This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 30, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight, the collapse of decency in America. We just told you about the terrible Internet situation with children. And our increasingly non-judgmental society is causing some huge unintended consequences.
Over the past few days, a family was assaulted by thugs at a Chicago White Sox game. Two babies were found in Denver, Colorado garbage cans. A Miami Dolphins football player allegedly punched his pregnant wife in the face. And this [video] 23-year-old Tampa, Florida teacher, Debra Beasley Lafave is charged with having sex with a 14-year-old boy. So what's going on here?
Joining us now from Los Angeles is Michael Josephson, and the founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics.
On the Radio Factor today, we had an hour-long discussion about the boldness, I think is the best word, of these crimes. I mean, a 14-year-old boy, this crazy teacher with another boy driving, having sex in the back seat of the car, according to the police. I mean, I know the woman's disturbed. We all know that. But getting attacked at a baseball game, punching a pregnant wife, has it always been this way and the media just amplifies it? Or is it getting worse?
MICHAEL JOSEPHSON, ETHICIST: You know, no one knows for sure, but I certainly think it's getting worse I mean from my perch and perspective.
But you know, the problem is is when we focus on the really aberrant conduct. And each of the examples you had are so outrageous. It's like the seven guards in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. I mean, you can't justify that.
But remember, we're in a society now where we've had problems with our presidents, with our priests, with our politicians, with our policemen. I mean, it's been a lack of self-restraint. I would like to say it's broader than a decency issue. People are simply not restraining themselves, whether it's Howard Stern (search) and Janet Jackson (search), or whether it's Rush Limbaugh (search) and his drug issue. People are not exercising self-restraint.
O'REILLY: But isn't that because there isn't any pressure to exercise self-restraint? When was the last time, Michael, that you heard a public figure say it was wrong to be intoxicated, wrong to get high on drugs? When was the last time you heard that from anybody other than a cleric?
JOSEPHSON: Well, I mean, if your point is -- and I really want to agree with you -- have we become more permissive, have we lowered the bar and standards of proper behavior? Absolutely.
The Jerry Springer-type show, the shows that are "Temptation Island." Even Donald Trump's show, "The Apprentice," if you look at the morality they are preaching, it's preaching self-interest, self-indulgence, self-gratification to marry a millionaire. And obviously, there's going to be a cumulative effect on this.
JOSEPHSON: We have teachers who are cheating, not just kids anymore.
O'REILLY: Yes, but see, I think it's more than that. I think it's deeper than that. When I was growing up, there was -- if you became intoxicated, that was, you know, some people said, hey, you can't do that, all right if you were a kid. All right.
Now it's like, oh, let's get high. You know, everyone says, hey -- 70 percent out of birth -- out of wedlock birthrate, OK, among African-Americans. And their own African-American leaders say there's no peer pressure to stop it. Where 30 years ago, that birthrate in the African-American community was like 40 percent or 38 percent.
So we as a society have now suspended making moral judgments. We've suspended it in school, in the media, and everywhere else, haven't we?
JOSEPHSON: Yes. And -- but when you say no peer pressure, you're right. But the peer pressure needs to start with adult pressure and parental pressure. You have those hazing incidences where there was mothers who served the liquor, who provided the liquor in one of the...
O'REILLY: But that's a criminal activity.
O'REILLY: You know, those kinds of parents are criminals.
JOSEPHSON: ...they didn't see it criminal. They just...
O'REILLY: But I don't care. You put them in jail. You put this Tampa teacher -- she's got to go to jail for five years.
O'REILLY: She's got to go to jail. But it's the lack of -- even -- I go to church. And the priests even now -- I mean, I don't want them telling me I'm going to hell if I do some stupid thing. That's not what I need from my religion. But they don't come out and say, you know, we have to be honest and here's why. You know, in a public school, certainly, no value judgments made about -- you did a survey that said, what, 90 percent of kids cheat?
JOSEPHSON: Well, 74 percent, but it sure is a lot of kids. And look, you know, we have a simple -- our program is called Character Counts. And we have a simple acronym called T.E.A.M. -- Teach, Enforce, Advocate, Model. If you look at the breakdown, you'll see we are not teaching kids morality anymore.
JOSEPHSON: We're certainly not bottling it.
JOSEPHSON: And we're not enforcing it. And we're not only not enforcing it against the kids, it's not enforced against the adults. You want to look at aberrant conduct, look at the Tyco guy who had a $2 million party with basically corporate funds or the Adelphia people.
O'REILLY: And they justify it.
JOSEPHSON: And they're going to get off.
O'REILLY: But last question. Why has society changed? Is it the secularists who have won? Is it the media has corrupted? What is it?
JOSEPHSON: You know, I think it's just self-indulgence run amok. It's like the Jack Nicholson line, you want the truth? You can't handle the truth.
The truth is it takes self restraint and morality and integrity to resist temptations of any sort. We have become so self-gratifying. We are not demanding enough of ourselves or our kids. We have the disease of low expectations and we're paying the price.
O'REILLY: So if it feels good, do it. My generation started that. Correct?
JOSEPHSON: Yes. And it's just getting worse and worse.
O'REILLY: Mr. Josephson, a pleasure as always. Thank you.
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