A few weeks ago, an intern at The Factor noticed an article on the internet and passed it on to a producer who pitched it to O'Reilly at our Thursday staff meeting.
Arizona anti-war activist Dan Frazier was selling t-shirts on his website with the names of 1,700 Iraq War veterans killed in action... along with the phrase "Bush Lied-They Died." An Oklahoma mother, Judy Vincent, whose son Marine Cpl. Scott Vincent was killed by suicide bombers near Fallujah in 2004 (and whose name appears on the t-shirt) was, as she put it, "sickened" that someone would "profiteer" from her son's sacrifice, so she galvanized Oklahoma to pass a law restricting the commercial use of a deceased soldier's name without the family's consent. Advertising or selling these t-shirts became illegal in Oklahoma, and later in Louisiana, but despite pleas from families all over the country, Frazier refused to remove the names of fallen soldiers and continued to peddle them on his website.
"Get me the mother for Monday, August 21st," Bill said. "And we may have to send Watters to Arizona to confront this t-shirt guy."
After the meeting, a Factor senior producer contacted the mother and "pre-interviewed" her. Mrs. Vincent acknowledged Dan Frazier had the right to express his opinion, but was disgusted he was making a profit from her son's name without her permission. She said she couldn't reach him, but heard he'd been "horrible" to other mothers who'd appealed to him over the phone. Our producer booked her and I began doing a background check on Frazier.
A simple search showed Frazier's Flagstaff, Arizona company, CarryABigSticker.com, sold far-left anti-Bush and anti-war bumper-stickers and other radical merchandise. He marketed his $18 "Bush Lied-They Died" t-shirts as his "most controversial item" and posted an "open letter to the friends and families of the fallen" on his website.
"I have no plans to remove any names or discontinue any of these products, no matter how many requests I receive. Every name matters, and will be retained to help underscore the horrific loss of life that has been caused by President Bush's rush to war under false pretenses."
Dan Frazier failed to return our calls so I flew to Flagstaff, Arizona on August 15th. The next morning, the crew and I waited outside of his home-office, and at 9:30 Frazier strolled out of his driveway onto the street.
"Jesse Watters with Fox News... how are you? Can I talk to you for a second about those t-shirts?" Frazier walked right by me. He wore dark sunglasses and a tattered tan t-shirt, shorts, sandals and a fishing hat.
"Don't you think it's shameful to be selling these t-shirts using names of dead soldiers without their family's permission? A lot of people think this is really disgusting-how do you react to that?" He just kept walking straight ahead in silence, while the crew and I kept pace. Realizing he was going to stonewall me, I peppered him, hoping to get a reaction.
"These people aren't political victims, [so] why are you trying to exploit their sacrifice? ... You're a creative guy, you don't think that you can figure out another way to personalize the war?" Still no reaction.
The camera moved to a tight close-up as I asked, "How much money have you made marketing death like this? Common decency says that when some family member asks you to take the name off a shirt that's what you do."
Frazier was walking faster now and pulling away, but I caught up and kept firing questions at him until he ducked into a neighboring property. The crew and I then headed back to our car, but while we were waiting on the corner we saw Frazier emerge back onto the street. I confronted him again.
"Don't you have anything to say to us? I think you owe everyone an explanation... some of the mothers and fathers... Do you feel bad about what you're doing at all? ... Any inclination of regret whatsoever?"
At this point, he raised his hand, and I turned to see a police car approaching. I realized Frazier must have called 911 from inside. "You called the police because you were afraid to answer the questions?" I asked him. He stood still arms crossed staring straight ahead.
The officer exited his vehicle. "We've got a report that you guys are harassing someone down here. What's that in reference to?" I told the officer we were just trying to get Frazier to answer some questions.
Frazier told the officer I was "following" him and had "no idea" I was "out there." It was the first time I'd heard his voice, and it was shaking. "I feel it's harassment," he said bluntly. The officer divided us, listened to my side of the story, checked it against Frazier's, and in the end told me I was within the law. He wrote up a report and asked me nicely if I'd call it a day, which I did since it was clear I'd gotten as much from Frazier as was possible.
I had a voicemail from Frazier when I returned to New York the next day. He called me "unprofessional" for confronting him on the street, and then rattled off a list of demands and conditions for Fox to fulfill to secure an interview with him: The interview had to be conducted at a place of his choosing, he wanted control of what type of video was shown during the segment, and wanted to prohibit Bill from discussing certain "business ventures" that he was involved in. What he was alluding to in this last point, I wasn't sure. We alerted O'Reilly and he dismissed Frazier's voicemail.
The Factor story
On Monday, August 21, I contacted the soldier's mother, Judy Vincent, and set her up to appear on the show from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She emailed me pictures of her son Scott in Iraq to better illustrate the segment, and I typed up a packet for Bill containing story background, laws, transcripts and Dan Frazier quotes. I went to an edit room and cut a sound bite of my confrontation with Frazier, along with other video of troops in Iraq. Then I assembled a photomontage and close ups of the infamous "Bush Lied-They Died" t-shirt.
During the interview that evening, Judy Vincent said Frazier is actually printing another batch of t-shirts and updating them with all 2,500+ names of American soldiers killed in Iraq. O'Reilly called him a "fanatic" and asked her what the feds were doing about it. Mrs. Vincent said that her Congressional representative, Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK), introduced legislation in the House entitled the "Soldiers Targeted by Offensive Profiteering Act" (STOP Act).
Bill asked Judy, "Do you think it's insulting to the memory of your son for him to do this?"
"I think it's very dishonest. He states, too, that it's a memorial. Well, I don't think it's much of a memorial, putting my son's name on an $18 t-shirt." Bill expressed sorrow for her loss, looked directly into the camera and shook his head in disgust.
The Factor will follow the anti-profiteering bill in Congress, and of course, continue to report on the Iraq War debate here at home.
Jesse Watters has been a producer for The OReilly Factor since 2003. Before joining Fox News, Watters worked on political campaigns and in finance. He received a B.A. in History from Trinity College (Hartford, CT) in 2001. Watters was born and raised in Philadelphia and moved to New York in 1995.