Assassinated Kansas doctor George Tiller’s name came up often — on Bill O’Reilly’s show. Quite often, reports Salon, and in a demonizing way:

Tiller’s name first appeared on “The Factor” on Feb. 25, 2005. Since then, O’Reilly and his guest hosts have brought up the doctor on 28 more episodes, including as recently as April 27 of this year. Almost invariably, Tiller is described as “Tiller the Baby Killer.”

Tiller, O’Reilly likes to say, “destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000.” He’s guilty of “Nazi stuff,” said O’Reilly on June 8, 2005; a moral equivalent to NAMBLA and al-Qaida, he suggested on March 15, 2006. “This is the kind of stuff happened in Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union,” said O’Reilly on Nov. 9, 2006.

O’Reilly has also frequently linked Tiller to his longtime obsession, child molestation and rape. Because a young teenager who received an abortion from Tiller could, by definition, have been a victim of statutory rape, O’Reilly frequently suggested that the clinic was covering up for child rapists (rather than teenage boyfriends) by refusing to release records on the abortions performed.

When Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, an O’Reilly favorite who faced harsh criticism for seeking Tiller’s records, was facing electoral defeat by challenger Paul Morrison, O’Reilly said, “Now we don’t endorse candidates here, but obviously, that would be a colossal mistake. Society must afford some protection for viable babies and children who are raped.” (Morrison ultimately unseated Kline.)

This is where O’Reilly’s campaign against George Tiller becomes dangerous. While he never advocated anything violent or illegal, the Fox bully repeatedly portrayed the doctor as a murderer on the loose, allowed to do whatever he wanted by corrupt and decadent authorities. “Also, it looks like Dr. Tiller, who some call Tiller the Baby Killer, is spending a large amount of money in order to get Mr. Morrison elected. That opens up all kinds of questions,” said O’Reilly on Nov. 6, 2006, in one of many suggestions that Tiller was improperly influencing the election.

This does not mean there is a cause and effect between O’Reilly’s rhetoric and Tiller’s murder — which is being rationalized now by some who opposed what Tiller did in his medical practice. georgetillerassassinated.jpg

Just to short-circuit the inevitable best-defense-is-a-good-offense comments on quoting the Salon piece, let’s say that again:

This does not mean there is a cause and effect between O’Reilly’s rhetoric and Tiller’s murder — which is being rationalized now by some who opposed what Tiller did in his medical practice.

But it is worth repeating what we have stated and suggested here and what other pundits have said over the past few years: the over the top, demonizing rhetoric that has become the rage in 21st century America could have serious consequences.

Not all of America’s nuts are smashed up in jars of peanut butter.

Vigorous, heated discussion isn’t the same as demonization. And demonization has become the way to garner huge viewerships and readerships. But if issues are framed in terms of good versus evil some people could act.

It’s notable that on cable, broadcast radio and some news reports there are now stories about some pro-life leaders and pundits saying they fear this will be used by the Democrats and the Obama administration to go after the pro-life movement. Howevever, there’s a difference between members of the pro-life movement who state their case passionately, and those who decide to murder someone who disagrees with them. And it’s likely the majority of Americans would view throwing the book at those who shoot people who disagree with other Americans on issues as a not unwarranted and draconian concept.

UPDATE: And some openly applaud the killing.

UPDATE II: Also check out this post.

UPDATE III: The AP has posted this video on You Tube, complete with embed. A good recap of events:

JOE GANDELMAN, Editor-In-Chief
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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • Derelict

    “But it is worth repeating what we have stated and suggested here and what other pundits have said over the past few years: the over the top, demonizing rhetoric that has become the rage in 21st century America could have serious consequences.”

    This sums it up exactly, Joe. That kind of media reporting appeals to the basest human emotional response which is mostly irrational and reactionary. Instead of intelligently challenging the ideology, philosophy or plans presented by a person, the media portrays that particular human being as the demon behind the ideology and that person becomes the scapegoat for society’s frustration. There are many mentally unbalanced people out there who just need a little push with this paranoid fear-mongering and destructive sensationalism. These media outlets have been getting high ratings and plenty of attention with these antics for years, but at what cost? Is it worth all the distrust and anger that is boiling over in this country between the political parties, much of which is based upon a lot of sweeping generalizations and misinformation on both sides? The ones who rile up a hornets nest just to get attention for themselves are creating a dangerous situation they will have a hard time fixing, especially in regards to what has just happened to this doctor. While I agree that the person who killed this doctor is ultimately responsible for their own actions, I hope this event gives some of these media demagogues a moment’s pause to realize what strong influence they may have on their audience. If they keep these tensions rising to a fevered pitch by appealing to only emotions instead of logic and reason, there will be more events like this with people who would rather harm others in a misguided attempt to solve these issues as opposed to trying to work them out non-violently.

  • thekidde

    The right-wing religious delusionists should be aware that they are not the only people capable of using firearms in defense of their liberties. Perhaps someone will put a bullet in Orally’s ass to remind him his mouth is a weapon, particularly dangerous when used without active brain cells.

  • $199537

    The O’Reilly/Tiller connection is the lead story on memeorandum right now, and also mentioned here and at Andrew Sullivan. Joe while you are carefully saying there is no cause and effect you and others are implying there is some kind of connection between Tiller’s death and O’Reilly, otherwise why would you be bringing this up at this time?

    I have not watched O’Reilly in several years, personally I don’t like the Fox/MSNBC approach to the “news”. But unless there is more evidence to draw O’Reilly into this this is all innuendo.

  • jwest


    “Perhaps someone will put a bullet in Orally’s ass….”

    You’re obviously out of your fuc*ing mind. To make a death threat on a public figure in the comments section of a blog like this shows that you shouldn’t be interacting in society with sane people.

    Is this assault meant to give you some sort of liberal “cred” ? Are you trying to impress the left wing with how passionately you view the death of Tiller? Just how stupid can you possibly be?

  • jwest

    First off, I can’t stand O’Reily. I don’t watch his program, I don’t consider him as part of the conservative community and I don’t agree with his approach on a number of subjects.

    Second, there is no one who is more pro-abortion than me. You’ll notice that I didn’t say pro-choice, which is different. In the first trimester, I firmly believe that a number of women who shouldn’t be near a child, let alone have one should be strapped down and forcibly aborted for the good of mankind.

    However, I do believe O’Reily was doing his job in informing and publicly shaming this late-term partial birth abortionist. Tiller made a practice of killing perfectly viable human beings (as I interpret when a fetus becomes a person), so I believe he should have been exposed and held up for public scorn. The argument that exposing deviant behavior places the practitioner at risk is probably true, but that is part of the risk someone assumes when they act in a manner that could incite others to violence.

    You can’t protect the innocent from nut case murderers, nor can you protect the scum of society.

  • I agree there is no known causal relationship between ‘the factor’ and this nut. Even if the perp was enraged by the words of Bill-O it doesn’t mean a causal relationship. But there is a connection. These attacks are always from Christian Republicans. Blunt but true. I don’t think either mainstream Christianity or mainstream Republicanism condones or advocates lawless vigilantism, but clearly that’s where most of our homegrown domestic terrorism comes from.

    By the way, I have read that Dr. Tiller’s patients WANTED children. We don’t know how many had dead or dying fetuses (example was given of auto accident victims), or how many cases involved real-life risk of death of the mother. It’s presumptuous in the extreme for you to call him “shameful.”

  • CStanley

    We don’t know how many had dead or dying fetuses (example was given of auto accident victims), or how many cases involved real-life risk of death of the mother. It’s presumptuous in the extreme for you to call him “shameful.”

    Actually we do know that, GD. The state of Kansas since 1998 has required doctors to report on late terms abortion whether or not the fetus was viable and whether or not the mother’s life was at stake. The data is here. I’ve only reviewed the last three years so far, but the numbers were basically 1000 abortions past 22 weeks, with 60 % of them on viable fetuses, and for those three years, ZERO of the mothers were at risk of losing their own life. All were claimed to be health exceptions, not life of the mother. A psychiatrist who reviewed the records has gone on the record saying that there was no psychiatric exam or history done and the doctors involved in Tilley’s practice claimed some very frivolous reasons for the health exception (his evidence was not admitted in the trial, so I assume there is some controversy and not everyone will accept the veracity of what he claims, but I just put it out there for your information.)

    And since it’s always necessary to make this disclaimer, I’ll again state that I do not write these things with intent to justify the murder of Dr. Tiller, which I consider to be an immoral and unjustifiable act.

    I also have no love of O’Reilly and I haven’t watched the segments in question. Unless he was inciting violence directly though, I see no reason that he was any more guilty here than anyone else might be if they express a strong opinion against the actions of another public figure and then the figure ends up targeted. If Dick Cheney ends up assassinated, will those here who have demonized him be held responsible?

  • CStanley, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and say that you just don’t read carefully. But I am tempted to suggest you are intentionally misleading readers here about the reports you linked to.

    Here’s what they say, and please everyone, feel free to see for yourself. (I reviewed 2008 only)

    In 2008, there were NO ‘partial birth abortions.’ Zero.
    Of the total (10,642), 323 abortions were performed after 22 weeks gestational age. (3%)
    Of those, 131 were NOT viable fetuses.
    Of the remaining 192, the abortion was necessary to “Prevent substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” of the woman.

    There were NO abortions for mental duress as you’ve suggested. All were to prevent *irreversible major injury* to the mother. How dare you suggest she should be crippled for life to preserve a *potential* live birth?

    Many women lose fetuses before birth. Subjugating a woman’s rights to those of a maybe-baby is just wrong, and in my opinion, completely unconstitutional. As I’ve pointed out, subjugating adult medical rights to the rights of even another adult citizen would be a HUGE step away from individual rights. To do so for an unborn maybe-baby with NO constitutional rights, would be extremism that strips a woman of rights and renders her a fetus incubator for the state, when she’s pregnant.

    BTW, Dr. Tiller’s patients were NOT babies. They were adult women. He has pledged, as have all doctors, to do the best he can for his patients.

  • CStanley

    GD, I was responding to what you wrote here:
    We don’t know how many had dead or dying fetuses (example was given of auto accident victims), or how many cases involved real-life risk of death of the mother.

    With the data that clearly showed that in those years there were no late term abortions performed for the purpose of saving the mother’s life. You said it was presumptuous to assume that, and I responded by showing the data which is beyond presumption on that one fact.

    You then respond by saying that there were no partial birth abortions performed during those years. Did I claim otherwise? I was giving the data for late term abortions and made no statement whatsoever about whether that particular procedure had been performed.

    I did though also go into a more controversial point, and I mentioned that some people will dispute the findings of the psychiatrist who reviewed the records. You obviously do dispute it, but the reason that the charges were brought on Dr. Tiller, and the reason that the medical board had then also brought a complaint against him, had to do with the nature of the decisionmaking on whether or not it met the standards of the law. You presume since he was acquitted that he was following the letter of the law regarding true risk of loss of bodily function to the mother. Perhaps, perhaps not. It certainly taints the results of the trial, IMO, that the AG who brought the charges (after being pressured to do so by people who believed that the law was not being enforced) had won his seat partially with money provided by a PAC that was founded and partly funded by Dr. Tiller himself. You and I may have divergent opinions on whether justice was really done with that trial, but I’ll have to agree to disagree with you.

    Unfortunately, as I get dragged into a more lengthy discussion of this than I’d intended because I feel now that I have to defend my points against your rebuttal, there are some who will feel that the negative information I’m presenting is in some way provided to justify his murder, and nothing could be farther from the truth. I did want to see him lose his license and/or face prosecution because I truly believe he was violating ethics and the law- however I condemn the vigilante murder in the strongest terms possible.

  • CStanley

    And BTW, GD, all you did on the issue of viability was turn the numbers around. I correctly stated that 60% of the late term abortions during that period were performed on viable fetuses. You then broke out the numbers and pointed out the number of nonviable fetuses, the 40%. I stated the numbers the way I did, obviously, to highlight the fact that more than half of these procedures were not just barely falling into the ‘late term’ category, but had already crossed into truly viable fetuses that may have survived outside the womb at that stage if they’d not been aborted.

    The fact is that the majority of Americans do not approve of abortion of viable fetuses unless there is either potential death or very serious physical health risk to the mother. That is clearly the intent of the Kansas statute, and at issue here is whether or not that law has been enforced according to the will of the people of the state.

  • No, CS, viable fetus does not mean they would have been viable out of the womb. It means they might make it to term. In every case, the doctors verified that there would be, in your words “very serious physical health risk” to the mother. In every case.

    There were no cases in which some psychiatrist said they’d be depressed if they didn’t abort. These abortions were said to be necessary to avoid “serious and irreversible risk to a major bodily function.” Now maybe you think the doctors are lying and that Bill Frist should decide: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A48119-2005Mar18.html

    I’m clear that you denounced Tiller’s murder.
    And just so you’re clear, I’m denouncing your denouncing of Tiller himself. His patients sought medical care from him and he provided it. It is you who devalue the lives of his patients, and would strip them of the right to avoid “serious and irreversible risk to a major bodily function.” I’m PRO-WOMAN !

  • CStanley

    No, I’m sorry but you’re just not being accurate GD. Perhaps you don’t realize it, but let me point it out to you.

    On the form that is required for the doctors to fill out, there is a space to indicate whether or not the fetus was viable.

    Then there is a question “Reasons for determining viability” and one potential answer is “No reasonable probability at this gestational age.” Another potential answer is “Ultrasound- extreme immaturity of heart and lungs”. There’s no way to interpret the definition of viability as you state it, that they ‘might make it to term” with those potential responses. It’s obvious that the definition of viability there is that the fetus was at a stage when it might survive outside the womb.

    And the fact that the box was checked off for ‘serious and irreversible major bodily function’ is by virtue of the fact that no other option is provided. What was alleged by the psychiatrist who reviewed the cases is that the actual reasons in the medical records do not substantiate the use of that classification. Obviously I suspect that allegation is true and you do not.

    Would you agree with me in the hypothetical case of a doctor performing late term abortions on viable fetuses for reasons of mild mental duress, and claiming that these were serious risks to health of the mother, that this would have been illegal (under the Kansas law) and unethical?

  • CStanley

    I’m PRO-WOMAN !

    I’m not sure how I can be guilty of being anti-woman since I are one.

  • sharonsj

    If O’Reilly used his bully pulpit to demonize Dr. Tiller than there certainly is a correlation between his speech and Tiller’s murder. I’d like to see the doctor’s family sue Fox News.