Are Sex Scandals in America Becoming Obsolete?

This is a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor, November 14, 2003.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the Personal Story segment tonight, this may sound insignificant, but it really isn't. --Sex scandals can ruin people's lives.-- [For instance] say somebody accuses you of sexual harassment or even worse and you're innocent.  Well, the stigma of the accusation is going to be around your neck no matter what you do.

Now, earlier this week, we told you about 21-year-old hotel heiress Paris Hilton (search) who was foolish enough to record a sex video, which is now all over the country.  Her wealthy parents have threatened to sue the man in the video, and now that man, Rick Solomon, has filed a $10-million lawsuit against the Hiltons claiming they have slandered him.

The question: Are Americans numb to all of this in light of the Clinton-Lewinsky situation and a number of other cases out in Hollywood?

Joining us now from Tallahassee, Florida, is Dr. Linda Miles, a psychologist and professor of social sciences at Florida State University.  And in our New York studio, publicist Lizzie Grubman, who is a friend of Paris Hilton.

Ms. Grubman, we'll start with you.  You know, now every day there are new videos of Ms. Hilton, and -- and her reputation throughout the United States, I think, is damaged beyond repair.  Am I wrong?

LIZZIE GRUBMAN, PUBLICIST:  Oh, completely wrong.  I don't think it's damaged without repair.  I just think that it's -- you know, right now, she has to overcome a lot.  She also has a TV show that's coming out in two weeks, and I think definitely this is not helpful.

O'REILLY:  Oh, well, it will -- what it will do for Fox -- Fox is running the television program -- is it will get a curiosity drive-by audience to see her, but...

GRUBMAN:  Absolutely.  The ratings are going to go out of the roof in the beginning.

O'REILLY:  Right.  But I've got to tell you here's the downside.  I got maybe 500, 600 e-mails on this story about Paris Hilton.  Not one, Ms. Grubman, felt sorry for your friend.  Not one.

GRUBMAN:  You know why I feel sorry for her -- or anyone else in that position -- because it's an invasion of privacy.  I don't think that when Paris did this video, she knew that she would become a household name three years later.  I really don't.

O'REILLY:  But...

GRUBMAN:  But it's -- you know, it's something -- I don't agree with it, I don't think that anyone should be doing home videos...

O'REILLY:  Well, I don't mind it if you're a consenting adult, but what this shows is terribly poor judgment on her part.  And here's why, Ms. Grubman.  And this is the lesson for everybody in the country watching tonight to learn, all right?

If you're going to make these home videos, you have to, number one, trust the person with whom you're cavorting.  And, number two, you can't allow those videos out of your hands.  I mean...

GRUBMAN:  Well...

O'REILLY:  That's -- I mean -- because we live in such a dangerous age now, with the Internet particularly, that any picture -- you know, they've got these little phones now.  They can picture -- take...

GRUBMAN:  Right.

O'REILLY:  ... a picture of anybody, window open, gymnasium, health club, you know, and nobody's protected here.  So I got to tell you I think Ms. Hilton, unless she makes a stunning turnaround and does something extraordinary, is going to be a bimbo the rest of her life.

GRUBMAN:  Well, I think that, you know, we'll have to wait and see.  But Paris is a strong girl, and she's a survivor.  I think she will come back from this.  I think you'll be really surprised.  I think it will take time, but I definitely think she'll survive the situation.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Now let's go to the doctor in Tallahassee, Florida.

Because of the Clinton-Lewinsky situation -- that was the turning point for me, when I think society turned.  After all of that, President Clinton's approval ratings in office stayed high.

Personal approval went down, OK, but they said, look, even though you did this tawdry thing in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky, all right, because the economy is good, we still don't care.

I don't think that ever could have happened before in American history, Doctor.  Am I wrong?

LINDA MILES, PH.D., PSYCHOLOGIST:  Well, I see it a little bit differently.

I see it as a function of the changes that were going about in the '90s, and that is that we had the Internet coming about, we had a lot more pornography-type things on television, and I think what's happened is that Americans have gotten desensitized to sex scandals.

I think they pass over.  This will probably pass over with Paris.  We're so used to seeing it, Bill.  We're so used to seeing these kinds of images now.  It's very troubling to me.

O'REILLY:  All right.  It's true, but I think Clinton lucked out because he hit it right when, as you say, people are watching porn on the Internet, it's no big deal, we have a permissive society, a secular society that's growing, and they didn't like it.  They didn't like it, but they said, well, the economy is good, that's overriding it.

I don't think, for example, if John Kennedy in 1960, if the extent of his sex life were known, Doctor, all right...

MILES:  Oh, I agree.

O'REILLY:  ... he could have survived.  I think he would have had...

MILES:  Absolutely.  And I think our tolerance level for sex and violence is just off the scale, and I believe that people sexually right now -- they're more into hook-up than look-up, and I'll tell you what I mean.

They're more into just hooking up with a body, because that's what you see on television, instead of really looking at the person, like who are you with, depth, values, what's most deeply true about a person.

O'REILLY:  Well, it's too bad you didn't...

MILES:  We're missing that.

O'REILLY:  ... have that conversation with Paris Hilton.  I'll tell you why.  Because now there are other videos of her allegedly with other people and running around and -- for whatever this woman -- going on inside her head, if anything, she's certainly on the wrong path.

Now, Ms. Grubman, I've going to ask you this question because you have experience in this matter.  Do you think the press has handled this responsibly, or are they just battering your friend to try to exploit the situation?

GRUBMAN:  I think it's enough already.  I think it's -- well, you know, eventually, it's overkill, and, at this point, I think it's enough.  I think the press should definitely stop with it.  But society loves to read about it and watch it on TV.  So I understand that aspect, too, and what the press is doing.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Now what -- you were involved in a traffic accident that caused you a lot of personal angst and you had to go to court and all that.


O'REILLY:  Psychologically, what did that do to you?

GRUBMAN:  Listen, I'll never be the same person I was then, but, you know, you learn to be a tougher person, and you learn to, you know, be very different.  You just change a lot, and I'm a much different person than I was.

O'REILLY:  All right.  Give us one example of how you changed.

GRUBMAN:  I'll just never be the same.  I'm just totally -- I can't -- there's not one thing.  Just everything about me is different.

O'REILLY:  Are you a better person now than you were?

GRUBMAN:  Oh, I learned a lot.  Yes.  Absolutely.  I don't think I was a bad person before, but I'm a different person.

O'REILLY:  Now, Doctor, the guy who must be gnashing his teeth loudest in the country watching this broadcast -- and he may be -- is Gary Hart (search), former senator of Colorado, whose presidential ambitions went up in smoke because of the Donna Rice situation.  Now that would not disqualify a person for seeking higher office, would it?

MILES:  Exactly.  He was pre-Internet and pre-freedom that we have on the media.

Could I say something about the Paris situation?

O'REILLY:  Sure.  Go ahead.

MILES:  Well, we now know -- brain research has shown us that people's brains don't completely mature until they're 25.  So they're stimulating -- they want stimulation.  They want excitement, that they're excitement-seeking.

So we make a lot of mistakes in judgment before we're 25, and a lot of the viewers of the media are under 25, and so they're wanting that kind of stimulation.  They're wanting that kind of excitement.  It's easy to make mistakes at those ages.

I think we need a lot more direction and a lot more good models, a lot more guidance for people who are in those age groups.

O'REILLY:  All right.  But you're not going to get that in the media.  However, this Paris Hilton story should be a cautionary tale for not only younger people, for everybody.

MILES:  Yes.

O'REILLY:  You're going to do this kind of thing...

GRUBMAN:  I agree.

O'REILLY:  ... you better control your destiny, or you're going to get whacked.

Hey, ladies, very interesting discussion.  We appreciate it very much.

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