The UC-Davis pepper-spray incident poses a challenge to Fox News. On one hand, it was a classic case of Occupy Wall Street protesters vs. police, in which case, the network's mental calculus is easy. "Side with the police!" On the other hand, well, you've seen the pictures. They look bad. No one wants to be the person to come right out and defend the UC-Davis campus cops' indiscriminate use of pepper spray against students sitting helplessly on the ground. So instead, watch Megyn Kelly and Bill O'Reilly step right up to the edge of defending the police, without actually doing it.

This required Kelly and O'Reilly to make the following arguments:

Pepper spray is not that bad, because it is a food product. That is not a reducto ad absurdium, that is an actual quote from Megyn Kelly: "It's a derivative of actual pepper. It's a food product, essentially."

No one is allowed to question police after they do something wrong. "I don't think we have the right to Monday morning quarterback the police..." O'Reilly argued, because throwing two interceptions against the zone blitz is the same thing as spraying pepper spray into a group of peaceful protesters.


Pepper-spraying UC-Davis students is not as bad as pepper spraying normal people, because the students are probably liberals. We can't criticize the police for their actions, O'Reilly said, particularly "at a place like UC-Davis, which is a fairly liberal campus."

The campus police were only following orders.
The police were ordered by the university to disperse the protesters, both anchors argue, and they were within their legal rights to use pepper spray to do so. That second point is debatable; precedent says that using pepper spray on nonviolent protesters counts as excessive force.

But we do agree with O'Reilly and Kelly on the first, as they shift the blame from campus police to UC-Davis chancellor Linda Katehi. (Or, from blue-collar working stiffs to an elite educator, which makes the network much more comfortable.) Katehi, after all, was the one who decided that the protesters needed to be cleared by any means necessary, and then lied about it afterward. What great harm would have come to the university if they had been allowed to stay?

Latest From ...