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Friday, September 29, 2006
WND on O'Reilly: Alarmist, Misleading Claims
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily seems curiously unenthusiastic about promoting after the fact the appearance by news editor Joe Kovacs on the Sept. 27 edition of Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" to discuss the (female) teacher-student sexpidemic! -- there's no summary, transcript of video clip. (Maybe they're still a little touchy about the falling-out between O'Reilly and WND, where O'Reilly's syndicated column got its start.) We don't have the bandwidth to host video, but we have the transcript (corrected against the video), and it shows the thinness of the accusations WND has hurled.

Kovacs began by making alarmist claims:

KOVACS: Bill, we found out this problem is everywhere. It is rampant. It is in big school districts in big cities. It is in little towns all across America. There are teachers who are just preying on their students and having sex with them. They're having sex with them on school campuses. They're having sex with them in their homes. They're having sex with them in the parking lot of Busch Gardens. It's going on everywhere. It's just unbelievable.

When O'Reilly asked Kovacs to "put it in perspective"-- something WND has never done -- Kovacs hedges, offering no data to back up his claims but instead insisting that in the "hundreds of newspapers" they monitor they "saw case after case of women having sex with their students." In other words, it's still solely anecdotal.

Finally, though, we get an inkling of what's behind WND's obsession with female teachers. Kovacs cited research by Kansas State University's Bob Shoop showing that adult females convicted of having sex with male students receive significantly less severe jail sentences (or merely probation) than adult males convicted of having sex with female students.

But Shoop also notes that there is a "proliferation of reporting" about such incidents, which doesn't necessarily correlate into an actual increase in incidents; "There were almost no reports of those events during the time that children actually were abused." The Shoop press release also notes that "no national studies exist to discuss how prevalent a problem it truly is."  In other words, WND has no factual basis upon which to declare that female teacher-student sex is "rampant" because they have no baseline (and, as we've pointed out, they are also mixing incidents from 15 years ago with current ones).

Further, a Nov. 29, 2005, USA Today article cited Shoops as a source in claiming that "In the past 18 months, at least 25 cases nationwide involved female teachers molesting students." That's the first solid number we've seen -- WND has never offered one -- which doesn't exactly sound like an epidemic. 

Both O'Reilly and Kovacs then appear to decide that the reason these women are getting less jail tme than their male counterparts was that the "glamour-model type" of teacher are somehow flummoxing the judges into doing so. And then O'Reilly gets even more bizarre:

O'REILLY: So look, we have here, I believe, is a decline of standards in the teaching profession. That's what I think is behind this. I think they're getting people in -- because they don't pay teachers a lot in a lot of areas around the country. They're getting people in who are unstable. You have to be unstable to be an attractive woman. OK, you have to be. You'd have to be an emotional mess, to be an attractive woman and then try to stalk a 13-year-old. I mean, there's just no rationalization. So I think it is a drop in standards. Do you have any other reason to explain it? 

Yep -- O'Reilly lived up to our billing as the perfect venue for Kovacs' misleading, alarmist claims.

UPDATE: Reworded final graf to make a little more sense.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:14 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, September 29, 2006 4:29 PM EDT

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