The New York Times has so far been relatively sedate in its coverage of the murder of George Tiller, who performed partial birth abortions in his Wichita, Kan., clinic, mostly sticking to facts and pointing out that pro-life activist group Operation Rescue has condemned the killing. But media reporter Brian Stelter provided a platform for vitriolic left-wing accusations that Fox News host Bill O'Reilly was somehow responsible for Tiller's killing, in Tuesday's "Doctor's Killer, Some Say, Is Not Alone in the Blame." That's a nice bit of weasel-wording in the headline, using "Some Say" instead of the more accurate "Leftist Bloggers Say." The text box read: "The critics of an abortion provider are being criticized themselves." (That's putting it mildly.)
Dr. George R. Tiller had many critics, but arguably the one with the highest profile was Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News Channel host. Mr. O'Reilly, a vocal opponent of abortion, often called him "Tiller the baby killer" for performing late-term abortions and said repeatedly that he had "blood on his hands."
Within hours of the shooting that left Dr. Tiller dead on Sunday, Mr. O'Reilly found himself under attack from liberal journalists and bloggers who accused him of inciting violence. By early Monday, some Web sites were asking, as a newsletter from the Air America radio network did, "Is Bill O'Reilly to Blame for Murder Of Kansas Doctor?"
Mr. O'Reilly responded to the critics on his program on Monday night, saying that "clear-thinking Americans should condemn" the killing. He defended his remarks about Dr. Tiller, declaring that "every single thing we said about Tiller was true, and my analysis was based on those facts."
Finger-pointing is nothing new, but the nature of the accusations thrown at Mr. O'Reilly show the swiftness and vociferousness with which the blame game is now played.
Is O'Reilly really a "vocal opponent of abortion," as opposed to rallying against the extreme procedure know as partial-birth abortion? O'Reilly has hardly made abortion in general a signature issue on The O'Reilly Factor. Stelter then catalogued left-wing accusations from Salon, Daily Kos, and Media Matters, who quickly compiled O'Reilly quotes about Tiller from his television and radio show. But if O'Reilly's "highest profile" hostility toward Tiller was so obvious and virulent, why didn't the Times ever pick up on it before? A Nexis search indicates the Times never wrote about O'Reilly's previous verbal attacks on Tiller until after Tiller's murder.
Mr. O'Reilly draws wide attention because he has ranked as the top-rated host on cable news for the past seven years. Inherent in the criticism were questions about media responsibility; the blogger Andrew Sullivan suggested that the case "could be the end to O'Reilly's dangerous, demonizing game."
On Monday night, Mr. O'Reilly rejected those questions, saying instead that "far-left zealots" and "Fox News haters" were exploiting Dr. Tiller's death by taking aim at his commentary. Citing estimates published by The Washington Times that Dr. Tiller had performed 60,000 abortions, he wondered why his critics were not writing about "the 60,000 fetuses who will never become American citizens."
....within hours, the liberal blogosphere was aflame with posts declaring that Bill O'Reilly bears some responsibility for the killing. I'm not going to join the attack. It is perfectly fair to hold the Fox News host accountable for his words and to question whether he has gone too far in personally assailing Tiller time and time again. But is it his fault if some abortion-hating fanatic decides to kill another human being?