In 2009, abortion doctor George Tiller was murdered while serving as an usher at his church. The Kansas physician became a household name for being one of the few doctors in the country to perform late-term abortions. While many — even staunchly pro-choice individuals — would consider criticism of the doctor’s decision to perform late-term abortions reasonable, Tiller was often plagued with “pro-life” protesters, who often turned to violence as a means of pushing their agenda. The doctor’s clinic was firebombed in 1986, and Tiller was shot in both arms by Christian extremist Shelley Shannon in 1993, with anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder finally finishing the abortion doctor off during a church service in May of 2009.
At the time, right-wing media — and particularly Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly — worked around the clock to demonize the doctor. Between 2005 and 2009, O’Reilly covered Tiller on more than 28 episodes of his show, coining the nickname “Tiller the baby killer,” and repeating it ad nauseum. According to O’Reilly, Tiller, who was guilty of “Nazi stuff,” whatever that means, “destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000.”
At the time, Salon noted that O’Reilly compared Tiller to Al Qaeda and the National Man Boy Love Association, accused the doctor of statutory rape for performing medical procedures on girls under the age of 18, covering up for child rapists, and doing “the kind of stuff happened in Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union” in his “dangerous” campaign against Tiller. Gabriel Winant wrote:
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.
Over time, the Fox host amped up his rhetoric. “No question Dr. Tiller has blood on his hands. But now so does Governor Sebelius. She is not fit to serve. Nor is any Kansas politician who supports Tiller’s business of destruction,” he said in 2007. “I wouldn’t want to be these people if there is a Judgment Day. I just — you know … Kansas is a great state, but this is a disgrace upon everyone who lives in Kansas. Is it not?”
This rhetoric is, of course, reminiscent of that which has been leveled at Planned Parenthood in recent months ever since the release of fraudulent videos intended to falsely portray the health organization as a vicious cabal of baby killers who chop up fetuses and sell them on EBay. 2016 presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina latched on to the videos, graphically lying about their contents:
“As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape, I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”
Ultimately, David Daleiden, the producer of the videos, admitted he lied about numerous aspects, but conservative politicians and media — including O’Reilly — continued to push the “baby parts” lie to their uninformed and bewilderingly stupid base. O’Reilly himself resurrected some of the rhetoric he used to incite the masses against Tiller, calling Planned Parenthood an “abortion factory that sells the body parts of dead babies or fetuses.”
O’Reilly is careful about openly advocating for violence — though he did muse a bit about what he would do “If I could get my hands on Tiller” in 2006, quickly adding that “Well, you know. Can’t be vigilantes. Can’t do that. It’s just a figure of speech.”
O’Reilly didn’t explicitly order anyone to do anything violent but — just like today — the message was loud and clear: “Patriots, get out there and do something to stop this atrocity.” Today’s conservatives are absolutely responsible for the attack on the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood. The shooter, a conservative Christian who was very much against abortion, ranted about Obama and said “no more baby parts” after the murder — a reference to the exact message that was being crammed down the throats of violent and unstable conservatives. As right-wing terrorism is currently one of the top threats to our nation, right-wing media knew exactly what they were doing when they pushed Robert Lewis Dear to respond to his perceived patriotic duty to shoot up a Planned Parenthood — just as O’Reilly surely knew the effect his rhetoric would have on someone like Roeder — though O’Reilly defended his words shortly after the doctor’s assassination, instead blaming “pro-abortion zealots” and “Fox News haters” for leveling the blame at him:
Now, it’s clear that the far left is exploiting — exploiting — the death of the doctor.Those vicious individuals want to stifle any criticism of people like Tiller. That — and hating Fox News — is the real agenda here. Finally, if these people are soooo compassionate — so very compassionate, so concerned for the rights and welfare of others — maybe they might have written something, one thing, about the 60,000 fetuses that will never become American citizens. Or am I wrong?
There is no doubt that conservative media was responsible for the Black Friday terrorist attack on Planned Parenthood — which makes O’Reilly’s comments on the Monday edition of his show interesting. In an attempt to distance himself from the violent attack on Planned Parenthood, which he says “deserved every single thing they got,” O’Reilly invoked the Tiller murder.
O’Reilly told viewers that Planned Parenthood president Vicki Cowart is “blaming the killings on harsh criticism directed at the organization after undercover videotapes exposed the sale of aborted baby body parts,” an idea he explained makes no sense because “Planned Parenthood is in the baby body parts business and deserves much of the harsh criticism directed toward it.” Salon’s Scott Kaufman writes:
O’Reilly likened Cowart’s attempt to call attention to “hateful language, hateful speech, [and the] environment created around the work Planned Parenthood does” to criticism of him following the 2009 murder of George Tiller by Scott Roeder.
“I reported extensively on Tiller and after he was assassinated by a man named Scott Roeder, some far left loons blamed me,” he said, adding that the doctor “was nicknamed ‘Tiller the Baby Killer’ by organizations who objected to his grizzly practices.” He failed to mention that the “organizations” in question were actually just “guests on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’” who picked the witticism up from the host himself.
If conservative rhetoric is no more responsible for the Planned Parenthood attack than he is for Tiller’s murder, and conservatives are demonstrably responsible (After all, just weeks before, popular conservative figure Joshua Feuerstein encouraged his 1.8 million fans to “punish” Planned Parenthood and make doctors “afraid for their lives” — and that’s just one example) for Dear’s decision to stop Planned Parenthood from selling baby parts by attacking a single facility in Colorado, then his clumsy attempts to absolve the right in this latest “pro-life” bloodbath is admission that he is responsible for the 2009 shooting of the abortion doctor.
Watch O’Reilly admit to getting someone killed, below: