ABC News Religion Correspondent: I Can't Judge Whether bin Laden Was 'Evil'

May 4th, 2011 4:16 PM

According to the man ABC News relies on for religious analysis, it's impossible to say whether Osama bin Laden was "evil." Father Edward Beck, the network's religion correspondent, appeared with Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday and offered moral equivalence on the subject of the terrorist's death.    

When the O'Reilly Factor anchor pressed Beck on whether bin Laden truly represented malevolence, Beck replied, "That's not for me to judge. His actions were certainly were evil."    

O'Reilly pressed Beck on this point, prompting the ABC News analyst to assert, "No, I think that's up to God to ultimately decide who's evil."


After asserting that the United States shouldn't celebrate bin Laden's death "like a Super Bowl," Beck compared American happiness over the terrorist's death to Middle East examples, such as celebrating on 9/11: "Yes, but when you watch these people celebrating, how does it make us any better than those in the Mid East who celebrate when America falls?"

(This prompted Bernie Goldberg, who appeared in an unrelated O'Reilly Factor segment, to interject about Beck. He derided, "The idea that... the Palestinians celebrated when they attacked the World Trade Center, we're just as bad if we celebrate when Osama bin Laden takes a bullet to the head. That's pathetic. That's pathetic. I mean, and that isn't Catholicism, that's liberalism.")

Beck, in his role as the religion correspondent, has appeared on Good Morning America and other ABC News programs. He has co-hosted Faith Matters Now, a web-only program for the network's religion section. This is the man ABC looks to on spiritual issues? Someone who won't even go so far as to declare bin Laden to be an evil man?

On June 02, 2008, Beck appeared on Good morning America to explain away some of the radical statements heard at Barack Obama's now former church.

A transcript of the May 03 O'Reilly Factor segment can be found below:

BILL O'REILLY: "Unresolved Problem" segment tonight. Military action always controversial in some circles and after Osama bin Laden was killed by the Navy SEALs, a few people had a problem with it, citing moral grounds. One of them is Father Edward Beck, religion contributor for ABC News. He joins us know. Now, you told our guys -- and I'm just going to quote you here -- "I'm uncomfortable with killing of Osama bin Laden being celebrated like a Super Bowl win," and you're referring to the people in front of the White House and other places, Times Square, very jubilant about bin Laden dying. Why are you uncomfortable with that?

FATHER EDWARD BECK: Rudolph Giuliani said he went to a church, which I think is a more appropriate action. It cannot be celebrated like a Super Bowl because it's a tragedy that this happened. Just because Osama killed all of these people, understandable a tragedy, killing him does not justify that action.

O'REILLY: OK. You see I disagree with you 180 degrees here. And you remember after World War II, V-Day, VJ-Day and everybody was celebrating the end of the war because we had defeated our enemies who had tried to kill us and slaughtered countless millions of civilians. That celebration, entirely appropriate. Wasn't it? It was an appropriate celebration, was it not?

BECK: Bill, when you watch-

O'REILLY: For victory over the evil forces, wasn't it?

BECK: Yes, but when you watch these people celebrating, how does it make us any better than those in the Mideast who celebrate when America falls?

O'REILLY: Well, here's why I think you're wrong on this.

BECK: This is not a Christian perspective.

O'REILLY: I think I'm a good Christian and I was very happy to see bin Laden killed because he was killing people and he was capable of doing more killing.

BECK: But how does his death then justify what happened to 3,000 people? You'd have to kill 3,000 people for you to talk about justice.

O'REILLY: No, no. If you -- if there is a criminal enterprise underway which al Qaeda certainly is, you would see that point, right?

BECK: Yes.

O'REILLY: OK. And the criminal enterprise cannot be stopped with any other method other than killing, then you have to kill. And when-

BECK: But you don't celebrate it.

O'REILLY: -the criminal enterprise is stopped- why not? That is a good thing.

BECK: Because it's maybe a necessary evil. But, what about love of enemies? What about Jesus from the cross saying these are my killers. These are terrorists. But I forgive them. They know not what to do.

O'REILLY: Personal forgiveness something the 9/11 families are entitled to. I'm not going to be -- entreat (ph) that because I didn't lose anybody in my family. But I'll tell you what, Jesus had rendered a Caesar and that meant that if you have to defend your country you are OK with defending your country. That's not an anti-Christian thing to do.

BECK: That was about money. He said love of enemies. Pray for those persecute you.

O'REILLY: But render to Caesar was a general thing- a general thing, all right, where the government takes care of the government, I take care of spiritual matters. You can't tell me that Jesus Christ doesn't want to see al Qaeda defeated. You can't sit there and tell me that.

BECK: I would say God is not going to take sides like we take sides. God has a different kind of justice.

O'REILLY: I mean, there's got to be a good and an evil in the world. You telling me that God doesn't take sides against evil? Is that what you're telling me?

BECK: I'm not saying that. What I'm saying is that we don't judge what the evil is and how it's acted upon.

O'REILLY: Who is we? I judge evil. Who's we?

BECK: By what standards?

O'REILLY: By the standards of hurting innocent people. That's how I judge it.

BECK: Christianity says you can't kill somebody. All life is sacred.

O'REILLY: Christianity says I have a right to defend myself and so does my country.

BECK: Yes, as in a last resort. If that means killing somebody-

O'REILLY: And that's what it was.

BECK: Don't celebrate it. It's a necessary evil. Don't cheer about it like we're in a bar.

O'REILLY: You're celebrating a victory of your country. You're celebrating a victory of your country.

BECK: That's not what they're celebrating. They wanted Osama bin Laden dead. Now that he's dead, let's raise the flag. Well, you know what? It may be good that he's dead.

O'REILLY: I think you misinterpreted that, Father, with all due respect. I think that they were celebrating a victory over evil. And I don't think you understand, with all due respect again, the evil that al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden had brought to the world. I'll give you the last word.

BECK: Bill, my father was a New York City firefighter. After 9/11 I was in the triage center at Chelsea Piers. I was counseling people. I've talked to people who've lost sons at 9/11.

O'REILLY: Let me ask you this.

BECK: I know what that's like.

O'REILLY: Was bin Laden evil?

BECK: That's not for me to judge. His actions were certainly were evil --

O'REILLY: Not for you to judge?

BECK: His actions certainly were evil and they caused a lot of harm and disruption.

O'REILLY: So you can't as a human being make a determination on good and evil? You cannot do that?

BECK: No, I think that's up God to ultimately decide who's evil.

O'REILLY: See? I can and I'm -- I'll probably be punished for it by the deity but --

BECK: I see a man's actions. I don't know a man's heart ever, totally.

O'REILLY: Well, I think I know bin Laden's heart.

BECK: I can say the actions were wrong and despicable and needed to be punished.

O'REILLY: All right. You're a standup guy for coming in. I appreciate it.

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