No. 1 cable news host Bill O'Reilly said Tuesday that he will personally write a check to cover $16,500 in legal costs for the father of a fallen U.S. Marine who sued the members of a church who picketed his son's funeral.
According to news reports, the members of the Westboro Baptist Church, located in Topeka, Kan., believe that God is punishing the United States because of its acceptance of gay people. The church garners attention for its views by protesting high-profile funerals.
On March 3, 2006, Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew A. Snyder died in a non-combat related vehicle accident in Al Anbar province in Iraq.
"He was a hero and he was the love of my life," said Albert Snyder, Matthew's grieving father.
During the wake that was held after his son's funeral, family members turned on the television to view coverage of the massive procession involving over 1,500 persons. They saw the church members waving signs and protesting the funeral.
"I just stood there in shock," Albert Snyder told O'Reilly in November 2007.
"I couldn't believe that somebody would do that to somebody else. I mean, I didn't know what to say.
"Finally, somebody yelled, 'Turn off the television.' But I just stood there in shock. I can't believe there's somebody that would actually do that to soldiers."
Albert Snyder filed a federal lawsuit against the church, and a jury awarded him nearly $11 million dollars for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. But the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the verdict on the grounds that the church's First Amendment right to free expression must be protected.
Adding insult to injury, the court also ruled that Snyder would have to pay $16,500 to church members, to defray what they spent to defend themselves in court.
It was a tough blow for the father, who was already trying to raise the funds needed to appeal the Court of Appeals verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court.
On Tuesday's The O'Reilly Factor, however, the host stepped forward.
"That is an outrage," he said. "I will pay Mr. Snyder's obligation. I am not going to let this injustice stand."
O'Reilly added, "It's obvious they were disturbing the peace by disrupting the funeral. They should have been arrested, but our system is so screwed up, so screwed up, that loons are allowed to run wild. Snyder is fighting the good fight, and he is taking his case to the Supreme Court as he should. We are behind him 100 percent."
Snyder's attorney, Sean Summers, says people can contribute to a legal fund established at MatthewSnyder.org. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Snyder's appeal during its October term, with a verdict likely to be announced in mid-2011.
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