On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann placed blame on FNC host Bill O’Reilly for inciting the recent murder of Dr. George Tiller, widely known for performing late-term abortions in Kansas. After showing a number of clips of O’Reilly and other FNC personalities attacking Tiller, Olbermann encouraged his viewers to request that businesses like restaurants that run FNC on their televisions change the channel because "Fox News Channel will never restrain itself from incitement to murder and terrorism – not until its profits begin to decline, when its growth stops." Referring to O’Reilly, he also declared that "the goal here, to get this blindly irresponsible man and his ilk off the air," and that "we must again make the world safe for people condemned by the Fox News Channel."
Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Monday, June 1, Countdown show on MSNBC:
KEITH OLBERMANN, IN OPENING TEASER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow? Domestic terrorism. Dr. George Tiller, women’s health physician, performer of legal abortions, is assassinated in his church. And in the very same sentence, anti-choice zealots wash their hands of his murder, and say he had it coming.
RANDALL TERRY, ANTI-ABORTION ACTIVIST: Pro-life leaders, the pro-life movement are not responsible for George Tiller’s death. George Tiller was a mass murderer, and, horrifically, he reaped what he sowed.
OLBERMANN: What he sowed? Or what right-wing extremists sowed.
BILL O’REILLY, FROM THE O’REILLY FACTOR: Dr. Tiller has blood on his hands.
OLBERMANN: The politics with Richard Wolffe. That advent of that which the Homeland Security Department warned, right-wing domestic terrorism, with Andrew Sullivan.
OLBERMANN, LATER IN OPENING TEASER: And when hate speech turns into murder, when phrases like "Dr. Tiller the Baby Killer" become network slogans. When there is a straight line between what was said on that network and that Kansas church.
O’REILLY: In the state of Kansas, there is a doctor, George Tiller, who will execute babies for $5,000.
OLBERMANN: The time has come to quarantine Fox News. All that and more now on Countdown.
O’REILLY: I wouldn’t want to be these people if there is a Judgement Day.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:15 P.M.: The number of times the name and a distorted view of the work of Dr. George Tiller has been mentioned on one cable network was at least 28 in just four years. This, while the only thing not asked of the audience that heard the repetitive and cowardly and dangerous incitements against him was: Who will rid me of this meddlesome doctor? The assassination of Dr. Tiller and the responsibility and irresponsibility of the Fox News Channel.
OLBERMANN, DURING COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:16 P.M.: And culpability. A man demonized by a television network is murdered. The television network says we didn’t do it, television can’t influence what people do. Well, then, why the next thing you see will be a commercial trying to influence you to buy something. to ask you to buy something?
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:26 P.M., WITH A CLIP OF O’REILLY ON SCREEN: Without propaganda that rationalizes it, terrorism is impotent. Unfortunately, we have just this sort of propaganda without conscience. The responsibilities of the extreme far fight in the assassination of Dr. George Tiller.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:32 P.M.: And words can kill. After domestic terror claims Dr. George Tiller, what the right-wing extremists of Fox have to answer for tonight, and what we can do peacefully to quiet them. You’re watching Countdown on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN, BEFORE COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:41 P.M.: Call a man a baby killer, a Nazi, like al-Qaeda, like Stalin, like Hitler, do it for four years. Then, the last part of the ingredient, act surprised when somebody shoots the man.
OLBERMANN, DURING COMMERCIAL BREAK AT 8:43 P.M.: A television channel that repeatedly branded those it criticized politically as baby killers, as executioners, as equivalents of Nazis, Hitler, Mao Zedong, al-Qaeda, Stalin. A television channel that repeatedly all but encouraged its viewers to commit a religious jihad against one of those it criticized. Something from the extremists in the Middle East, the product of fiction? No, it is elsewhere on your television, and it is time that it be stopped peacefully before it enables the death of another George Tiller.
OLBERMANN, AT 8:45 P.M.: When the incitement to assassinate comes across national television on 28 separate occasions, what to do when a man’s words help to kill, a suggestion next.
KEITH OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, our number one story and the very serious, very unsettling part the Fox News Channel played in the assassination of Dr. George Tiller, a horrifying realization that a television figure can be a facilitator for domestic terrorism
This was underscored, proved even, today when a man named Frank Schaeffer wrote for the Huffington Post that, as a former member of the anti-abortion, activist far right he believes he, quote, "shares the blame for the murder of Dr. Tiller," as we believe here does Fox News Channel.
Schaeffer followed his father Francis, an evangelist, into the field, each writing books. His father's was called A Christian Manifesto. "In certain passages, he advocated force if all other methods for rolling back the abortion ruling of Roe V. Wade failed. He compared America and its legalized abortion to Hitler’s Germany, and said that whatever tactics would have been morally justified in removing Hitler would be justified in trying to stop abortion."
"Like many writers of moral/political/religious theories, my father and I would have been shocked that someone took us at our word, walked into a Lutheran Church and pulled the trigger on an abortionist. But even if the murderer never read Dad’s or my words, we helped create the climate that made this murder likely to happen."
Of course, in this case, the murderer clearly heard the words from Fox News Channel, or, in the most benign of constructions, read the words of those who had heard the words from Fox News Channel. There's a comment thread from the Operation Rescue Web site from April and May 2007. I'm not implying these other posters had a hand in this. These are merely comments from readers about an anti-Tiller prayer event in Wichita. It begins with a post from April 6, asking: "Has Bill O'Reilly been invited to any of the Tiller events? And if so, what has been his reply? Has Fox News covered any of the events?"
There are two subsequent answers echoing the invitation. And then there is the ninth post from May 19, 2007, which reads "Bless," misspelled, "everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp." That was posted by Scott Roeder. Scott Roeder is the name of the suspected terrorist who was arrested yesterday for assassinating Dr. George Tiller. And what were the kinds of things he and/or those around him heard about Dr. Tiller from Fox News?
O’REILLY CLIP #1: Killing babies in America, that's the subject of this evening’s "Talking Points Memo."
O’REILLY CLIP #2: For $5,000, "Tiller the Baby Killer" – as some call him – will perform a late-term abortion for just about any reason.
O’REILLY CLIP #3: You're okay with some woman being depressed executing her child hours before it's born?
JESSE WATTERS, PRODUCER FOR THE O'REILLY FACTOR, FOLLOWING A WOMAN: There's a lot of evidence there that he was performing illegal late-term abortions and covering up instances of child rape.
O’REILLY CLIP #4: You should be very disturbed by what continues to happen in Kansas. This man, Dr. George Tiller, known as "Tiller the Baby Killer," is performing late-term abortions without defining the specific medical reasons why.
LAURA INGRAHAM, ON FOX AND FRIENDS: Dr. George Tiller, who is one of the few doctors in the United States who performs the Hitlerian procedure known as a partial birth abortion.
O’REILLY CLIP #5: Tiller has killed thousands, thousands of late-term fetuses without explanation.
O’REILLY CLIP #6: No question, Dr. Tiller has blood on his hands.
O’REILLY CLIP #7: "Tiller the Baby Killer" out in Kansas, acquitted, acquitted today of murdering babies.
O’REILLY CLIP #8: There's got to be a special place in hell for this guy.
O’REILLY CLIP #9: This guy will kill your baby for $5,000, any reason. Any reason. You go in, you go, "The Glenn Beck Program upset me today, and I can't have the baby." Bang, you got five grand, he's taking them out.
OLBERMANN: For four years, on at least 28 occasions, that is what was said on Fox News Channel. Nazism, al-Qaeda, Hitler, Mao Zedung, Stalin, baby-killing, pedophilia, "Tiller the Baby Killer" – again and again and again. And tonight, confronted with the inevitable result of the instigation, the principal perpetrator at Fox News Channel made no acknowledgement of culpability, nor even regret. He said, "No backpedaling here. I report honesty. Everything we said about Tiller is true, and my analysis was based on those facts. It is clear that the far left is exploiting the death of the doctor. Those vicious individuals want to stifle any criticism of people like Tiller. That and hating Fox News is the real agenda here. ... If these people were so compassionate, so very compassionate, so concerned for the rights and welfare of others, maybe they might have written something, on things, about the 60,000 fetuses who will never become American citizens."
It is useless to urge restraint on men who believe self-editing of freedom of speech should apply only to others that they are flawless and blameless and righteous. It is useless to make Frank Schaeffer’s argument to them even though they have made parallel ones about how liberal television degrades children, about how liberal television hypnotizes voters, about how liberal entertainment destroys American values. When they reply, "Not in this case, bad apple, TV can't make that happen," it is useless to say if TV can't make something happen, then why do people advertise on it with the same commercial again and again and again in hopes of making buzz words sink in? The Geico gecko, "Viva Viagra," FreeCreditReport.com, "Tiller the Baby Killer." Don't tell them. They will not listen.
We know this because of the case earlier this year of a Fox News commentator named Bernard Goldberg. In February, it was revealed that last July before he walked into a Unitarian church in Tennessee and opened fire during a children's play, Jim David Adkisson had written a note of explanation. "This was a symbolic killing," he said. "Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate and the House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book."
That 2005 book was called the 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. And on the list was everybody from Al Gore to Anna Nicole Smith. Mr. Goldberg did not even offer as much as his regrets, never mind offer his resignation. His employer Fox News responded to reporting that placed the books of several of its hosts in Adkisson’s home by sending one of the same producers who stalked the late Dr. Tiller to stalk the reporter who’d had the nerve to link that network to the two people killed by Adkisson in Tennessee.
So what to do? Viewer boycotts mean little. You are already here. You are not watching Fox News Channel. Advertiser boycotts are also of limited value. Most make barely a dent in a company. Besides which, in this economy, an advertiser that found its sales boosted by association with malaria would start breeding mosquitoes. If there is a solution, it is perhaps an indirect boycott. It is probably your experience, as it has been mine, that stores, bars, restaurants, waiting rooms, often show Fox News on their televisions. Don't write a letter, don’t make a threat, just get up and explain if they will not change the channel, leave the place and say calmly why it is you are taking your business elsewhere. If you know a viewer of that channel, show them this tape or just the tape of the attacks on Dr. Tiller that set the stage for his assassination. Fox News Channel will never restrain itself from incitement to murder and terrorism. Not until its profits begin to decline, when its growth stops. So, not so much as a boycott here as a quarantine because this has got to stop.
That I have a commercial conflict of interest here is obvious, so I'll make the first symbolic contribution to this quarantine. One of my pleasures obviously is constantly criticizing him in that Ted Baxter voice. It is the idea of laughter, as a social sanction against inflexible behavior. But this is no time for laughter. This is serious. Serious as death. As serious as George Tiller's death. So as of this show's end, I will retire the name and the photograph and the caricature. The words may still be quoted in the future as developments dictate. But the goal here is to get this blindly irresponsible man and his ilk off the air. We're only in the television news business, a profession that is at times about two inches up from carnival barking. We must again separate it, television from terrorism. And we must again make the world safe for people condemned by the Fox News Channel. That's Countdown for this, the 2,223rd day since the previous President declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. I’m Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.