Last night Bill O’Reilly of Fox News welcomed colleague Bob Beckel to defend his plan to suspend student visas for Muslims in response to the Boston bombings. The pivotal moment came just a few seconds into the segment, when O’Reilly proclaimed: “As you may know, one of the co-hosts of ‘The Five,’ Bob Beckel, is a big-time liberal guy. But on Monday he surprised a lot of people.”

At that point, O’Reilly flipped to a video clip of Beckel defending his plan:

BECKEL: I think we really have to consider given the fact that so many people hate us that we’re going to have to cut off Muslim students from coming to this country for some period of time so that we can at least absorb what we’ve got, look at what we’ve got and decide whether some of the people here should be going — be sent back home or sent back to prison.

I think that ought to be very selective in allowing any Muslim or future Chinese students in here. Because Chinese students are brought here, taught computers, go back home and hack us.

That clip came from Monday’s edition of “The Five,” Fox’s excellent afternoon roundtable program. Since then, “The Five” has reexamined the topic, and Beckel has appeared on Megyn Kelly’s afternoon program “America Live” and, now, “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Fox News guy says something outrageous/out-there; Fox News repeats the claim ad nauseam, inviting said Fox News guy on other shows to repeat and defend his position; Fox News commandeers some publicity on the Internet: All that is what Bob Beckel now has in common with Dick Morris.

Yet this Beckel episode is even juicier for the top property in cable news. As O’Reilly himself suggested, it’s a liberal warrior breaking with orthodoxy. Beckel himself acknowledged as much in his chat with O’Reilly, saying, “I have taken a beating from my side—I can tell you that.”

As the Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson pointed out, Fox News has used its airtime to explore a number of Muslim- and Islam-targeting counterterrorism measures and rhetoric in recent days, an effort that has called on the work of such figures as Ann Coulter, Brian Kilmeade and O’Reilly.

The presentation, however, is so much more effective when it spans the ideological spectrum, and that’s where Beckel comes in. How often do Fox News’s conservative voices take a position at odds with their camp and see that position promoted and promoted and promoted? Worth checking.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.