House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate Top Dog Peter Shumlin, pictured at right, just made public the letter they've sent to Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of the Fox News Channel. I have it for you below.
They also talked about it at their Thursday afternoon presser. At issue, the "O'Reilly Factor" crew's ambush of House Judiciary Chair Bill Lippert in the Statehouse cafeteria.
"There’s no comparison between what we do in Vermont in journalism and what O’Reilly’s crew did in the cafeteria," said Shummy. "It’s a different business. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. They virtually attacked him, not only their equipment, but their questions. Didn’t ask for an interview, but shoved the interview onto him. Wouldn’t let him get up out of his chair, surrounded him and froze him there. And their questions were more commentary than objective questions. We don’t do it that way in Vermont."
But that's commentary?
"Right, I agree with you. It’s a different beast,” said Shumlin. "We don’t mean to smear the Vermont press corps in any way. They [O'Reilly Factor]] are not news.”
"It’s un-News," said Da' Speaker. "In fact, Vermont has very tough sex-offender laws. We have very tough legislation around sentencing, around special investigation units and we toughened them this year.
"Fox is worse than entertainment. It’s conveying something that’s absolutely untrue," Symington told reporters.
STATE OF VERMONT
115 STATE STREET
MONTPELIER, VT 05633-520
May 17, 2007
Chairman and CEO
Fox News Channel
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036
Dear Mr. Ailes:
Last week, a media crew dispatched by the Fox News program “The O'Reilly Factor” confronted a member of the Vermont General Assembly in the Statehouse cafeteria. The incident was witnessed by several members of the Legislature and later reported on the O'Reilly program. The news crew asked misleading questions that deliberately mischaracterized Vermont laws and our determination to protect our children.
The Vermont Legislature has a long history of being open and accessible to all who wish to participate and observe, and has always recognized and granted access to the press to perform its important role. However, the tactics employed by the producers of this television program are unacceptable and have no place in Vermont's statehouse or Vermont politics. The camera crew came at Representative Lippert in such an aggressive manner that several bystanders thought he was under attack. Their questions were meant to provoke, rather than to elicit information.
As the leaders of the Vermont Legislature, we condemn in the strongest terms these hostile tactics and stand with our colleagues in the Legislature in support of the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
If it was the goal of your producers and Mr. O'Reilly to create a reaction among your viewers that would lead to intimidating threats against our colleague, they succeeded. Because of your program, Chairman Lippert has received numerous threats of personal injury and physical violence from your viewers.
If, on the other hand, it was Mr. O'Reilly's goal to intimidate the Vermont Legislature into considering ineffective and misguided legislation or to weaken the Legislature's steadfast support for our colleague, your tactics had the opposite effect. We hope the bipartisan opposition to your channel's tactics of intimidation will serve as a reminder that while Vermont welcomes a healthy and honest debate on issues, we will not be bullied by outsiders whose primary interest is provocation and political theater.
Gaye Symington Peter Shumlin
Speaker of the Vermont House President Pro Tem, Vermont Senate