By Skeeter Sanders
As residents of this blogger's home state of Vermont come to grips with the tragedy of a 12-year-old girl from the central part of the state who vanished and was later found dead, outrage has erupted among Vermonters -- from Governor Jim Douglas on down -- toward an outsider: Fox News Channel's acerbic, New York City-based talk-show host, Bill O'Reilly.
For the third time in two years -- and the second in less than a month -- the right-wing O'Reilly has cast aspersions on the Green Mountain State for allegedly being soft on sexual predators who attack children, in the wake of the arrest of Michael Jacques on kidnapping charges in connection with the disappearance June 25 of his 12-year-old niece, Brooke Bennett, of the tiny Vermont town of Braintree.
As this edition of The 'Skeeter Bites Report went online early Monday morning, authorities had not made public details on the cause of Brooke's death, although the medical examiner did rule after an autopsy that the death was a homicide.
O'Reilly -- Without Evidence -- Claims Girl Was 'Raped'
Nor have the authorities said whether the 12-year-old had been sexually assaulted. Yet O'Reilly, in the July 14 broadcast of his Fox News talk show, "The O'Reilly Factor," boldly asserted that Bennett was "raped," according to a transcript of the broadcast published Thursday in The Times Argus, the daily newspaper of the state capital of Montpelier.
O'Reilly's remark, uttered in the absence -- for now -- of any supportive evidence, potentially could jeopardize the state and federal investigation and prosecution of Jacques and of Bennett's former stepfather, Raymond Gagnon of San Antonio, Texas.
If it turns out that Brooke wasn't sexually assaulted, O'Reilly's assertion would also pour salt into the already-gaping emotional wounds of Brooke's family.
Jacques, 42, served more than four years in prison and was under strict probationary supervision for eight years afterward for kidnapping and sexually assaulting an 18-year-old woman in 1992. He was released from probation in 2006, despite fierce opposition from prosecutors.
Gagnon, 40, was indicted by a federal grand jury in Texas on charges of possessing and transporting child pornography. Gagnon, who was arrested by authorities in Vermont on federal charges of obstruction of justice in the search for Brooke, is also under indictment in Alabama on state charges of possessing and distributing "kiddie porn."
Authorities did not go into detail about Gagnon's role in the Bennett case, but there were unconfirmed reports that he allegedly had a laptop computer destroyed. It is not known if the computer contained pornographic images of children.
O'Reilly Producer 'Ambushes' Douglas at Governors' Conference
An "O'Reilly Factor" crew "ambushed" Governor Douglas, a Republican, on the streets of Philadelphia on July 12, peppering him with incendiary questions such as, "About how many dead girls are we going to tolerate here?" and "How do you explain that to the American people?" in a clear attempt to rattle him.
But Douglas, who was in Philadelphia attending the annual summer conference of the National Governors' Association, not only kept his cool, but also lectured "Factor" producer Jesse Watters -- who claimed that Vermont was "out of control" -- that he is working toward putting "in place laws that deal harshly with people who commit crimes like that."
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