New York Times Story About Murders by American War Veterans Questionable

This is a rush transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 17, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: We have given The New York Times three full days to respond to accusations that the paper dishonestly reported a story about American war veterans committing murders back here in the USA.

The Times ran the story on Sunday and put forth that vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are wreaking havoc throughout America. But the statistics may prove that story false.

According to analysis by FOX News, the murder rate among vets is seven per 100,000. In the same age group, among civilians who live in the USA, it is 40 per 100,000. Therefore, the military murder rate is actually 82 percent lower than the civilian murder rate.

So what's going on? Joining us now from Washington, Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, who's been writing about this very passionately in The New York Times, in the New York Post I should say. The New York Times would not provide a spokesperson.

Well, they should have you in The New York Times. I mean, my God, if what we're seeing here as far as the statistics are true, and we have no reason to doubt them, this is one of the most blatantly dishonest news stories in the last 50 years.

RET. LT. COL. RALPH PETERS, U.S. ARMY: Yes, it was really disgraceful. And the bottom line on this story was anti-militarism, hatred of our military. And the American left has become a pathology.

And the real message of this column, this four pages of columns trashing our vets was that if a vet's your neighbor, you'd better be afraid. Don't hire a vet, he or she will be violent. And for God sakes, don't let your child join the military because the military will give you back a psychotic.

Bill, by stretching — including drunken driver related fatalities, The New York Times found that since our War on Terror began, since we went to Afghanistan, military veterans are implicated in 121 capital crimes, including drunken driving.

And as you pointed out, look, you know, the numbers when you go to the Justice Department Web site and look at the real statistics, you find out that at a conservative estimate our vets are more than five times less likely to be involved in a capital crime in the key age groups for violent offenders. And our vets, as you know, are upstanding members of their community. They help out at the church. They'll help their neighbors. Most vets overwhelmingly come home and they're great Americans. And this slander on them, I mean I really think The New York Times would like our returning vets to wear bells the way lepers did in the Middle Ages.

O'REILLY: See, I don't take it as far as you take it. I mean, this is not a column or an opinion. This was a front page news story which I read, all right? And I'm reading this story like everybody else would read it. And I don't have the statistics at my disposal but I'm skeptical of anything I see in The New York Times. So I filed it away and gave our producers, you know, the mandate to check it out.

But then we started to read your columns in the New York Post, and we started to go whoa. And then independently of you, and independently of the New York Post, which is owned by News Corporation which owns FOX News channel, we checked it out. And we found what you found: that far more likely are civilians to commit murder than combat veterans, which is astounding in itself because of the violence that you have to experience in combat.

But here's how I see it. I think The New York Times hates the Bush administration in an irrational way, all right? I think they feel that the way to damage the Bush administration is to tell the world that Bush is responsible for all the social ills that can be traced back to anybody who has been in the Iraq theater and, of course, the economy. You know, but that's a different issue.

But any social ill that comes about because of the Iraq war, any unintended consequences, The New York Times is going to put on page 1 and say it's Bush's fault. It's all about hating Bush here. I don't think it's hating the military. I think it's hating Bush.

PETERS: I actually think the anti-militarism in The New York Times goes back a long way. But when you really look at the story they ran, it was written in lurid tones. And it's Journalism 101 that when you cite a number, 121 capital crimes, Journalism 101 says you cite a statistic, you put it in context.

You know, a high school term paper that didn't do that would be failed. I think The New York Times editors ran the numbers, saw that our vets are overwhelmingly law abiding, and just let the numbers out. And one more number that was interesting...


PETERS: ...on the Department of Justice Web site, Bill, in 2005 in that 18 to 34 demographic, almost 9,000 young American civilians here at home were murdered. That's more than twice the number of KIA in all our wars since 9/11.

O'REILLY: That's interesting.

PETERS: Didn't hear that at The Times.

O'REILLY: Now if you're right and they purposely misled the reader on this story, then they have a very serious problem. Now the public editor is Clark Hoyt. We expect him to be honest. This is Hoyt's litmus test here. And then we'll see. We're going to follow up on this. We're going to see what happens, Colonel, and we appreciate your time very much.

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