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Bill O'Reilly Does Some Script-Flipping On Joan Walsh Interview And Dr. Tiller

Reported by Ellen - June 17, 2009 -

Guest blogged by Julie

On Monday (6/15/09) in Bill O'Reilly's Talking Points Memo, O'Reilly decided on an after-the-fact re-do (a whole bunch of re-dos, actually) of both his motives in smearing Dr. Tiller and the Joan Walsh interview from Friday night (see my post here). I'll try to keep count of all the script-flipping. With video.

“. . . hate and hypocrisy in the far-left precincts,” Bill O'Reilly trumpeted. “...Last Friday, I asked the Editor of Salon, Joan Walsh, one basic question three times.”

O'Reilly cut to a clip of Friday night's segment with Walsh.

“Do you feel that late-term fetuses deserve any protections at all, Ms. Walsh?”

“You know, Bill, that really is the hardest, hardest issue in the abortion debate . . . .”

“Now I asked you, in the first question, do you believe late-term fetuses should have any protections in the United States at all, do you?”

“I believe that late-term abortion under the current circumstances to save the life of the mother . . . .”

“I want to ask you once again, third time: Do you believe late-term fetuses are entitled to any protections in the United States of America?”

“I believe the law should be what it is, Bill . . . .”

“And we were not talking about any catastrophic health issues here,” O'Reilly bloviated. Oh-oh, re-do #1. Walsh clearly stated (in the part of the clip immediately following the segment he played – the part that O'Reilly conveniently omitted), “That really is the hardest, hardest issue in the abortion debate. They [late-term abortions] make up 1% of all abortions, and certainly there are abuses, but the vast majority of that 1% happen to be women who are either diagnosed with breast cancer very late stage, have to choose between their baby and chemotherapy.”(Emphasis mine).

“We were obviously talking about casual executions of late-term viable fetuses. That was the discussion. Had nothing to do with Roe v. Wade . . . .” Re-do #2, so soon after re-do #1. Wow. Walsh was clearly discussing the “abortion debate” . . . wait, what? The abortion debate has nothing to do with Roe v. Wade? Or the issue of late-term abortions?

“ . . . And of course,” O'Reilly went on to recreate history, “Ms. Walsh would not answer, which is an answer. In her mind, late-term fetuses deserve no protection whatsoever.” Yikes, re-do #3 – having trouble keeping up. But, I'll help ol' Bill with the “Fair and Balanced” thing. When O'Reilly asked her, “But you're, you are not willing to state that a late-term fetus is entitled to any national protection at all . . .,” Walsh responded, “No, I'm not, I'm really not.” Sounds like an answer to me, how about you?

“Later in the interview,” O'Reilly said accusingly, “She even said Tiller was a hero. . . Now, Ms. Walsh's position is extreme, ladies and gentlemen. It has nothing to do, as I said, with Roe v. Wade or the abortion debate.” Really? Is that why you argued to Walsh, “Tiller was running an abortion mill. . . . over a period of five years – he was running an abortion mill, everybody in Kansas knows it.” Sounds a little abortion-debatey to me, especially since Tiller was running a legal clinic. I think this counts as re-do #4.

“It has everything to do with destroying human life for trivial reasons,” O'Reilly said. Walsh made it very clear she was discussing the “abortion debate.” He may have been talking about murder or satanism or the moon being made of green cheese, but she was talking about the abortion debate. And she never conceded that Dr. Tiller performed abortions for “trivial reasons” – quite the opposite, in fact. She clearly stated she had never seen any evidence of that.

“By blaming me for Tiller's murder, the far-left can avoid the human rights issue... Radical zealots want to intimidate. But they never explain their callousness to human life.” This, from a guy who spent God only knows how many segments viciously attacking Dr. Tiller when he was alive, and has spent God only knows how many segments continuing to speak ill of him after his death. And those human rights you're talking about – can we say “misogynistic?” Obviously, the women Walsh described as having life-threatening conditions aren't to be granted those same “human rights” you ascribe to an unborn fetus – unless you’re suggesting that a brain tumor is just a little womanly headache, or maybe they just want to go to a day spa.

O'Reilly introduced guests Mary Katharine Ham and Juan Williams, whom he no doubt hoped would provide reassurance that he did nothing wrong and was still big and bad. He chose very well in Mary Katharine Ham, and not too shabbily with Williams.

“Where am I going wrong here, Juan?” O'Reilly asked jovially.

“Well . . .,” Williams began, “When you talk about the kind of language that you've used, I think some of your language has been inflammatory, you have called the man an executioner and the like . . . .”

“What would you call him? That's the main criticism that I hear, that I said, 'Tiller the Baby Killer' . . . .” O'Reilly cried defensively. Well, yes, Bill, when you say “killer” over and over and over and then someone goes out and, well, kills him, it tends to resonate.

“Here's the thing, though, I support you . . . .” Williams interrupted.

“I have a simple question, Juan . . . What would you call Dr. Tiller? . . . He was killing viable late-term fetuses for any and all reasons . . . What description would you use?” In O'Reilly's particular brand of hate rhetoric, “baby killer” is apparently the only appropriate choice.

“Bill, in Kansas, he was never convicted of murder . . . .” Williams argued.

“Man-to-man, Juan, what, how would you describe him ?” O'Reilly asked with a verbal back-slap.

“He was an abortionist, that's what he was, an abortionist,” Williams stated firmly.

“How would you describe Tiller, Mary Katharine?” O'Reilly said, apparently giving up for the moment on getting the desired response from Williams.

“I think he was a man who did some really appalling things which you uncovered . . . .” Ham began. There you go, O'Reilly – you can breathe a sigh of relief.

“ . . . And I think on . . . a lot of the left this is a combination of intellectual thuggery and incredible political hackdom to sort of connect the rhetoric of those on the right-wing with the killing of Tiller or the shooting at the Holocaust Museum, which is even a further leap . . . .” Intellectual thuggery. Political hackdom. Yes, Ham, you're right – we really judge you right-wingers unfairly when it comes to your red-meat rhetoric.

“But Mary Katharine,” O'Reilly almost pleaded, “Say you were on the phone with your mother and she didn't know Dr. Tiller – didn't know anything about him – how would you describe the man? Juan says he's just simply an abortionist . . . I don't think that's accurate because this isn't about abortion. This is about a human rights issue, all right? Late-term viable fetuses being . . . snuffed out . . . .”

“Yeah,” Ham agreed, “I would simply explain that he's a guy who does terminate viable, sometimes almost full-term babies, for distinctly dubious reasons if not completely careless ones . . . and the left standard here seems to be that perhaps Kansas shouldn't have even investigated the guy . . . .”

Williams, who had seemed earlier in the discussion like he might be a calm voice of balance, suddenly transformed into an astounding suck up as he compared O’Reilly’s attacks on Tiller to the civil rights movement. “A lot of the critics come in and say that you are not allowed... to use dramatic language... to endorse people who want to stand up and protest, as a matter of conscience, abortion of late-term fetuses. And I think back to the stuff I’ve done writing about the history of the Civil Rights Movement where people stood up, engaged in... peaceful protest and I think that’s totally legitimate and how they can try to silence that... seems to me hypocritical."

“It was clear that Ms. Walsh supported everything that Tiller did, and don't want any criticism of him,” O'Reilly declared. “ . . . It's my job to look out for everybody, including viable fetuses, that's my job, that's what we do here.” If this is, in fact true (and I'm sure not conceding it's so), isn't it also your job to look after the mothers of these “viable fetuses” – or are they not deserving of any of those human rights you're fond of talking up?

“ . . . But I wasn't even protesting, Juan, I was reporting,” O'Reilly protested, “I was reporting . . . what the man did according, according to documentation from the State of Kansas and from the head of the Psychiatric School at Johns Hopkins University. And yes, I used tough language. What other language am I gonna use, Juan, when 60,000 fetuses are destroyed . . . .” Re-do alert (#5 and #6)? So, calling a legitimate medical doctor a “baby killer” and accusing him of having blood on his hands is not protesting? Calling a legitimate medical doctor a “baby killer” is reporting? I swear, I didn't hear that term used on CNN. Or MSNBC. I imagine Scott Roeder, Army of God member and Tiller's alleged murdered, used it from time to time, though.

“Here's the thing,” Williams soothed, “I thought you made an important point in the debate with Walsh which got totally out of hand when she said you were gonna regret attacking her, I didn't know if she's threatening you now – but I think you made an important point about the human rights issue for a late term fetus . . . .” Way to spin it, Williams – protect your buddy, suggest that gentle Walsh, who was relentlessly attacked by O'Reilly and defended herself and her position, is someone O'Reilly now needs to fear.

“ . . . . That's what it's all about, Juan!” O'Reilly cried.

“Now, she . . . was positing that it was about a woman's health . . . .” Williams began.

“That's what they hide behind, Juan,” O'Reilly interrupted, “They hide behind the health, and health could be a headache.” Oh, those pesky women and their silly little health problems like breast cancer and brain tumors and uterine cancer. “Mary Katharine, giving you the last word, take it home.”

“Joan Walsh is saying,” Ham said, “You know, you have to change the law in order to have a problem with it, seems to be the argument here. Your show in talking about this for, more than 40 times, actually can be a crusade for changing laws and changing social perceptions of this practice. It's not incitement, it's democracy, and I'm not sure what her problem is with it.” Way to go, Ham, out of the park! It wasn't O'Reilly being a smear merchant, it wasn't attacks on Tiller at all, it was an effort to change the law! It was, like, he was a lobbyist! A social activist even! Well, except I don't think he went to Congress or to Kansas or really anywhere except his little studio in order to be this law-changer and social perception-changer. (Can I count her re-do for him as one of his? I'm gonna – let's make it 7.)

“Her problem is,” O'Reilly wrapped it up, “They can't justify the executions of the babies for trivial reasons so they deny it when it is beyond the reasonable doubt. That's their problem.”

Interesting choice of words, reasonable doubt . . . because guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” didn't happen – Dr. Tiller was acquitted of all charges in Kansas. (video via Crooks and Liars)