Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has cultivated a persona as an "independent" who unmasks "spin" from both sides of the political spectrum with equal alacrity: "I'm not a conservative. I'm an independent," O'Reilly frequently claims. But this persona is hard to square with O'Reilly's appearance as the "special guest" on the "Battle for American Values" cruise, whose proceeds will benefit the Thomas More Legal Center, a right-wing Catholic legal foundation with ties to top Republican leaders whose founder has donated money to the militant faction of the anti-abortion rights movement. O'Reilly has promoted the cruise, scheduled for November 13-20, both on The O'Reilly Factor and on his personal website.
O'Reilly was also a vocal supporter of the group's efforts to force towns and school districts to allow Christian religious displays or Christmas carols on public property, despite concerns by local officials that such displays would violate the constitutional separation of church and state [The O'Reilly Factor, 12/21/04, 12/20/04; syndicated column, 12/13/04]. But some central tenets of the center's agenda conflict with issues on which O'Reilly has expressed views that depart from conservative orthodoxy.
The Thomas More Law Center was founded in 1999 by Domino's Pizza founder and longtime conservative movement funder Thomas S. Monaghan. Its board members include failed Republican senatorial candidate and right-wing radio host Alan Keyes; Republican Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-PA); and conservative former Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-AL), a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who accused John Kerry of "giving aid and comfort to our Vietnamese and Soviet enemies" in a March 18, 2004, editorial in the Mobile Register.
Monaghan set up the Domino's Foundation in 1987 to funnel money to right-wing political ventures and personally contributed up to $500,000 to anti-abortion groups, including substantial amounts to the extremist group Operation Rescue.
Monaghan is also the founder of Legatus, a Catholic conservative business organization designed to promote the Vatican's politics in the workplace. In 2002, Legatus presented Human Life International founder, Rev. Paul Marx, with its Cardinal John J. O'Connor "Unambiguously Pro-Life Award." Marx has a history of invoking anti-Semitic canards; for instance, as the Vancouver Sun noted on December 21, 1994, he wrote in his autobiography, Confessions of a Pro-Life Missionary, that "a segment of the Jewish community... more or less led the greatest holocaust of all time, the war on unborn babies."
O'Reilly favors legal abortion, but Thomas More and its founder have history of extremist anti-abortion action
Thomas More's uncompromising stance against abortion resulted in a public spat over strategy with America's largest anti-abortion rights organization, the National Right to Life Committee. In early 2004, Republican lawmakers in South Dakota's House of Representatives introduced a bill drafted by Thomas More to directly challenge the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision by criminalizing abortion. When the bill failed by one vote in the state Senate, Thomas More's chief counsel, Richard Thompson, lashed out at National Right to Life, which had criticized the timing of the bill, accusing it of "a betrayal of the unborn and the pro-life movement" and of "complicity with pro-abortion groups."
By contrast, O'Reilly himself has said he does not support overturning Roe v. Wade. He explained on the June 22, 2004, broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: The solution to this [abortion] problem is for everyone to work together, pro-life or pro-choice, whatever, and have as few abortions as possible. That is the solution. Take the politics out of it. I wouldn't ban it. I -- I'm -- I wouldn't, if I were president, try to overturn Roe v. Wade. I wouldn't do any of that. I'd try to persuade, on a -- on a level that it's -- it's not --it's not -- human rights dictates that we want to do as few abortions as possible. I don't think there's anybody who can argue with that.
Thomas More has supported "morality" laws that O'Reilly opposes
Thomas More attorneys have evinced strong support for seldom-enforced "morality laws" that restrict sex between unmarried couples and bar unmarried couples from living together. In a June 2, 2004, interview with Focus on the Family's Family News in Focus website, Thomas More associate counsel Robert Muise denounced groups fighting for the repeal of these laws. "In many respects, some of the behaviors are being targeted ... (by) a particular group of individuals engaged in that kind of conduct," Muise said. "It's a way for them to legitimize (themselves) and to force others to accept, as legitimate, their lifestyle."
GALLAGHER: Actually, the truth is, when you are young it might be fun, but to do it ["drinking too much" and "driving too fast" as a single person] over and over again gets pretty dull, and that what really makes people happy is to be really important to someone else, and that's one thing that marriage does and cohabitation doesn't.
O'REILLY: But you can be -- I want to -- I do firmly believe that you can be important to somebody else if you are single. I don't think you have to be married to be happy.