Newsbusters wants media to call Tiller "controversial"

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Newsbusters' Kyle Drennan complains that a CBS Early Show report on the assassination of Dr. George Tiller didn't describe Tiller as "controversial":

CBS 'Early Show' Sees No Controversy in Tiller's Work As 'Abortion Provider'

By Kyle Drennen (Bio | Archive)

June 1, 2009 - 11:43 ET

Reporting on the murder of Kansas abortion doctor, George Tiller, on Monday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Jeff Glor touted the doctor's career, while not depicting it as controversial ...

The Early Show coverage made no mention of Tiller's controversial career, including a recent investigation into whether he conducted 19 illegal partial-birth abortions.

First of all, Tiller was acquitted of any wrongdoing related to the 19 late-term abortions. Drennan didn't mention that little detail, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about his honesty.

Now, let's look at the article Drennan links to in support of his description of Tiller as "controversial." It's a Kansas City Star "timeline of major events in George Tiller's career." The first entry is the 1986 bombing of Tiller's clinic. The second is the 1991 blockade of his clinic by anti-choice protesters, leading to more than 2,500 arrests. The third is the 1993 shooting in which Tiller was hit in both arms. His assailant was sentenced to 11 years in prison for the shooting, and 20 more for her involvement in arson attacks against clinics in three states. The fourth entry is a 1998 letter Tiller received threatening to contaminate his clinic with Anthrax. The fifth is another illegal protest outside Tiller's clinic. The sixth and seventh are proceedings that found no wrongdoing by Tiller. And that's it; that's the whole list.

So, basically, Drennen's evidence - he chose this list, not me - contains zero examples of Tiller doing anything illegal. It contains zero examples of Tiller doing anything "controversial," unless you count "getting shot" as "doing something controversial." It does, however, list right-wing nutcases shooting and threatening Tiller, and illegally blocking access to his clinic. But that doesn't demonstrate that Tiller was "controversial"; it simply demonstrates that criminals and thugs tried to stop him from legally doing his job.

Drennen's complaint that CBS didn't call Tiller "controversial" is just bizarre. In fact, many news reports have described Tiller that way, and I find it more than a little off-putting. Tiller didn't break any laws. He just showed up to work every day, despite threats of violence, intimidation tactics, and even a previous shooting. He showed up, risking his own life every day, and he performed legal procedures that saved patients' lives. That's what doctors are supposed to do.

Calling Tiller "controversial" just because because conservative anti-abortion terrorists tried to, and finally did, kill him is insulting, and suggests some justification for the assassination. Calling him "controversial" blames the victim. Drennen's complaints that CBS didn't offer such justification for Tiller's assassination is creepy, at best.

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