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Let's Take a Deep Breath
O'Reilly is entitled to defend himself, and he in no way condoned what happened. But the man was murdered in church. I was surprised that, along with his reminder that Tiller had been called a baby killer, O'Reilly didn't issue a ringing denunciation of the shooting and anyone who thought it was justified. The occasion, in my view, called for it; he chose a different approach.
On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann did blame Fox News, showing clips of O'Reilly denouncing Tiller for having "blood on his hands" and saying there should be "a special place in hell for this guy." Olbermann said consumers should walk out on businesses that show Fox, and said his goal is to get O'Reilly off the air. Would that mean no more right-wing violence?
In Salon, Gabriel Winant mounted a similar argument:
"There's no other person who bears as much responsibility for the characterization of 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 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.'
"Tiller, O'Reilly likes to say, 'destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000.' 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."
Ann Althouse wonders: "Is there now to be an argument that decent people who are anti-abortion cannot make strongly passionate statements in support of their cause -- that they are linked to murder if they do? I don't think that's fair.
"But very strongly stated arguments often backfire. You might want to refrain from making them."
At the Moderate Voice, Joe Gandelman also takes a middle ground: "This does not mean there is a cause and effect between O'Reilly's rhetoric and Tiller's murder -- which is being rationalized now by some who opposed what Tiller did in his medical practice.
"But it is worth repeating what we have stated and suggested here and what other pundits have said over the past few years: the over the top, demonizing rhetoric that has become the rage in 21st century America could have serious consequences."
Michelle Malkin condemns both the killing and the finger-pointers:
"Late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was gunned down at his church in Kansas Sunday morning in a thoroughly evil, cold-blooded act of domestic terrorism. Yes, terrorism. Not 'extremism.' Interesting how the t-word has been rediscovered . . .
"Unfortunately, it's too much to ask the cable news networks and hyper-partisan snipers on the Internet to have the decency to restrain themselves. Prepare for a wall-to-wall onslaught of gleeful finger-pointing on the Left and heated responses on the Right. Prepare for whitewashed hagiographies of Tiller's career as an abortionist. Prepare for DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano's defenders to gloat about vindication. Prepare for collective demonization of pro-lifers and Christians -- and more gratuitous attempts to tar talk radio, Fox News, and the Tea Party movement as responsible for the heinous crime."