Recently, Bill O'Reilly used Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) to illustrate that he condemns extremists on the right as well as those on the left, but the problem is that Phelps isn't one of the “far right nuts,” he's one of the “left wing loons.”
On the November 1 “O'Reilly Factor,” the Fox News talker criticized the Kansas-based WBC as a “far right group” that loudly protests military funerals because they disagree with the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy that allows closeted gays in the military.
But Phelps isn't “far right.” According to Wikipedia and Kansas Voter View, he's a registered Democrat who ran in five Kansas Democratic primaries, including governor. He also reportedly campaigned for then-Sen. Al Gore in the 1988 presidential campaign (these photos seem to back this up), culminating in invitations to both Clinton-Gore inaugurations, although that support waned as Clinton-Gore promoted gay rights.
Unfortunately, O'Reilly seems to have fallen for the myth, labeling Phelps “far right” on both the November 1 and November 5 “O'Reilly Factor.” In the first show, O'Reilly called WBC a “far-right group” in the promotional teaser, as well as the introduction for the segment, stating, “A far-right group must pay the father of a dead Marine millions (bold mine throughout).”
In the actual segment, O'Reilly again linked Phelps and WBC to the right, implying the group is “far-right” by contrasting it with one that is far left:
And it's a shame there are this many crazy people in the world. You know, we've got the people attacking the churches--the far left loons and we got these people interrupting a military funeral.
During the November 5 viewer email follow-up, O'Reilly read responses to the previous piece about WBC and again branded Phelps “far right,” stating that he calls out both the left wing loons and “far right loons” equally.
This is not new. July 20, O'Reilly wielded the same technique to demonstrate that he is an equal-opportunity critic of political extremism by the “left wing loons” and “right wing nuts.” That's an even-handed policy, one that Old Media should note, but O'Reilly placed these particular loons on the wrong ideological side.
Between lefty blogs like Daily Kos and lefty websites like Think Progress, the left still tend to cast Phelps as a righty. Perhaps knowing Phelp's political background, the majority of Old Media very studiously avoid labeling Phelps, which contrasts with their habit of identifying people as righties whether the story calls for it or not. I doubt they would show that restraint if Phelps and WBC were "far right," especially if the preacher claimed to have photos of George W. Bush instead of Al Gore.
Hopefully, the next time that O'Reilly features Phelps and his church, he will get the political association correct, or better yet, starve them of the media they crave.
Photo via Orlin Wagner/AP and MSNBC.com
Lynn writes for NewsBusters and can be reached at tvisgoodforyou2 AT yahoo DOT com