CPB Ombudsman: PBS Is Correct That O'Reilly's 'Guilty of Promoting Domestic Terrorism'

On Friday, June 12, the PBS program Now (formerly hosted by Bill Moyers) devoted most of its half-hour to the complaints of late-term abortionists Warren Hern and LeRoy Carhart smearing the pro-life movement. Hern called it a "terrorist movement," and Carhart said despite the flood of pro-life group press releases denouncing George Tiller’s murder, the movement’s "heart was certainly with Scott Roeder on the day he shot Dr. Tiller."

The only outbreak of a pro-life viewpoint in Maria Hinojosa’s report (it ran more than 20 minutes) was a set of clips of Bill O’Reilly denouncing "Tiller the Baby Killer." (The screen on PBS very clearly read "Daily Kos TV.") Ken Bode, a former NBC and CNN reporter and PBS host now serving as an ombudsman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, praised this incredibly one-sided segment and agreed that O’Reilly is guilty of aiding terrorists:

Overall, the program was strong and convincing on this point: radical, anti-abortion opponents, including Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, are guilty of promoting domestic terrorism. They always deny that their rhetoric promotes and condones the violence directed at doctors who are performing services protected under the law. However, little question remains from the reporting on "NOW" that they are guilty of inspiring the murderous outcomes they encourage. There were 3,291 acts of violence against abortion providers in the US and Canada between 2000 and 2008, including bombings, shootings and letters threatening Anthrax contamination.

The article's headline was "Now: Forceful, Accurate, and Timely." This would seem like an odd headline, since Bode thinks it's accurate to claim that a threatening letter is an act of "violence." (Bode is using a claim by the National Abortion Federation, a professional association of abortionists currently honoring Dr. Tiller as an "American Hero" on their home page.)

Bode lamented that National Public Radio correspondent Juan Williams would lower himself to appearing on Fox, and allowing Fox to exploit his credibility:

And, finally, each time a clip appeared on the "NOW" program from "The O’Reilly Factor" with Juan Williams on screen, I cringed. I admire Mr. Williams for his scholarly writing and his reporting on NPR. Fox News president Roger Ailes knows he is exploiting the credibility that Mr. Williams has built at NPR and carries with him to Fox. I wonder if Williams ever thinks that he is squandering a measure of that credibility by his continued appearances with Bill O’Reilly.

Bode bizarrely claimed that this segment was fair and balanced:

I have found that the producers and reporters at "NOW" regularly deliver strong journalistic efforts and do so within the boundaries of fairness and balance mandated by PBS standards.

But Bode would have liked a little more balance, he wrote. He would have liked Troy Newman of Operation Rescue to be grilled on pro-life violence:

Ignoring the shootings, bombings, stalkings and other violence perpetrated by radical anti-abortion activists, Troy Newman asserts, "The pro-life movement is the most peaceful social movement in our nation’s history."

Bode also thought a more balanced show would have included a former pro-lifer who now denounces his role in the "Republican Party’s hate machine."

I also would have liked to see a different point of view from the pro-life movement, one where the consequences of the "free speech" they exercise are acknowledged and accepted. For example, Frank Schaeffer, who was a long time anti-abortion activist and author of the book, "Crazy For God," discussed the Tiller murder and the activities from his own past in an op-ed on "The Huffington Post."

Schaeffer says he was "part of the Republican Party’s hate machine for many years," and now believes he helped to create the climate that made the murder of George Tiller more likely to happen. "Words are spoken that lead directly to violence by the unhinged or the truly committed," says Schaeffer. The "NOW" program would have been even stronger with Frank Schaeffer on screen, in person.

There was controversy at CPB when they named two ombudsmen in 2005: Bode, a liberal, and William Schulz of Reader’s Digest, a conservative. Liberals had a fit, and shortly after, Schulz resigned, and was not replaced. Bode is not very active in this role, writing only two blog entries in 2008 and three so far in 2009. But this hardly sounds like a critic's post. It carries the serious echo of being in the tank for a nasty liberal bias in public broadcasting.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis