Wednesday, September 27, 2006

O'Reilly on Melinda: "Suuure Looks Unstable"

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If you haven't seen it I'd suggest taking a look at this clip of Melinda's Attorney Kim Schulte as she interacts with another node of the media's Project Polarization, Mr. Bill O'Reilly.

He was definitely in top shape last night. O’Reilly walked all over Schulte, and successfully spun the interview where Melinda was indeed the killer, and we only now need to look for the evidence to incriminate her. You can't not love this man.

It’s fairly easy to see how O'Reilly framed this interview, beginning with his subtle language choices. He began by saying that Melinda “could well have killed her little son,” even though she also "could well have" done a lot of things, like, maybe, not kill her little son. O'Reilly also added that it just "makes more sense" that they "had someone on her, shadowing her" and waiting for her to go back to the "crime scene". While the police did state they were able to arrest Melinda days after the disappearance of her son, but chose not to and opted to keep surveillance on her instead, let's not spin the reasons for the possible arrest:

The reason for the possible arrest does not include hard evidence of her involvement in Trenton's disappearance, but instead relies on an affidavit (PDF) stating that Melinda lied about a threatening email she supposedly received from her estranged husband earlier in the summer. Of course, that email may also just have been a product of a messy divorce and have absolutely nothing to do with Trenton, but O'Reilly implies that the case could have been a done deal if the police chose to act and arrest her. They would just have to find the "crime scene" later. Guilty as almost charged, right?

Bill also makes mention that "we all agree" how "unstable" Melinda was. Another generalization to add to the (growing) list in this story, and Schulte let this one slide without much opposition, too. Her reply was an important start, when she stated that anyone would be in the same frantic condition if they were making the same 911 calls and interviews. She did not, however, correct O'Reilly on the overarching "we all agree" comment, nor did she ask what he was implying with the word "unstable".

There’s a subtle difference between being “unstable” given the context of the interview (Melinda presented as the probable killer, "unstable" in her actions) and being an “upset” or “grieving” mother. Schulte didn’t vocalize this. When she stated that any mother would act the same way in a similar situation, he handwaved her off and asked why she didn’t make Melinda take a polygraph.

Also important to briefly mention is the juxtaposition of segments of the 911 tape that reference instances where Melinda was unable to answer questions given to her, and O'Reilly's introduction about the Grace interview where Melinda similarly could not answer. Viewers are reminded through this juxtaposition that "unstable" Melinda could not answer Nancy Grace or the 911 operator, weakening her credibility and her defense.

Schulte had a lot of good answers to give, but with the way she quickly presented them, swallowed whole by O'Reilly's interjectory big mouth, they had little impact. These ought to be noted here: that Melinda was not initially allowed access to her lawyer, and that Melinda was counseled to not take the polygraph test. Media accounts have for the most part depicted Melinda as the one evading police, when in fact she was cooperating and following the advice given by her attorney (to not take the lie detector test) and police (to discuss events directly with the FBI and not with the local department).

In general she could have been a lot more vocal, as she often flailed and allowed O'Reilly to interject and disregard her answers, while making up answers of his own and in the eyes of the collective public whom feeds off this polarization.

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