The book editor of the Washington Post responded to the charge that its scalding Bill O’Reilly book review by Alan Dershowitz was a pre-planned hit job. In a Monday chat session at washingtonpost.com on the broader subject of authors, Book World section editor Marie Arana insisted her assigning editor "had no idea what Dershowitz would say." Then they clearly didn’t Google around for two minutes and find that Dershowitz loathes O’Reilly. Here’s the Q&A:
Alexandria, Virginia: Pardon me if this is rude, but might I ask Marie about her choice of reviewers on the Bill O'Reilly book yesterday? Was picking Alan Dershowitz meant to provoke the TV host? Did it seem like a book review to you, or some sort of slash-and-burn editorial?
Marie Arana: This question is way off point, but I'm glad to take it on.
When my assignment editor sent O'Reilly's book off to Alan Dershowitz, he had no idea what Dershowitz would say. Neither did I. As a lawyer, as someone who considers (every day) a citizen's rights, Dershowitz seemed a fair reviewer who would be capable of telling readers whether or not O'Reilly interprets the law correctly.
Once a review comes in, if it is argued well, and if the errors it cites are indeed errors, we have no choice but to print it. To pull a review because it is scathing would be a disservice to everyone.
But Dershowitz has a record and a policy on O'Reilly. Google quickly finds a transcript from the NPR program On The Media from 2001:
MIKE PESCA, NPR: But not everyone's gracious enough to accept O'Reilly's help.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: The fact that he's so popular and that hisinsipid book is the number one bestseller to me is a very symptomatic of what's happened to talk radio and talk television -- that the worse you are, the baser you are, the more popular your ratings seem to be.
PESCA: Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz is a ubiquitous cable presence, but he draws the line at O'Reilly. In fact he boycotts all of Fox programming, both local and national because of O'Reilly.
Dershowitz says that it has nothing to do with O'Reilly's conservatism. On that point he won't get an argument. O'Reilly says he's not a conservative. His political hero is Bobby Kennedy. He supports gun control. He opposes the death penalty. Instead of executions, here's O'Reilly's solution. [A life of hard labor rather than a quick lethal injection.]
Once again, we find a liberal media outlet that didn't really care to do a two-minute Google search. They considered that since defense-lawyering Dershowitz has taken on all kinds of odd clients and causes, he was politically unpredictable. But he's not unpredictable in his O'Reilly hatred.