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After Years of Smears on Dr. Tiller's Life, O'Reilly Complains There's Too Much Media Coverage of His Death

Reported by Ellen - June 11, 2009 -

Guest blogged by Julie

On last night's (6/10/09) O'Reilly Factor­, in the Factor Follow-up, Bill O'Reilly's leap in logic once again vaulted over the cliff. He whined about the media blitz on the Dr. George Tiller murder, as compared, in his view, with the weak coverage of the murder of Private William Long at the hands of the “American Muslim assassin” (uh, alleged assassin might work here). Although, as many of you know, O'Reilly was recently, well, forced to publicly apologize to CNN for misstating the facts surrounding CNN's coverage of Long, O'Reilly struck out at CNN again, complaining about its three hours worth of Tiller coverage, and half hour given to Long. Given O'Reilly's track record, though, I think I won't take those numbers as gospel. With video.

But first, let me see if I have this straight. Prior to the murder of Kansas late-term abortion doctor, George Tiller, Bill O'Reilly had covered “Dr. Tiller the Baby Killer” on at least 29 segments since 2005. Sound a little like a media blitz? It was – especially considering that Tiller's only newsworthiness was the fact that, as a physician performing late-term abortions, his actions ramped up abortion debates and ran contrary to The Christian Right Network Fox News' and O'Reilly's generally anti-abortion stance (though not contrary, it's important to note, to the laws of Kansas).

Prior to the murder of Private William Long, on the other hand, you want to know how many segments O'Reilly devoted to him? Zip, zero and zilch, according to a search of the Fox News website. But now, despite his repeated attacks on Dr. Tiller for years prior to his murder, and his non-coverage of Private William Long prior to his, O'Reilly is in hysterics because, in his view, the “mainstream media” hasn't given Private William Long's murder its due airtime. (I think O'Reilly more than made up for it, don't you?) O'Reilly attacked and smeared and denigrated Dr. Tiller, and in so doing dragged Dr. Tiller to the forefront of the media. And now he wants to complain when the coverage of that person doesn't suit him – and specifically, when he himself is dragged into the mix for his questionable responsibility in Tiller's murder due to that same smear campaign. I'm sure O'Reilly would like to completely squelch the media coverage of Dr. Tiller's murder, given the fact that fingers are pointing at him – but who is he to howl now about the “excessive” coverage of Dr. Tiller when he was the inventor of the ram-Dr.-George-Tiller's-horrible-actions-down-viewers'-throats-until-his-death concept?

O'Reilly played a clip of the “assassin” of Private Long, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, telling AP that he didn't think killing Long was murder, because murder is an act committed without justified reason, and he believed the murder was justified – so voila, he's not guilty. Okay, so he's a wingnut.

“Okay,” O'Reilly continued, “So that is the terror line, and you're hearing it . . . according to a new Pew study the American media spent far more time on the murder of Tiller than on the murder of Private Long.” Two points here. First, of all, Scott Roeder's recent statement that more violence is coming is also a “terror line” – where's the outrage? And, as far as the media spending more time on the murder of Tiller – what about all the hours you spent on Tiller's life, since 2005? Also, as pointed out in the Washington Times, quoting Mark Jurkowitz of the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, “Tiller is already a well-known figure in the media, and his shooting sheds light on a highly polarizing social issue in America - abortion. The media finds such conflict stories very attractive. This one immediately sparked a debate, and many reactions from pro-choice and pro-life sides. It became the bigger story. The Long shooting does not come with big political arguments. It is not a wedge issue. The country is of one mind when confronting the nature of that crime.”

O'Reilly welcomed Newsday writer Ellis Henican on to debate the issue. Henican initially attempted to explain to O'Reilly the decisions that go into coverage of stories, to which O'Reilly's response was only, “Who has the highest ratings on cable news?” Oh, right, don't question the God of Cable.

“So my decision was,” O'Reilly righteously stated, “To give Private Long just about as much exposure as Dr. Tiller . . . it really wasn't much of a debate about Private Long, that was a heinous crime by a terrorist – with the Tiller thing it got personal with me, so then it went over the line.” There are many of us who will argue, rightfully, that the murder of Dr. Tiller was also a “heinous crime” by a “terrorist,” and worthy of outrage, regardless of whether it got personal with you or not.

“But . . . we covered the murders of both men in a straight news fashion, and then it got into the idealogy,” O'Reilly claimed. Wasn't it that same idealogy that brought you, 29 Tiller smear segments later, into the limelight yourself, as potentially inciting Tiller's murder? And it sounds as though you see no reason for debate on the Long murder because it was so “heinous,” but with Tiller, well, maybe not so much.

“ . . . Are you gonna sit there and tell me,” O'Reilly pugnaciously challenged Henican, “That a private in the Army assassinated in a small town by a Muslim terrorist in America doesn't rise newsworthiness to the level of a Dr. Tiller? It doesn't rise? Does it rise or not?” Again, you, O'Reilly, must have felt that the life Dr. Tiller led was pretty high in newsworthiness – I mean, you covered him in all those segments, when you could have been covering, I don't know, some domestic terrorist activity or another instead.

“You know what,” Henican responded, “I would have given more coverage to the abortion thing for several reasons . . . the prominence of the victim, the incendiary aspects of the debate that underlies it, the fact that this really is the issue, abortion, that has divided America . . . Nobody is in favor in this country of shooting military recruiters, that is not a debate.”

“I think the abortion controversy and the Islamic terror controversy are both the same in intensity,” O'Reilly stated. Again, O'Reilly, 29 segments on Tiller? Want to talk intensity?

Henican pointed out that there are thousands of murders, many of which get no coverage at all.

“If you think this was a regular murder, of Private Long, you're crazy,” O'Reilly said dismissively. “Ten to one . . . .”

“Zero for 9,000 other murders,” Henican shot back.

“Those murders aren't the same as a Muslim terrorist killing a soldier,” O'Reilly practically screamed. Yes, on Fox News, never miss a chance to slam a Muslim, and it sure seems that on Fox News some peoples' lives are, well, just worth more. Like a soldier, killed by a trigger-happy Muslim. That's good Fox News fodder. A late-term abortion doctor, on the other hand – well, his death at the hands of a radical anti-abortion zealot is sort of reaping what he sowed.

“You gonna tell that to the mom of those people?” Henican challenged.

“ . . . now you're into crazyland, you just went into crazyland,” O'Reilly said.

“It's not a moral equation,” Henican said. “. . . The prominence of the victim, the incendiary aspects of the issue, who's fanning the flames . . . in the Tiller case . . . The fact that you covered it so much was in large part a response to all of the debate . . . .”

“I was attacked . . . .” O'Reilly interrupted indignantly.

O'Reilly lamely tried to defend his heavy coverage of Dr. Tiller, and using the familiar “best defense is a good offense” tactic, accused Katie Couric and Charles Gibson of not covering the Private Long murder.

“I'll take your word,” Henican said, “I don't know.” This didn't sit well with O'Reilly, who, despite the fact he'd been publicly outed lying about CNN, clearly felt his word should nevertheless be gospel.

“But you're still falling into a trap,” Henican said. “ . . . you're trying to rate the death of one person and apply some moral, some moral . . . .”

“Absolutely,” yelled O'Reilly, “It was an idealogical play, it was an idealogical play.”

“Both of them were,” Henican snapped, “But only one of them had a prominent victim, only one of them was around the case of abortion, only one of them dragged you into it.”

“Here's your problem,” O'Reilly said, “Even when the facts overwhelm your argument, you don't give in, that's your problem.”

Henican held his ground, saying, “Your problem . . . you just keep repeating that there somehow ought to be some moral equivalency . . . .”

“Our news decision is based on what is important,” O'Reilly argued. “Their news decision is based on idealogy.” And your 29 segments smearing Dr. Tiller were based on idealogy. And the fact that I haven't seen you once demonstrate sincere remorse at Dr. Tiller's death is based on idealogy. And the fact that you'd rather give airtime to a Muslim “assassin” of a soldier than an anti-abortion right-wing Army of God member who picked off an abortion doctor about whom you've been off-the-scale critical is based on idealogy. And the fact that I didn't see one Factor segment covering the statement of Tiller's alleged assassin, Scott Roeder, that more murders similar to Tiller's are coming – that lack, too, is based on idealogy.

“And even you got dragged into more coverage of the abortion thing,” Henican said, getting the last word.

Yes, indeed he did.