Claims he is victim of 'left-wing' cabal out for him, Fox 'News'
Concedes Tiller broke no laws, but stands by 'reporting' anyway...
By Brad Friedman on 6/1/2009, 5:48pm PT  

[Updated at end of article with videos of responses to O'Reilly response from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann.]

After years of demonizing Kansas physician Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in his Wichita church on Sunday, Fox "News" host Bill O'Reilly toned back his inflammatory rhetoric on his first show back since yesterday's murder. (See video at end of article.)

Where he had previously, and repeatedly, described Tiller as "Tiller the Baby Killer," equated him with Nazis and al-Qaeda, described him repeatedly as "executing babies" and "operating a death mill," tonight O'Reilly characterized himself as the victim of a "left-wing" cabal of "Fox News haters" trying to "exploit" the tragedy to "shut guys like me down." Notably, however, he did not use the same strident rhetoric that had characterized his "reportage" of Tiller in the past...

"What [Tiller] did was within Kansas law," O'Reilly admitted, following his Talking Points commentary segment in which he identified critics in the media and blogosphere who had noted his years of demonization and dehumanization of Tiller, suggesting some complicity by the man who anchors the most-watched program on cable "news."

In response to a Huffington Post editorial which claimed O'Reilly would "back-peddle" on tonight's show following the murder, he told viewers "No backpedaling here...Every single thing we said about Tiller was true."

He then went on to backpedal on largely everything, at least the most outrageous allegations, that he'd previously reported.

"We based on our analysis on the facts," O'Reilly said in his own defense tonight. Though his previously "analysis" including the repeated allegation that Tiller was a mass-murderer was nowhere to be heard this evening. He did not use the term "murder" to describe what Tiller did, as he had so frequently in the past. He used carefully selected, non-libelous phrases such as "destroyed fetuses" instead.

And where he had previously charged Tiller with "operating a death mill," the closest he came to that tonight was the carefully worded use of "this mill" when he admitted that Tiller hadn't been found guilty of breaking any laws. "The people of Kansas allowed this mill to take place" for thirty five years, he said.

In a later segment, he alleged that pro-life groups have been very respectful since the tragedy, but that his critics were "exploiting Tiller's family." He did not note any of the dozens of blog comments from rightwingers applauding and celebrating the death of Tiller, as we noted in an update to our item yesterday. Neither did he report on the statement on Tiller's death by Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, a frequent guest on Fox "News," which began: "George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God."

Though his reportage is still as misleading and inaccurate as ever, we're happy to see O'Reilly's new, more responsible approach to his hateful, libelous, and dangerous rhetoric. In the toning back of his own rhetoric, Bill O'Reilly acknowledges the irresponsibility of his own previous behavior.

We hope he'll continue to recognize the power of his words and use that power carefully. It's a shame he hadn't taken a similar tack over the 4 years, and at least 29 episodes in which he'd irresponsibly accused Tiller of committing crimes that he hadn't.

Everything O'Reilly said was not true, despite his claims to the contrary tonight. A man is dead in Kansas, in no small part, thanks to the type of irresponsible "reporting" and incessant, outrageous hatred, that O'Reilly helped to inflame.

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O'Reilly's response to the Tiller murder from tonight's show, follows just below this compilation of some of O'Reilly's most outrageous attacks on Tiller over the last 4 years follows below, courtesy Jed Lewison at Daily Kos...


And here is O'Reilly's Talking Points commentary tonight, followed by an interview segment on the same topic with two people who agree with him, both segments featuring his carefully parsed and toned-back language...


Update: Kieth Olbermann and Rachel Maddow both commented, as expected, on O'Reilly, on his complicity in Tiller's murder, and on his response to the assassination tonight.

Maddow first. She features an interview with Frank Schaeffer, a repentant member and founder of the hard-core religious rightwing, now author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back, on the Fox "News"-supported rightwing "incitement to terrorism," and the apology he posted for the Tiller murder today at HuffPo in an article titled "How I (and Other "Pro-Life" Leaders) Contributed to Dr. Tiller's Murder"...

Next, Olbermann who calls for a "quarantine" of Fox "News"...

UPDATE 6/4/09: Sadly, O'Reilly can't even help from spinning in his own "No Spin Zone". He is continuing to back-pedal on his own video-taped behavior, now out-and-out lying about the fact that he called Tiller, "Tiller the Baby Killer", repeatedly and regularly. Details, and documentation, on the stunning lack of intellectual honesty, even for Bill O'Reilly, now right here...