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Attack on Ohio Judge: FOX News Uses Bully Pulpit to Promote Republican Party Agenda

Reported by Marie Therese - March 16, 2006

On this morning's FOX & Friends First co-hosts Steve Doocy and Alisyn Camerota did a phone interview with Ohio State Auditor Betty Montgomery on the topic of Bill O'Reilly's drive to impeach Columbus Judge John A. Connor, a Democrat who was just elected to the bench for the third time, defeating an inexperienced Republican challenger named Julie Hubler. Judging by the roster of Ohio Republicans that has appeared on FOX News in the past three days, we might assume that something more than an altruistic concern for justice might be at work here. And that assumption would be correct.

Forget all the overheated pontificating on the part of FOX's host-flunkies. The campaign against Judge Connor is a virtual duplicate of O'Reilly's last, failed attempt to influence local politics in Vermont by using a "hot button" issue - lenient sentencing of an admitted child molester - and a campaign of innuendo, misstatement and lies to force the impeachment of a judge. In Vermont the Bloviating Billster ran into a problem when it turned out that his target, Judge Edward Cashman, had a reputation for making tough decisions. In addition, the people of Vermont - a fiercely independent lot - refused to allow themselves to be bullied into action simply because a New York talking head snapped his fingers.

In my opinion, the real impetus behind the attack on Ohio Judge John A. Connor is the need to create a "red herring" issue, a Democrat-centered scandale du jour carefully crafted to distract Ohio voters from the bribery, fraud, voting and payola scandals currently plaguing Ohio's Republican leadership.

According to a report in the conservative online publication WorldNet Daily:

A major kickback scandal is threatening to rock Ohio's Republican gubernatorial primary race.

The scheme, called "pay to profit," allegedly involves Republican state officials who awarded "no bid" multi-million dollar contracts to winning contractors who artificially inflated the prices they charged the government so they could "kickback" campaign contributions.

The lawsuit that broke the scandal was filed by Democrat Tim Hagan who ran against Republican Robert Taft for governor in 2002 and lost.

Hagan raised about $1.2 million for his 2002 general election campaign. Taft was able to raise more than $12 million, a ratio of 10 to 1.

In court filings obtained by WND, Hagan charged that Taft was able to raise so much more "because of his access to and use of recycled taxpayer dollars from unbid contracts."

Hagan's lawsuit also named Ohio's attorney general, Republican Jim Petro, and the state's current auditor, Betty Montgomery, as defendants, charging that they too participated in "pay to profit" kickback transactions. (January 9, 2006)

Bill O'Reilly has interviewed Governor Robert Taft and Jim Petro, both of whom came down solidly in favor of the impeachment drive against Judge Connor. Today FOX & Friends interviewed State Auditor and former State Attorney General Betty Montgomery, who said she favors impeachment but that there hasn't been a successful impeachment of a judge in Ohio since the mid-1800's!

Needless to say, none of the FOX & Friends pundits bothered to mention anything about Ms. Montgomery's involvement in the Hagan lawsuit. Nor did O'Reilly bring up the charges currently pending against Governor Taft and Attorney General Petro. But this is nothing new for FOX. Why bother viewers with cold, hard facts that mess up the beautiful symmetry of a manufactured witch hunt?

Ms. Montgomery chose her words carefully, but it was obvious to anyone who knows the FACTS of the case in Ohio that, as a former prosecutor, she knew full well that Judge Connor was acting on the advice of the prosecutor, Ronald Welch, and was well within the law, especially since prosecutor Welch did not request jail time. For some unfathomable reason, FOX News/O'Reilly did not target Welch during his interview on The Factor but focused instead on Judge Connor.

Lest some of our right-wing readers think that I favor weak sentences for child molesters, let me assure you that I don't. I've known too many women who were abused and I personally don't believe a molester can be "cured." However, intensive treatment has worked in some cases. Judge Connor, who is a recovering alcoholic and member of AA, has said that he chose home confinement and intensive treatment options for the perpetrator, Andrew Selva, using expert testimony made by prosecution experts. Perhaps the judge is guilty of being overly optimistic about Mr. Selva's chances of re-offending. He is not, however, guilty of judicial misconduct.

At its core, this is just another Republican Party attempt to use the legal system to overturn a legitimate election and install one of their own in Judge Connor's seat. Ohio's in play in 2006 and two of the top leaders in the Ohio Republican Party are engaged in a knock-down-drag-out primary battle - Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and Attorney General Jim Petro.

(Were I to venture a guess, I would say, based on the FOX News guest list, that Ken Blackwell's absence indicates that he is NOT George Bush's choice to run for Governor of Ohio.)

But, I digress. The real issue here is whether or not a judge should be impeached for an unpopular ruling made in a legal fashion using commonly accepted guidelines and based on the testimony of expert witnesses.

Bill O'Reilly, FOX News and the rest of the right wing media want to rule by demagogic fiat from their comfortable sound stages.

Hopefully, the voters of Ohio will see this smear campaign for what it is: A coordinated and cunning attempt to turn the focus away from Republican corruption in their state government. One can only hope that, like the stalwart voters of Vermont, the people of Ohio can see through the FOX-abetted smoke screen and focus on the real issues in this case.

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