“Conservative hate speech”?

Doctor’s Killer Is Not Alone in the Blame, Some Say


Within nine hours of Dr. Tiller’s death, Salon magazine had catalogued references to him on 29 episodes of “The O’Reilly Factor” from 2005 to 2009. In one, Mr. O’Reilly talks about him and the lawmakers who supported his “business of destruction,” saying, “I wouldn’t want to be these people if there is a Judgment Day.”

Bloggers quickly found new examples of Mr. O’Reilly’s condemnation of Dr. Tiller. A commenter on Daily Kos noted that Mr. O’Reilly once sent a producer to ambush the doctor at his home in Kansas. After the producer told him that some people called him a “baby killer,” the doctor tried to leave his house and called 911. The camera crew ended the confrontation.

On Monday, Media Matters for America, a left-wing group that catalogs what it calls “conservative hate speech,” published a 2006 clip from Mr. O’Reilly’s radio show in which he said, “If I could get my hands on Tiller,” followed quickly by: “Well, you know. Can’t be vigilantes. Can’t do that. It’s just a figure of speech.”

Mr. O’Reilly draws wide attention because he has ranked as the top-rated host on cable news for the past seven years. Inherent in the criticism were questions about media responsibility; the blogger Andrew Sullivan suggested that the case “could be the end to O’Reilly’s dangerous, demonizing game.”

On Monday night, Mr. O’Reilly rejected those questions, saying instead that “far-left zealots” and “Fox News haters” were exploiting Dr. Tiller’s death by taking aim at his commentary. Citing estimates published by The Washington Times that Dr. Tiller had performed 60,000 abortions, he wondered why his critics were not writing about “the 60,000 fetuses who will never become American citizens.”

The exhaustive blog posts and video montages of Mr. O’Reilly’s comments about Dr. Tiller were rooted, analysts said, in a familiar yearning to assign blame, particularly in the fierce debate over abortion.

Burt Neuborne, a professor of law at New York University and a former legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that while the debate was not new, “the ability to technologically call up snippets of speech” is.

Mr. Neuborne said that a commentator’s language, no matter how colorful, generally cannot be treated as an incitement unless it directly instructs individuals to commit violence.

Comment: I'm not a Bill O’Reilly (I don't think I've watched one broadcast all the way through and in the last handful of years have not watched him at all) fan. But his speech is protected under the first amendment. My own thoughts on the murder of Dr Tiller are expressed here: In unqualified terms: the killing of Dr. George Tiller is murder!

Text of first amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

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