Bill O'Reilly was all worked up last night on his Fox News show, claiming that the "liberal media" are waving the bloody shirt again, using the violence and extremism and racism of a handful of joiners to smear an otherwise entirely innocent movement.
First, his Talking Points Memo segment was devoted to the notion that "the Tea Party as a whole is not responsible for the loons who may lurk among them."
Which is, you know, pretty much true. Unless, of course, the movement seems to attract a high percentage of loons, and especially if the movement itself employs loons as their speakers and representatives.
Which is the case with the Tea Parties.
This is pretty funny, really, coming from the guy -- as Matt Corley at ThinkProgress notes -- who only a couple of years ago was culling off comments at DailyKos to smear the entire liberal blogosphere as the equivalent of Nazis.
O'Reilly brought on Rev. Al Sharpton, who seems to have figured out how not to let O'Reilly make him into a punching bag, because he pretty effectively rebutted most of O'Reilly's points. Nonetheless, Monsieur Falafeloofah managed to assert that the "liberal media smear" of the Tea Parties by blaming them for their kooks is "unfair!"
This was followed by a segment with Mary Katherine Ham and Juan Williams. And Williams set off O'Reilly by pointing out that the Tea Parties are fundamentally a rebirth of the Patriot/militia movement of the 1990s:
WILLIAMS: You know, people who's have a lot of hateful attitudes towards President Bush and then somebody who is extremist on the fringe, yes. And if that was also to be then the case with the Tea Party, yes, that's too much and unfair. But, when you start to see militia groups start to associate with the Tea Party --
O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let me stop you there. I haven't seen militia groups associating with the Tea Party.
WILLIAMS: Oh, let me tell you something, the Tea Party flag is now, you know, for example they use the same to....
O'REILLY: The don't tread on me flag?
WILLIAMS: Yes, the one.
O'REILLY: That's from the revolutionary war.
WILLIAMS: No, no, no. But it's taken away, obviously, it's not the same flag. It's not the same flag that you see flying up in the New England States. If the separated flag, if the new flag that they created. Like the same imagery that was on Timothy McVeigh. You know, I mean, this is the kind of thing that is worrisome to me.
O'REILLY: Oh, come on, Juan. You are smarter than that. You can't possibly think the Tea Party is taking any cue from Timothy McVeigh. That's suicide.
WILLIAMS: Oh no. You misheard me. I said if fringe elements. In other words, it's just like you were saying. If people speak out and fringe elements take it, distort it, pervert it and then translate into violence. You can't hold that leadership responsible.
Evidently, O'Reilly has already forgotten his interview with Stewart Rhodes of the Oath Keepers, which is unmistakably a Patriot organization, minus the militias -- because it recruits from the military, Oath Keepers eschews overt or official involvement with militia organizing, since membership in a militia is cause for dismissal from the military. And as O'Reilly knows well, the Oath Keepers are intimately involved in the Tea Parties.
Indeed, the case of Charles Dyer, the onetime Oath Keepers figure arrested on charges of child rape, demonstrates clearly how the lines get crossed. Because Dyer was also active in forming militias in Oklahoma, he evidently did not hold an actual membership in the Oath Keepers, something the organization eagerly pointed out when it disavowed him. However, he was close enough to the Oath Keepers leadership that he was chosen to represent the Oath Keepers -- with Rhodes' blessing -- at a Tea Party on July 4 in Oklahoma.
But facts have never been an impediment to O'Reilly, who then goes on to actually repeat one of the right's favorite nutty talking points:
WILLIAMS: In a situation where you have more Americans worried about their second amendment rights and stocking up on bullets and buying guns because they think that President Obama is going to take away their guns or bullets.
O'REILLY: Oh, he is he a left wing guy, President Obama. That is not out of the realm of possibility.
In other words, O'Reilly doesn't think the Tea Parties are nutty -- because, after all, they're only repeating the nutty things he says.
And for many of them, that's actually true.
It's laughable for O'Reilly and the rest of the Right to pretend that the fact that the Tea Parties attract a sizable number of loons is purely a coincidence, a natural occurrence.
The cold hard fact is that the Tea Parties are a giant magnet for kooks because so many leaders in the movement, from Glenn Beck on down, regularly tell their audiences that provably untrue things are true. They foist nuttiness upon their mass audiences, and the nuttiness then manifests itself in violent extremist groups rising and coalescing with mainstream-right groups.
The best evidence of this is the speech given by Joseph Farah, the publisher and editor of the far-right Patriot-friendly WorldNetDaily, in February at the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville:
The speech was largely a defense of the "Birther" conspiracy theories:
I have a dream. My dream is that IF Barack Obama even seeks re-election as president in 2012, he won’t be able to go to any city, any town, any hamlet in America without seeing signs that ask, “Where’s the birth certificate?
It’s a simple question and it has not been answered despite what Bill O’Reilly will tell you.
The rest of the media think it’s ridiculous, which makes me certain it’s one of the most important questions we can be asking. It really hits the target. Polls now show 33 percent of Californians either believe Obama was born outside the country or have doubts about his alleged Hawaiian birth. Nationwide it’s closer to 50 percent. Even significant numbers of Democrats have doubts.
But the media and the politicians keep pretending it’s all been settled.
I say if it’s been settled, show us the birth certificate.
Now, Bill O'Reilly has done whole segments denouncing the "Birthers" as loons.
But then he attacks anyone who suggests that the Tea Party is riddled with extremist nutcases precisely because it is encouraged at the very top ranks of the movement.
Go figure. It's O'Reilly.