Fox News' Bill O'Reilly provided a platform for Tommy Robinson, head of the English Defence League, a violent, extremist anti-Muslim hate group in Great Britain.
O'Reilly hosted Robinson on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss the EDL's efforts to, as Robinson described, “fight for Christianity, fight for our children's future, fight for our culture, and fight for our country's identity, which is completely under attack.” Robinson went on to claim that British politicians aren't doing enough to suppress the growth of Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, adding “actions speak a lot louder than words.”
Although O'Reilly mentioned press reports describing the EDL as “fascist” and “racist” and described the group's views as “militant” at the beginning of the segment, he failed to note the EDL's history of incendiary and often violent actions. A 2010 “undercover investigation” by The Guardian found that the organization planned protests against Muslim communities in “a blatant attempt to provoke mayhem and disorder”:
MPs said the group's decision to target some of the UK's most prominent Muslim communities was a blatant attempt to provoke mayhem and disorder. “This group has no positive agenda,” said the Bradford South MP, Gerry Sutcliffe. “It is an agenda of hate that is designed to divide people and communities. We support legitimate protest but this is not legitimate, it is designed to stir up trouble. The people of Bradford will want no part of it.”
The English Defence League, which started in Luton last year, has become the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s. A Guardian investigation has identified a number of known rightwing extremists who are taking an interest in the movement - from convicted football hooligans to members of violent rightwing splinter groups.
Thousands of people have attended its protests - many of which have descended into violence and racist and Islamophobic chanting. Supporters are split into “divisions” spread across the UK and as many as 3,000 people are attracted to its protests.
The EDL claims it is a peaceful and non-racist organisation only concerned with protesting against “militant Islam”. However, over the last four months the Guardian has attended its demonstrations and witnessed racism, violence and virulent Islamophobia.
A post on the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch blog described the video that accompanied the Guardian post as revealing “the group's defining features: street intimidation and violent rhetoric”:
In the video, EDL activists are heard issuing targeted threats and speaking of upcoming “murders” and “stampings”. Among the British groups that have attached themselves to the EDL are violent neo-Nazi outfits such as Combat 18 and far-right racist parties like the National Front. Because of the increasingly ominous atmosphere surrounding its public gatherings, the EDL's founder and leader Tommy Robinson was stopped last week by authorities at JFK Airport on a tip from British police and sent back to England.
According to the narrator of the Guardian video, a reporter who spent months inside the movement, the EDL is not “simply a rerun of previous far-right organizations.” Rather, “it has acted like a lightning rod with people with a range of grievances who appear to be coalescing around a rampant Islamaphobia.”
A study on the English Defense League by Faith Matters, a U.K.-based nonprofit that “works to reduce extremism and interfaith and intra-faith tensions,” found that “It is hard to escape the conclusion that, on the ground, the EDL is a violent organization.” The study concluded by writing:
Should the EDL adopt increasingly intimidating tactics against local Muslim communities and opposition groups, it will become even more difficult to avoid a downward spiral of violence that will not only feed the EDL's toxic narrative but also radicalize Muslim communities, encouraging deeper divisions within our communities. A further aggravating factor is economic austerity and the possibility that this could intensify resentment towards Muslims. When it comes to the level of threat that the EDL currently poses to our country, our communities and our values, there is certainly no room for complacency.
Robinson touted the EDL's “Jewish division” on The O'Reilly Factor, but made no mention of Roberta Moore, who resigned as head of the EDL's Jewish division in 2011 because of what she claimed were Nazi elements within the group.
O'Reilly is not the first right-wing media figure to highlight the EDL or its leader. Ann Coulter defended the organization from critics after a protest against the slaying of a British soldier by two Muslim men in Woolwich turned violent last month.
Pamela Geller, an Islamophobic blogger and activist, has repeatedly expressed her support for the EDL in the past. She wrote at the conservative American Thinker that “Free people should support the English Defence League in its efforts to stand for England and the West against the belligerent invaders and Islamic imperialists.” This past January, she defended Robinson after he was arrested for illegally entering the United States. Geller and Robinson sit together on the President's Council of Stop Islamization of Nations, which claims to be “the first activist leadership team uniting counter-jihadists in Europe, the U.S., and Australia.”