By last night a number of rightie bloggers were bristling with outrage that anyone would assume Dr. Tiller’s murderer was an anti-abortion activist.
This morning I see that the person who has been accused of the murder — let’s not forget the presumption of innocence — was an anti-abortion activist.
Peter Slevin and Robert Barnes write for the Washington Post that the accused man, Scott Roeder, “is known in anti-abortion circles as a man who believes that killing an abortion doctor is justifiable.”
As news of Roeder’s arrest traveled, Kansas City activist Regina Dinwiddie remembered the day a dozen years ago when Roeder hugged her in glee after trying to frighten an abortion provider by staring him down inside a Planned Parenthood clinic.
“He grabbed me and said, ‘I’ve read the Defensive Action Statement and I love what you’re doing,’ ” Dinwiddie said in a telephone interview. She was a signer of the 1990s statement, which declares that the use of force is justified.
“I said, ‘You need to get out of here. You can get in a lot of trouble,’ ” Dinwiddie recalled.
Dinwiddie said she does not consider death of Tiller, the nation’s most prominent provider of controversial late-term abortions, to be a homicide.
Another anti-reproductive rights activist, described Roeder as “anti-government” and recalls Roeder had visited Rachelle “Shelley” Shannon, convicted of shooting Dr. Tiller several years ago, in prison.
Also, in May 2007 Tiller’s place of worship was identified on the Operation Rescue website, with the suggestion that people go there and “ask questions” (i.e., harass) the pastor and church members. Dr. Tiller was killed while handing out bulletins in the church’s lobby.
Today rightie bloggers are bristling with outrage at the suggestion that hate speech they and others have flung at Dr. Tiller over the years had anything whatsoever to do with his murder. Little Lulu:
Every mainstream pro-life organization has unequivocally condemned the killing.
I repeat: Every mainstream pro-life organization has unequivocally condemned the killing.
To me, this is akin to giving a known pyromaniac a can of gasoline and a book of matches and then denying you meant for him to start a fire. Condemning the act after it has occurred does not whitewash one’s complicity in it.
Malkin also is amused that so many of us are calling the murder of Dr. Tiller an act of terrorism. “Interesting how the t-word has been rediscovered,” she says. Malkin, you might recall, was at the forefront of the right-wing hysteria campaign against the recent Department of Homeland Security report to federal, state and local law enforcement regarding the threat of terrorism from right-wing extremists groups.
Malkin bristled with outrage at the suggestion that people such as, for example, anti-abortion activists might be capable of violence, and called the report a “hit job” on conservatives. Seems that it’s Lulu who needed to rediscover the “t-word.”
Today many people are focusing on Bill O’Reilly’s long and highly visible crusade against Dr. Tiller. It’s one thing to declare that one is opposed to third trimester abortions; it’s another thing to lie about them. O’Reilly said this on his radio program last year:
Now, a guy in Kansas, George Tiller, OK, can kill a baby — kill a baby — a half-hour before the baby’s supposed to be birthed for no reason whatsoever other than the mother has a pain in her foot. OK? Mother’s health: pain in the foot, migraine headache, whatever it may be.
That’s an outright lie. Kansas law allows no such thing. O’Reilly can tell one lie after another on radio and television, and call it “journalism,” and there appears to be no way to stop him from doing so as long as his employer, Rupert Murdoch, approves of it.
However, I sincerely hope Dr. Tiller’s heirs take O’Reilly and Murdoch to court and sue their socks off.
This nation has a deep commitment to free speech without government censorship. One of the few values Left and Right hold in common is the right of someone to say any damnfool thing he likes without penalty of law. About the only exception is where personal injury is involved. Many other western democracies place some limits on what people can say when it might incite violence, or sometimes just because — literature denying the Holocaust is banned in some places. I don’t want to go that way.
However, maybe it’s time we revisited libel laws. As a rule journalists — including faux journalists like O’Reilly — have little to fear from libel lawsuits, because the plaintiff has to prove “actual malice.” Publishing or broadcasting an untruth, even when it causes harm, is not necessarily libelous if the defendant can claim it was an innocent mistake. Of course, O’Reilly’s been in “reckless disregard for the truth” territory for some time. Perhaps we need to clarify exactly how far a public mouthpiece can go before he wanders into the litigation zone.
Update: See also “O’Reilly’s campaign against murdered doctor” at Salon.
But there’s no other person who bears as much responsibility for the characterization of Tiller as a savage on the loose, killing babies willy-nilly thanks to the collusion of would-be sophisticated cultural elites, a bought-and-paid-for governor and scofflaw secular journalists. 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.