gay group gets the same treatment and perks as any other group. No more, no less.

The Padres had scheduled the 14-and-under giveaway that night. O'Reilly wanted the Padres to tell the gay group that they couldn't do it that night because they already had a promotion for kids scheduled. Mind you, he had no problem with the 100 other groups that had bought a total of 11,000 tickets that night; he just had a problem with the gay group.

In fact, 13 of the 81 home games for the Padres, or one out of every six, has a kids giveaway. Another 31 games have promotions or themes also targeting families, like "Teacher Appreciation Night" and "Family Fireworks." So, according to O'Reilly, every other group in the known universe can pick any one of the 81 games they want to attend, but the gay people have to avoid over half of the games for fear of kids or families being offended.

This is all a surprising position by O'Reilly, who is a free-market guy. Except, apparently, when it comes to selling tickets to gay people.

Another part of the above statement that was absolutely ludicrous was this idea that "thousands of gay adults showed up." It was only 1,000. In the history of "gay days" at ballparks, only once or twice has a group sold over 1,000 tickets. In this case, there were 42,000 people at the game. So, one in 42 people in the stadium was gay. That's 2.4% of the people in the stadium. Even conservative estimates put the number of gay people in the general population over 2.4%. Petco Park that night was straighter than the San Diego community that surrounds it; those kids were safer from the gay agenda that night than if they had just been walking the streets of San Diego.

Or watching The O'Reilly Factor. O'Reilly said, "Unfortunately there were a few over-the-top displays in the stands, a reminder that irresponsible behavior can come from any group." He called it "exhibitionistic." Accompanying his words were several shots of video footage of men kissing men and women kissing women. If these were so outrageous, over-the-top and harmful to our children, then why on earth is he, on the most-watched cable news program in the country, broadcasting these destructive images into the homes of families in San Diego and the rest of America? Good God, what if one of the thousands of children watching the O'Reilly factor sees those images and suddenly asks his parents why two men are kissing before the parents are "ready" to tell him? He might suddenly have 2 million gay people watching him, because they'd all turn gay at the site of two people kissing! That conclusion, of course, is as baseless as O'Reilly's.

O'Reilly also says, "This is social engineering by the Padres."

Again, it has nothing to do with the will of the Padres; this was a group of gay people who had absolutely no idea that July 8 was one of the 13 promotional events targeting kids. And even if it did, O'Reilly's thinking in 1947 would likely have led him to attack the Brooklyn Dodgers for "social engineering" when they brought Jackie Robinson up from the minor leagues.

At the end of the night, all the under-14-year-olds wanted was to go to Petco Park, get a free hat, watch their favorite team win (they lost to the Atlanta Braves, 5-4), and hopefully catch a home run or foul ball. That's it. They couldn't care less about gay people at the ballpark. One of the fans O'Reilly's team interviewed was wearing an Atlanta Braves jersey. The kids that night surely had more problems with that than anyone holding hands or kissing!

It's the adults and people like O'Reilly who blow it way out of proportion. Just as the Padres want to sell tickets to gay people, O'Reilly knew he could get viewers to tune in by painting a Major League franchise as promoting homosexuality to their children. He got what he wanted. The next night, he acknowledged that the segment had been "highly rated" by his most loyal fans. But instead of taking the intellectual high road – painting the event for what it was – he expounded on an intellectually and morally corrupt argument based on lies and misinformation. His loyal viewers, and I include myself in that category, deserve better.

And that's the memo.