Bill O'Reilly stepped up last night to make his contribution to the Right's jihad against Clarence Dupnik for speaking the truth about the environment in Arizona in which Jared Loughner's shooting rampage occurred, devoting three whole segments to running down Dupnik, including his opening "Talking Points Memo" segment in which he attacked Dupnik for mixing politics and law enforcement. This, from the guy who has a man-crush on Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
At least the first featured a defense of Dupnik from Alicia Menendez, the first yet allowed on Fox -- though it was, unsurprisingly, an incredibly weak-kneed one. This exchange was pretty revealing, though:
MENENDEZ: So you think that that rhetoric has nothing to do with this? Nothing at all? No connection?
O'REILLY: There's no connection at all. No I think that the man, -- and here's what I think, the man is a zealot. He's a zealot. He is using and abusing his position as a Sheriff, all right? To spout the political point of view. All right?
And two downsides. Number one, he ignites this whole thing because he did. And number two, he obscures the investigation. He obscures it. And I think it's wrong on both counts.
MENENDEZ: So why -- here -- so then, Bill, why are we sitting here talking about him instead of talking about what we do --
O'REILLY: Because we want to -- we want to neutralize people like him. That's why!
MENENDEZ: So he makes you nervous?
O'REILLY: He doesn't make me nervous. He makes me angry.
MENENDEZ: If -- if -- there's nothing legit about what he's saying, then why is he making you nervous?
O'REILLY: No, no, our -- our job here at the Factor, Alicia, as you know is to spotlight people who are harming the country and I think Dupnik is harming the country.
Then he brought on Elisabeth Hasselbeck and somehow managed to not ask her to clarify her previous thoughts on Sarah Palin's "crosshairs" in relation to this story. Instead, they bashed Dupnik some more:
HASSELBECK: The irony, Bill, is that we're looking at a law enforcement individual in a position of power, and in a profession where evidence is near-mandatory, right? To prosecute anybody. And yet there's no evidence to back up anything he's saying.
This is what Fox talkers were saying all day long (Laura Ingraham made the same charge that morning on Fox & Friends, claiming that Dupnik had "no evidence."
First, let's stipulate: Dupnik had all the evidence he needed to make the kinds of remarks he made about the political and social environment in Arizona -- one that has gotten so virulently ugly that Democrats and liberals in Arizona increasingly are fearful for their physical well-being and are reluctant to self-identify as liberals. (Will Bunch had a terrific piece at Media Matters recently on this very subject; as someone with family and friends in Arizona, I can personally attest to this reality.)
Unlike Bill O'Reilly or Megyn Kelly or Monica Crowley, Dupnik actually lives in Arizona, and does know whereof he speaks. Moreover, there is abundant evidence about the vicious eliminationist hatred, some of it officially sanctioned by the GOP and Tea Parties, that was directed at Giffords personally.
But let's get serious: When has evidence ever mattered to the talkers at Fox News -- Bill O'Reilly especially?
When there have been ugly incidents of right-wing extremist violence directed at "liberal" or government targets in the past, everyone at Fox -- O'Reilly and his pal Glenn Beck in particular -- have just as adamantly denied that the kind of ugly right-wing rhetoric regularly broadcast on their programs had anything to do with it ... even when the evidence has been overwhelming that, in fact, it did.
For instance, when right-wing extremist -- and enthusiastic Fox News consumer -- Jim David Adkisson walked into a Knoxville church in 2008 and gunned down two people, he was explicit in his manifesto about his sources of inspiration:
"This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence."
Not only did much of the manifesto read like a juiced-up version of a typical O'Reilly "Talking Points Memo," but O'Reilly's books held a prominent spot on Adkisson's bookshelves. This is what you would call pretty substantial evidence of a connection. So when a Newsday op-ed writer had the audacity to point out the obvious ties between O'Reilly's (and the rest of the Right's) overheated rhetoric and this monstrous act, how did O'Reilly respond?
Why, he was outraged, outraged we tell you -- and sent his Flying Monkey Ambush Squad, led by Jesse Watters, to attack the woman with cameras outside her home as she was unloading groceries:
That was just the first time.
Then, when a right-wing extremist named Scott Roeder -- a regular reader of O'Reilly's columns in the "Operation Rescue" newsletter, a number of which targeted Dr. George Tiller for attack -- walked into a Wichita church and shot Tiller in the head, O'Reilly was just as adamant denying that his vicious rhetoric could have played any role whatsoever in the shooting. Our favorite instance was when he brought on his ever-reliable shill, Juan Williams, to stick up for his pal O'Reilly:
Similarly, when a young Pittsburgh white supremacist named Richard Poplawski -- heeding Glenn Beck's warnings that Obama was planning to take his guns away and might be planning to incarcerate people in concentration camps -- gunned down three police officers who came to his door, Beck was adamant in denouncing bloggers like us for pointing out that there was a pretty obvious connection here:
And when a longtime far-right fringe actor named James Von Brunn walked into the Holocaust Memorial Museum and gunned down a security guard, Beck scrambled to portray him as left-wing nutcase -- but hey, we shouldn't be blaming anyone but the killer himself for this blah blah blah ...
Later, O'Reilly and Beck got together to commiserate on just how nasty and awful those liberals were for daring to point to the, you know, actual evidence that the rhetoric they used may have helped fuel these acts of violence:
And then, when the evidence of a powerful connection between Glenn Beck's rhetoric and a planned act of extreme violence is demonstrated to be incontrovertible, as it was in the case of would-be tides Foundation terrorist Byron Williams, what do they do at Fox?
Nothing. They simply do not report on it. They pretend it simply didn't happen. And their cohorts in the rest of the mainstream media largely do the same -- which is how they're able to get away with it.
Evidence, schmevidence. Here's a fact: Jared Loughner could have the collected works of Glenn Beck by his bedside, and a poster-size reproduction of Sarah Palin's gunsight poster hanging over his desk, and these guys would insist they had nothing, NOTHING to do with this or any other act of violence.
After all, their continued livelihood depends on it. Too bad American TV news consumers can't figure that out, and respond accordingly.