ABC's Take on Tiller Murder: 'The Abortion Debate Turns Deadly'

"Good Morning America's" coverage on Monday of the May 31 murder of abortionist George Tiller featured no examples of pro-life organizations condemning the killing. Additionally, co-anchor Diane Sawyer opened the program with an oddly worded tease. "The abortion debate turns deadly. A doctor known for performing late-term abortions gunned down at church." The abortion debate turns deadly? If the procedure is successfully performed, isn't abortion always fatal?

Reporter Kofman highlighted glee on the internet over the slaying of the Kansas-based doctor who carried out late-term abortions. He announced, "On Twitter, one person wrote, 'Oh, happy, day. Tiller the baby killer is dead.' Another wrote, 'God bless the gunman.'" Kofman added, "Clearly, the passions in this issue have not gone away." Of course, other than a bland observation that "many" on both sides of the debate have condemned the killing, Kofman offered no quotes from organizations, such as the Family Research Council [FRC], who denounced the murder. [Audio available here]

For instance, FRC President Tony Perkins said in a news release: "We strongly condemn the actions taken today by this vigilante killer and we pray for the Tiller family and for the nation that we might once again be a nation that values all human life, both born and unborn."

In addition to the Twitter quotes, Kofman noted, "...Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, issued off this statement: 'George Tiller was a mass murderer. He was an evil man. His hands were covered with blood.'" Wouldn't it be fair to at least point out the specific pro-life organizations that have strongly rejected this violent act?

A transcript of the June 1 segment, which aired at 7:03am, follows:

7am tease

DIANE SAWYER: The abortion debate turns deadly. A doctor known for performing late-term abortions gunned down at church.

7:03

CHRIS CUOMO: We also have more information for you on the other top story of the morning, the murder of one of the few doctors in the country who performs late-term abortions. Dr. George Tiller was gunned down Sunday morning in the foyer of his church. Late-term abortion is legal in Kansas if it is needed to prevent irreversible impairment to the mother. ABC's Jeffrey Kofman is in Wichita, Kansas. He has the very latest for us. Good morning, Jeffrey.

ABC GRAPHIC: Murder in the Church: Abortion Doctor Assassinated

JEFFREY KOFMAN: And good morning to you, Chris. It happened just as Sunday services were getting under way. After enduring bombings, threats and protests for decades. Dr. George Tiller was killed with a single gunshot.

JIM STANFORD (Friend of George Tiller): George Tiller was a friend of mine and I care about him and I'm sorry he's gone.

KOFMAN: Hundreds of people gathered at an impromptu vigil in Wichita for one of the nation's most controversial doctors.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I didn't always agree, but then I came to a place where I understood.

KOFMAN: Dr. George Tiller, in the news for years because he was one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions, was shot and killed Sunday morning at Reformation Lutheran Church while serving as an usher in the church lobby. His wife and his daughter were also in the church at the time. Just hours after the murder, police pulled over a blue Ford Taurus heading from Wichita to Kansas City. A 51-year-old suspect, Paul Roeder, is now in custody and expected to appear in court later today. His ex-wife was reached by phone.

EX WIFE OF SUSPECT PAUL ROEDER (not identified): He was very vocal about his feelings of abortion. He was part of different militia things and anti-government and anti-tax and anti-abortion, obviously.

KOFMAN: This is not the first time the doctor has come under attack from anti-abortion activists. He drove an armored car. He often wore a bulletproof vest. His clinic was bombed in 1987. He was shot in both arms in 1993, but defiantly he was back at work the next day.

DR. GEORGE TILLER (June, 1991): I have a right to do is go to work. What I'm doing is legal. What I'm doing is moral. What I'm doing is ethical and you're not going to run me out of town.

KOFMAN: Recent controversy over his work made him the focal point of many debates on cable, often referring to him as "Tiller the baby killer."

BILL O'REILLY: I don't care what you think. We have incontrovertible evidence, inconvertible evidence, right, that this man is executing babies about to be born in late term because the woman is depressed.

KOFMAN: While many on both sides of this divisive debate condemn the shooting of Dr. Tiller, Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, issued off this statement: "George Tiller was a mass murderer. He was an evil man. His hands were covered with blood." And a lot of inflammatory comments on the internet. On Twitter, one person wrote, "Oh, happy, day. Tiller the baby killer is dead." Another wrote, "God bless the gunman." Clearly, the passions in this issue have not gone away. Diane?

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org