Bill O'Reilly's double standard: Why he's a hypocrite for accusing the entire Muslim world of being complicit in terrorism

O'Reilly blames all Muslims for terrorism, while refusing responsibility for demonizing a murdered doctor

By Amanda Marcotte

Published June 15, 2016 3:36PM (EDT)

 (Fox News)
(Fox News)

Donald Trump's speech on Monday, which was full of nothing but lies and racist demagoguery, has been received in the world of conservative media as a permission slip to swirl ever and ever closer to overtly fascist rhetoric.  On Tuesday, multiple conservative pundits, including Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, picked up Trump's insinuations that all Muslims are complicit in terrorism and President Obama is a secret Muslim with a pro-terrorism agenda.

But perhaps the most obnoxious of these is Bill O'Reilly, in terms of sheer hypocrisy. O'Reilly spent much of his show Tuesday night really digging into and refining Trump's insinuations that the world's over one billion Muslims are somehow complicit in the terrorist acts of a few. Working the right wing talking point that speaking the magical words "radical Islam" will somehow poof terrorism out of existence, O'Reilly argued that terrorism exists because the "left opposes a declaration of war against radical Islamic organizations".

(What these organizations are and how one "declares" war against them O'Reilly left vague, likely because getting into details would expose the fundamental dishonesty of this claim.)

O'Reilly then went on:

Here's what the president does not seem to understand. It is his job to lead the world against the jihad. By not even spelling out the precise danger, by using substitute wording for Islamic terrorism, he is sending a message that it's not really the fault of the Muslim world that this atrocious jihadist campaign has taken root. It's not really their fault. But here's the truth. If all the good Muslims in the world would unite against the jihad, it would be wiped out in weeks.

While he would no doubt deny it, the way this argument is constructed shows that O'Reilly is using the term "good Muslims" ironically, because he clearly does not really think such a category exists in any meaningful way.

Good people don't support terrorism, after all. That's definitional to the idea of "good." By painting the vast majority of Muslims in the world as unwilling to stand against terrorism — which he equates with complicity — O'Reilly is suggesting they cannot, by definition, be good people.

The racism and deliberate stoking of hatred for political gain is alarming enough, but what really makes this move remarkable is the searing hypocrisy of it. Because while O'Reilly wants to blame all Muslims everywhere for not doing enough, in his opinion, to stand against terrorism, he himself was unwilling to accept responsibility for actively demonizing a man in the months before a Christian right terrorist took it upon himself to assassinate that man.

In 2009, an anti-abortion activist named Scott Roeder entered a church attended by Dr. George Tiller, an abortion doctor in Wichita, Kansas. He walked up to Dr. Tiller, who was an usher that day, and shot him directly in the head in front of his friends. In court and to this day, Roeder painted the crime as justified because he believed that Dr. Tiller was killing "babies." It's a clear-cut act of domestic terrorism, which is defined as violence performed to exert political pressure or to make a political statement.

After the murder, O'Reilly became the focus of intense scrutiny, because he was the most high-profile person in the nation who pushed — relentlessly pushed — this claim that Dr. Tiller was a murderer because he provided abortion to women who had medical emergencies late in their pregnancies. O'Reilly even had a cutesy nickname to dehumanize and target Dr. Tiller: "Tiller the Baby Killer."

Oh, how O'Reilly loved using this vicious nickname to discredit the emotionally taxing but necessary work of terminating pregnancies that were usually very wanted but had to be ended for medical reasons. Over and over again, he used this nickname on his show, usually coupling it with flatly false accusations that Tiller "destroys fetuses for just about any reason right up until the birth date for $5,000" and that his work is "murdering babies".

(Here is a site chronicling some of the stories of women who get these abortions. What O'Reilly called "any reason", doctors call "trisomy 13" and "spina bifida" and other terms that barely touch upon the suffering and horror that can result if women are forced to carry to term.)

O'Reilly paints the entire Muslim world as somehow complicit in terrorism for extremely vague reasons: Not doing enough, without actually defining what "enough" would look like to him. (Most Muslims oppose terrorism and opposition to killing civilians in the Muslim world is equal to what similar polls of Americans find.)

But while O'Reilly condemns others for what he sees as insufficient opposition, what he did with regards to Dr. Tiller was way, way worse. He aggressively stoked hatred of a single person. He lied about this person to demonize him, spewed dehumanizing language about this person on his national TV show, and told his audience that it was a travesty of justice that Dr. Tiller wasn't in prison.

This wasn't even a passive complicity of standing by and doing nothing. This was actively painting a target on a man's back.

But when someone finally made the choice to act on the dehumanizing, demonizing rhetoric against Dr. Tiller that O'Reilly and many others spewed, O'Reilly refused to take any responsibility whatsoever.

On the contrary, O'Reilly has done everything he can to wiggle out of moral responsibility: Denying the extremism of his rhetoric (even though it's on record), claiming that he was just "reporting" what others say (the record shows "Tiller the Baby Killer" was a nickname O'Reilly personally used, and may have even coined), and just generally taking umbrage at anyone who dares think that demonizing a man makes it easier to murder him.

Even as recently as last winter, O'Reilly was still whining about liberals pointing out that there's some connection between calling a man a "baby killer" and shooting a man because you believe he's a "baby killer".

The whole mess demonstrates that what O'Reilly, Trump, and other Trump supporters are doing is simply racist demagoguery and nothing more. For O'Reilly, a Muslim is complicit in terrorism simply by existing. Even if you oppose terrorism, you will still be blamed for somehow not doing enough to fight it.

But when it comes to white Christians, especially when it comes to himself, the bar for being "complicit" is exponentially higher. One can demonize and demagogue and paint a target on someone's back, but in O'Reilly's world, unless you are the one who pulled the trigger, you're an innocent lamb who never did anything wrong. The double standard is stark and speaks volumes about the intellectual dishonesty and racism that drives O'Reilly.

Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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