Harmless Heckling or Deeply Disrespectful?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor", February 11, 2004.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the Back of the Book segment tonight, Tuesday in Guadalajara, Mexico, 60,000 fans watched the USA soccer team (search) lose to Mexico 4-0. But what happened in the stands may be more important than what happened on the field.

Our U.S. players were booed during the National Anthem, and some in the crowd also chanted -- are you ready -- "Usama, Usama," according to The New York Times. And I talked to a reporter on the radio today, and he witnessed it. It happened in the 26th minute of the game. "Usama, Usama."

Joining us now from Washington, Stephen Johnson, senior policy analyst for Latin America at the Heritage Foundation.


O'REILLY: Pretty disturbing, don't you think?

JOHNSON: Well, I think it is, but we should be careful not to read too much into this. I think what's probably more important is the fact that the United States in many other ways is not so highly regarded in Latin America. But a soccer game is essentially that. And in Latin America, if there's no heckling, it's not a game.

O'REILLY: Yes, but there's a difference between heckling and being disrespectful. You know, I mean they booed the National Anthem. We heard it there. And then a bunch of clowns running around. Now this wasn't everybody. But it wasn't booed.

See, I said to The New York Times reporter, OK, you've got a bunch of drunken clowns chanting "Usama, Usama." What did the rest of the crowd do? Did they boo those people like they would at Yankee stadium or somebody else going like that? No, they didn't, and that disturbs me.

I believe there's a growing anti-American sentiment in Mexico. And, you know, for what we've done for this country, it makes me fairly angry.

JOHNSON: Bill, I think it rises and falls. In many other Latin American countries, what Mexico did would seem tame, and not just to the United States but to any opposing team, but I think you're right...

O'REILLY: You don't really think this is disrespectful? Come on.

JOHNSON: Well, I've seen games, and, if you go down to Argentina and Brazil and Uruguay it's much worse.

O'REILLY: I don't want to go down to Argentina and Brazil. I want to go to a country we support. We support this country. Clinton in '95 bailed them out to the tune of $30 billion because their peso's going down the drain, all right, $17 billion flows back from Mexican workers legal and illegal here every year.

American tourism down there keeps their service industry afloat. We have a billion-dollar deficit as far as buying their products and their buying our products. Without us, they die. That country goes down the drain. Yet they don't like us. Why?

JOHNSON: Well, for one thing, Bill, we have a traditional relationship in which the United States has been regarded, rightly or wrongly, as the colossus, the rich giant of the North, and there is some resentment toward that.

But, at the same time, a lot of Mexicans are proud of their burgeoning democracy that came pretty much into being with the election of Vicente Fox, the first democratically elected president in 71 years, which happened in 2000.

But these sentiments rise and they fall, and sometimes in the relationship...

O'REILLY: They should be on the rise, Mr. Johnson. I mean Bush is going to give seven million illegal Mexican immigrants amnesty. They should be jumping with joy down there. Every day, more come across to get in on the amnesty deal.

So yes, I understand the jealousy. I understand the big gringo to the North. But this is just flat-out disrespectful, and I think we have to send them some kind of message down there, don't we?

JOHNSON: Well, there's not much of a message that you can send. This is about a soccer game...

O'REILLY: How about not going there?

JOHNSON: Well, you could do that. But I think a lot of people enjoy doing that.

And the other thing is that I think it's important not to blow something like this out of proportion. The outrage, I think, that's been expressed by the coaches and the team and also the reportage of this event over the media probably serves as much as a slap on the hands for this kind of behavior as...


O'REILLY: I haven't seen any reportage in Mexico itself saying that was out of line. And if you get that, Mr. Johnson, please pass that along to us, and we will put it on “The Factor” immediately.

And we appreciate your time very much tonight.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

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