So-called crime analyst Rod Wheeler appeared in June on the O’Reilly Factor to sound the alarm: There was, he claimed, an “epidemic” of violent lesbian gangs sweeping the United States.
The O’Reilly website’s synopsis of the interview quotes Wheeler as saying, “There’s a national underground of women who are actually recruiting kids as young as 10 years old to be members of their organizations. Some of the kids have reported that they were forced into performing sex acts. Some of these groups carry pink pistols and they cause a lot of hurt to a lot of people.”
Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse followed up a month later with a report posted on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website and recently published in the Fall issue of the organization’s magazine Intelligence Report. Their investigation found that Wheeler’s “national underground” network was a fantasy constructed by piecing together and exaggerating a handful of otherwise unrelated incidents.
In the O’Reilly segment, Wheeler, a former Metropolitan D.C. police officer, cited D.C.-area incidents to support his claims. But Detective Patrick Word, president of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Gang Investigators Network, told Intelligence Report that his 400-member group “reports only one lesbian gang” in the Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia area. Most of the other details Wheeler cited were based on sensationalized or falsified media reports; some, like the pink pistols, were made up entirely.
Buchanan and Holthouse’s investigation helped drag hasty qualifications and retractions out of both Wheeler and O’Reilly. Unfortunately, once such a sensational story circulates, the damage has largely been done.
Rashad Robinson, the senior director of media programs for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) told Intelligence Report, “This type of reporting creates a climate of homophobia and fear and perpetuates dangerous stereotypes of gay people and definitely helps feed into a climate of anti-gay discrimination and violence, which is a true national epidemic, but not one you’re likely to see reported with such zeal by Bill O’Reilly.”