For Once, Defending
Bill O’Reilly: Tiller’s Blood is Not on His Hands
In the wake of the murder last week of Kansas abortion doctor George
Tiller, a very unsettling debate has begun to unwind about whom,
exactly, has "blood on their hands" as a result of the killing. As with
most cases like this, my answer begins and ends with the person who did
the actual killing.
Some background: Tiller, of Wichita, one of the few doctors in America
who still performed late-term abortions, often found himself under fire
from anti-abortion groups, media personalities and even government
officials who tried on multiple, unsuccessful occasions to prosecute
On May 31, Tiller was shot dead in cold blood while he stood in church
with his wife looking on from the church's choir. The shooter, Scott
Roeder, who was captured a few hours later, was an anti-abortion
activist who had been associated with some radical groups and made
violent and apocalyptic Internet postings.
The anti-abortion movement, to its credit, unequivocally condemned the
killing, with the exception of the extremist Operation Rescue, which
equivocated somewhat. But starting the day of the murder, an awkward but
very familiar dance began on the cable news airwaves: MSNBC blamed Fox
News – specifically Bill O'Reilly, who had frequently targeted Tiller –
while O'Reilly returned fire by playing the victim card.
For once, I'll defend O'Reilly. He does not have "blood on his hands,"
for the simple reason that he never came close to suggesting that
someone should kill Dr. Tiller. Not to mention, we don't know for a fact
that the shooter has even seen O'Reilly's show. Blaming O'Reilly for
this makes about as much sense as blaming video game developers for the
Columbine and Virginia Tech attacks.
(Incidentally, according to a Huffington Post report Monday, Roeder's
lawyers are supposedly considering using the "O'Reilly Defense" –
essentially, that O'Reilly made him do it – at trial. Good luck with
that. If the killer was part of some organized group, that must be
investigated – and supposedly, that's happening right now. But blaming
the host of a TV show?)
Yes, O'Reilly is guilty of hyperbole, especially in the way he regularly
calls people – not just Tiller, but people such as blog commenters – “nazis."
O'Reilly's definition of "nazi" appears to be “anyone I don't like." I
also don't believe that the "far left's exploitation" of this to blame
O'Reilly is either a bigger story or a bigger outrage than the fact that
a man was shot dead. But no, he's not to blame for Tiller's death.
Tiller provided a medical procedure that, for all its wedge-issue
political tarring, is in many cases a necessary and life-saving surgery
– one that fewer and fewer doctors are now willing to perform. Andrew
Sullivan, on his site, has been posting heart-wrenching stories from
readers who have been through medical complications during pregnancy and
needed late-term procedures – and this from a blogger who has said that
he's opposed to late-term abortion.
The abortion issue is heart- and gut-wrenching for everyone. See Tony
Kaye's incredible documentary Lake of Fire for more on that. But
all reasonable people should be able to agree that killing doctors is
wrong, and that blaming such killings on TV personalities isn't right,