Fox News’ ‘Pepper Spray is a Food’ and Other Media Attacks on the UC—Davis Protesters
A Fox News on-air discussion and a column published in the Huffington Post both ridiculed the roughly one dozen students who were pepper sprayed at point-blank range by campus police officers while peacefully and nonviolently demonstrating at the University of California—Davis.
Bill O’Reilly brought fellow Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly onto the O’Reilly Factor Monday night to comment on the incident, which has gained widespread attention and prompted calls for UC—Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi to resign.
“First of all, pepper spray—that just burns your eyes, right?” O’Reilly asks Kelly.
She responds: “It's like a derivative of actual pepper. It’s a food product, essentially. But a lot of experts are looking at that and saying, ‘Is that the real deal? Has it been diluted?’”
“They should have had more of a reaction than that,” O’Reilly said.
Here’s the clip from Mediate:
The “food product” comments prompted numerous posts mocking Kelly and inspired a hot Twitter hashtag, #fakemegynkelly where users shared other like-minded observations like this one from ThinkProgress’ Scott Keyes:
“Prison: it’s free room and board, essentially!”
Huffington Post compiled more of the best #fakemegynkelly tweets here.
Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post has a great, must-read satirical piece stemming from Kelly’s comments, saying it was “thoughtful of him to share it with so many protesters.” She continues:
Given that pizza is a vegetable, I am sure that was at least a full day’s serving of something, which probably explains why the protesters winced and squinted and tried to get him to stop. “You are too kind,” they seemed to say, “but that’s already a full day of calories! Don’t turn me into the 1 percent who gets more than my fair share of the pepper products!”
Coincidentally, a new study [PDF] by Fairleigh Dickinson University released on Tuesday found that Fox News viewers actually knew less about current events than Americans who don't watch any news, supporting previous research that found Fox News viewers were more likely to believe false information about politics. The newest study showed that newspapers and Sunday morning talk shows increased a consumers' comprehension of current affairs.
Kelly said that, based on her legal opinion, the police were in the right. “I agree it looks bad,” she told O’Reilly, saying the spray was “obviously abrasive and intrusive” and adding: “All I'm saying is from a legal standpoint, I don't know that the cops did anything wrong.” O’Reilly agreed, saying it’s wrong to “Monday morning quarterback”—or question—police officers’ decisions.
Those arguments were echoed today by a column in the Huffington Post by John Hawkins, a blogger who runs the site Right Wing News, who argued—clearly, in the headline—that “The UC Davis Police Were Right to Pepper Spray the Occupy Protesters.”
Hawkins attempts to support the claim by linking to his own site’s posts about protesters allegedly “deliberately back[ing] into police in riot gear, block[ing] traffic, refus[ing] orders to move, and do[ing] everything humanly possible to bait the police.” He follows with the absurd focus of the piece:
Then predictably, when they get what they’ve been begging for, whether it be a baton to the body or pepper spray to the face, they play the victim. It’s like watching people run around in the middle of a busy freeway hoping to be hit by a car so they can claim their First Amendment rights were violated. When the cops go up against this sort of rambunctious mob that’s doing everything possible to create a violent clash, your sympathies should always be with the police. [emphasis added]
Had the rest of the country forced the Occupy protesters to obey the law from the beginning, including using pepper spray where necessary, it undoubtedly would have led to a lot less vandalism, violence, and women being raped by Occupy protesters.
But the UC—Davis students were clearly protesting peacefully, as is evident from numerous media reports and video footage of the incident itself. And we’ve reported before that violence and reports of sex crimes have been minimal at most Occupy campus.
Being doused with pepper spray at close range clearly has negative impacts on protesters—NY Mag reports that “the spray appears to be of the MK-9 stream canister variety, at 0.7 percent strength, with a possible range of 18–20 feet and a minimum recommended distance of six feet.” And students who were subjected to the spray have suffered “sustained effects” like “a burning sensation in my throat, lips and nose,” one student told Boing Boing. Others vomited, and at least one was taken to the hospital.
Brian Stewart is the communications manager at Campus Progress.
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