News Columns & Blogs

Pro-con: Does O'Reilly share responsibility for Tiller's murder?

There's no other person than commentator Bill O'Reilly who bears as much responsibility for the characterization of Wichita abortion doctor George Tiller as a savage on the loose, killing babies willy-nilly thanks to the collusion of would-be sophisticated cultural elites, a bought-and-paid-for governor and scofflaw secular journalists. Tiller's name first appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Feb. 25, 2005. Since then, O'Reilly and his guest hosts have brought up the doctor on 28 more episodes, including as recently as April 27 of this year. Almost invariably, Tiller is described as "Tiller the baby killer." Though he never advocated anything violent or illegal, the Fox bully portrayed the doctor as a murderer on the loose, allowed to do whatever he wanted by corrupt and decadent authorities. O'Reilly didn't tell anyone to do anything violent, but he did put Tiller in the public eye, and help make him the focus of a movement with a history of violence. Flinging around words like "blood on their hands," "pardon," "country club" and "judgment day" was sensationally irresponsible. — Gabriel Winant, Salon

We need to be really, really careful about blaming people for murder. The reprehensible slaying of George Tiller, because he performed abortions, shocks the conscience. The man who pulled the trigger — a suspect is in custody — is responsible. But within hours, the liberal blogosphere was aflame with posts declaring that Bill O'Reilly bears some responsibility for the killing. I'm not going to join the attack. It is perfectly fair to hold the Fox News host accountable for his words and to question whether he has gone too far in personally assailing Tiller time and time again. But is it his fault if some abortion-hating fanatic decides to kill another human being? If you believe in a woman's right to choose, you have a duty, it seems to me, to speak out against those who would have the government take that right away. But if you believe abortion is murder, you also have the right to speak out against the practice. That is part of a noisy democracy that places a premium on free speech. — Howard Kurtz, Washington Post