Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly this week drew some attention for his remark that Robert Bergdahl, the father of freed Taliban prisoner and Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, “looks like a Muslim.” There was some backlash, including tweets like this one:
— ريـم الحـرمـي (@Reem_AlHarmi) June 3, 2014
On his show last night, O’Reilly played a snippet of the backlash, running a clip of MSNBC’s Ari Melber repeating O’Reilly’s Muslim look-alike claim in a critical context. After playing the clip, the Fox News host said with little emotion: “Now, the reason I said that Robert Bergdahl looked like a Muslim is that he looks like a Muslim.”
That’s what you call standing by your story.
For the record, Robert Bergdahl, 54, grew his beard as a way to mark the time since his son was captured in 2009 by the Taliban; Bowe Bergdahl’s release was announced over the weekend as part of a prisoner swap for five Taliban captives at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A Washington Post account of Robert Bergdahl’s tactics also noted that the beard-growing appeared to be an effort to curry favor with his son’s captors.
Whenever O’Reilly does something buzzy, he strives to milk the situation, which he did last night by talking about it with Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz.
O’Reilly: “A: he absolutely looked like a Muslim. B: he talked in Pashto, the language of the Taliban. And C: he thanked Allah. I thought the appearance was totally inappropriate. I said it. I will stand by it. Why am I being injected into that?”
Kurtz: “Well, I think you went too far on that one because I’m not a fan of how Bob Bergdahl has conducted himself, but cut the guy some slack.”
Here’s one slack-cutting approach, courtesy of David Von Drehle’s just-published story in Time magazine: “Bergdahl’s father Robert was so determined to understand and communicate with his son’s captors that he grew a long, frizzy beard in the style of devout Muslims and learned to speak Pashto—prompting a bemused smile from Obama at the White House when he addressed a few words of the Afghan language to his son.”