In 2002, I was on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss why the media were so lustily attacking Martha Stewart for insider trading while men involved in much larger financial scandals, like Enron's Kenneth Lay and Tyco's Dennis Kozlowski, were relatively ho-hummed off the stage. When O'Reilly and I wrapped up our little skirmish, he smiled and told me off air, "People love this stuff!"
For anyone who's ever watched O'Reilly, there's nothing surprising about his cynical suggestion that it's all for show (maybe it's a mild jolt that he thought even a leftwing lunatic like me might enjoy performing in his theater of conflict, as if being bullied were a chance to preen for the camera). Besides, acknowledging that he tries only to provide the overwrought bluster the Foxy masses crave doesn't prove that O'Reilly doesn't believe everything that comes out of his mouth.
But it does make you wonder about how casually he takes on beliefs. Monday night, in defending himself from charges that as the leader of the "Tiller the Baby Killer" media attack, O'Reilly played the "Words don't kill people, guns do" media defense. (Although O'Reilly is quick to blame the liberal media's words for all sorts of violence and mayhem, as Keith Olbermann points out.)
O'Reilly briefly explained--after Dr. George Tiller was murdered, not before--why vigilantism and murdering those with whom you disagree is wrong. Then, he spent the rest of the four minutes bolstering his story--"no back-pedaling here...every single thing we said about Tiller was true"--and performing the old "I'm the victim" Fox-trot. "When I heard about Tiller's murder," he said, "I knew pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters would attempt to blame us for the crime, and that is exactly what has happened."
I especially like the part where he plays the scientist: "My analysis was based on those facts." "Facts" like these about Tiller, as Salon found:
He's guilty of "Nazi stuff," said O'Reilly on June 8, 2005; a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida, he suggested on March 15, 2006. "This is the kind of stuff happened in Mao's China, Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Soviet Union," said O'Reilly on Nov. 9, 2006.
While attempting to legally cover his butt, O'Reilly has come closer than anyone in the media in calling for something to be done about Tiller:
And if I could get my hands on Tiller--well, you know. Can't be vigilantes. Can't do that. It's just a figure of speech.
But despicable? Oh, my God. Oh, it doesn't get worse. Does it get worse? No.
Of course, as long as O'Reilly doesn't directly tell an individual to commit violence, he has the freedom of speech to go right up to that line, and then scurry away.
While O'Reilly takes on "far left zealots" like former 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes and the Daily News's Helen Kennedy (who had the nerve to call his Tiller attacks "rants"), he carefully doesn't address Frank Schaeffer, the former religious right activist who now, with almost painful honesty, writes, "I share the blame (with many others) for the murder of Dr. George Tiller."
Schaeffer also says that many of the anti-abortion groups and media figures who are publicly distancing themselves from Tiller's murder are likely popping open the champagne in private. In other words, he demolishes the whole "words don't kill" charade:
But Bill doesn't--or won't--see responsiblity and morality in such nuanced terms. I think he's perfectly capable of understanding moral gray grounds. But it wouldn't be the sort of stuff that people love.