Bill O'Reilly again claimed he has never “attacked [anti-war activist] Cindy Sheehan personally,” and again falsely suggested he does not employ personal attacks against his opponents. In fact, O'Reilly has made numerous ad hominem attacks on Sheehan and others with whom he disagrees.
On the June 14 broadcast of NBC's Today, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly again claimed he has never “attacked [anti-war activist] Cindy Sheehan personally,” and again falsely suggested he does not employ personal attacks against his opponents. In fact, Media Matters for America has documented numerous ad hominem attacks by O'Reilly on Sheehan and others with whom he disagrees.
Asked by host Matt Lauer to comment on right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's recent attacks on the widows of 9-11 victims, O'Reilly stated again that Coulter “uses personal attacks,” adding: “I think that's terrible” and “I've criticized that all over the place.” As an example of his opposition to personal attacks, O'Reilly cited his appearance on the January 3 edition of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, in which host David Letterman challenged O'Reilly's criticism of Sheehan.
Regarding his exchange with Letterman, O'Reilly told Lauer:
O'REILLY: I never attacked Cindy Sheehan personally. I said her politics are far-left, she's being run by far-left elements. Period. Letterman said I have no right to say that. I said, 'Baloney.' OK? I can criticize her politics, but if I had criticized her personally, that would have been wrong.
O'Reilly further stated that “If I start to personally attack, people walk away” and accuse him of being “a right wing nut.”
Despite the fact that O'Reilly has made this false claim before, regarding his treatment of Sheehan -- a claim that Media Matters has debunked -- Lauer did not challenge him on the assertion or point out prior instances in which O'Reilly did in fact engage in personal attacks on Sheehan. These include:
- Claiming that Sheehan was “dumb enough to allow” herself to be “run by far-left elements who are using her.”
- Claiming that Sheehan “has thrown in with the most radical elements in this country” and “other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq ... feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous.”
- Including Sheehan on a list of “coward[s].”
Additionally, Lauer failed to challenge O'Reilly's false suggestion that he does not engage in personal attacks, a striking failure given O'Reilly's comparison, on the November 30, 2005, broadcast of Today, of those who advocate a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq to Hitler appeasers. Media Matters has also documented numerous other instances of O'Reilly attacking those with whom he disagrees. These personal attacks include:
- Referring to media writer and Fox News Watch panelist Neal Gabler as a "rabid dog" and calling him a "bomb-thrower" and a “left-wing Kool-Aid drinker.” O'Reilly also stated: “If a teacher ever went in there [to a classroom] and said, 'Adam and Eve is real,' Neal Gabler would have a noose around his [the teacher's] neck.”
- Comparing liberal radio host and author Al Franken and “assassins” on the “Internet” and “cable television” to a New York City radio disc jockey who threatened “to do an R. Kelly” on the four-year-old daughter of a rival station's announcer.
- Stating of Jeremy Glick, an O'Reilly factor guest whose father was killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and who opposed the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan: "If I could have whacked him, I would have."
- Calling liberal radio network Air America "[d]isgusting" and “despicable.”
- Stating that if he were President Bush, he “would have laid ... out” veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas after she pressed President Bush on his reasons for invading Iraq.
- Calling former Public Broadcasting Service host Bill Moyers a "totalitarian" and a "secular, far-left fanatic."
- Calling students at the University of Connecticut who heckled Coulter during a campus appearance "far-left Nazis."
- Calling Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) a "left-wing nut."
- Stating of New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, "How nuts is this guy?"
- Stating that O'Reilly Factor guest Christopher Murray "sounds like a fascist" for saying that that public institutions should not display religious symbols.
- Calling former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader a "loon."
- Describing former president Jimmy Carter as "clueless" and "a fool."
- Saying of Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), "He's a sissy."
- Calling Dallas Morning News columnist Macarena Hernandez "incompetent" and a “Latina ideologue.”
- Telling Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, “You know I love you as a guest. You're one of the best. You're a paranoid crazy."
- Calling Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) a "nut" for introducing legislation to equip commercial aircraft with anti-missile systems to repel attacks from surface-to-air missiles; on his TV program. (O'Reilly later falsely denied that he'd made the remark, and subsequently claimed he "forgot" he had done so.)
Additionally, O'Reilly has equated Media Matters with the Ku Klux Klan, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and the Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels. He also referred to Media Matters as "the most vile, despicable human beings in the country."
O'Reilly's June 14 Today appearance was at least his ninth* since November 2001. Despite his numerous appearances on Today, O'Reilly has labeled NBC “the most anti-Bush network.”
As in O'Reilly's November 30, 2005, Today appearance, an on-screen graphic reading: “No Spin Zone” was displayed prominently throughout the interview.
From the June 14 broadcast of NBC's Today:
LAUER: Let me ask you about Ann Coulter, OK? She made some very harsh comments on this program and in her book. In particular, about a certain group of --
O'REILLY: Jersey Girls.
LAUER: -- yeah, the Jersey Girls, 9-11 widows. She says, quote: “These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzi[s]. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much.” What's your comment? What was your reaction when you heard that?
O'REILLY: Coulter does what a lot of ideologues do. Number one, preaches to the choir. Therefore, she's not interested in converting anybody.
LAUER: OK. How big is that choir?
O'REILLY: She'll sell about 500,000 books. OK? So she preaches to the choir. The choir's angry. So she attacks. All right? Now, she uses personal attacks. I think that's terrible. I've criticized that all over the place. She wants to make these people feel bad, I guess. Why? You can't -- look, I went on Letterman and had this big thing with Letterman about Cindy Sheehan. I never attacked Cindy Sheehan personally. I said her politics are far-left, she's being run by far-left elements. Period. Letterman said I have no right to say that. I said, 'Baloney.' OK? I can criticize her politics, but if I had criticized her personally, that would have been wrong.
LAUER: And so when someone does that in a book and makes an outrageous statement like the one I just read, does that take the credibility away from everything else she says?
O'REILLY: I don't know about that, but she can't convince people in the middle. She's just preaching to her choir. So I want to persuade people. I want what's best for the United States. If I start to personally attack, people walk away and go, “Ah, he's a right wing nut. He's this, that, and the other thing.” She doesn't seem to care about that.
* A Media Matters search of the Nexis database revealed eight additional appearances. Search terms: show (today) and allcaps (o'reilly).