During a Thursday interview where Tony Perkins blamed the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for the recent shooting of a Family Research Council (FRC) employee, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly took the opportunity to insist he did not “exacerbate” the situation that led to the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller by calling him a “baby killer.”
“Now you may remember back in 2009, some in the liberal press accused me encouraging the assassination of late-term abortionist George Tiller in Kansas,” O’Reilly said.
As PBS’ Now noted, O’Reilly had mentioned Tiller’s name on 27 episodes of his Fox News show, often calling him “Tiller the Baby Killer” without attributing the label to anyone. He also said Tiller had “blood on his hands,” was guilty of “Nazi stuff” and was “operating death mills.”
“I never called him a killer,” O’Reilly insisted on Thursday, even though PolitiFact found that the Fox News host had used the term “baby killer” to describe Tiller at least 24 times.
“I simply referred to what Tiller was doing in detail and the press hounded me for it,” O’Reilly continued, bringing on Family Research Council President Tony Perkins to talk about the most recent shooting.
“I believe that the Southern Poverty Law Center is responsible for creating an environment that led to this,” Perkins explained. “[Your critics are] saying you are using hate speech — well, the Southern Poverty Law Center — because they disagree with our position on marriage and certain religious issues — have labeled us a hate group, and that gives license to lunatics like this that come in and shoot innocent people.”
“It’s a shocking situation,” O’Reilly agreed. “And as we said in the Tiller situation, there’s no excuse for it. I didn’t exacerbate that situation.”
“And I don’t know about the Southern Poverty Law Center,” the self-proclaimed culture warrior added. “We will check that out. Absolutely.”
In a statement released on Thursday, Southern Poverty Law Center senior fellow Mark Potok said that his organization “deplores all violence” and Perkins was just using the tragedy to “score points.”
“Perkins’ accusation is outrageous,” Potok wrote. “The SPLC has listed the FRC as a hate group since 2010 because it has knowingly spread false and denigrating propaganda about LGBT people — not, as some claim, because it opposes same-sex marriage. The FRC and its allies on the religious right are saying, in effect, that offering legitimate and fact-based criticism in a democratic society is tantamount to suggesting that the objects of criticism should be the targets of criminal violence.”
Potok pointed out that Perkins had claimed that that pedophilia is “a homosexual problem” and another official at the Family Research Council had said he wanted to “export homosexuals from the United States.”
“Perkins and his allies, seeing an opportunity to score points, are using the attack on their offices to pose a false equivalency between the SPLC’s criticisms of the FRC and the FRC’s criticisms of LGBT people,” Potok Concluded. “The FRC routinely pushes out demonizing claims that gay people are child molesters and worse — claims that are provably false. It should stop the demonization and affirm the dignity of all people.”
Watch this video from Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor via Mediaite, broadcast Aug. 16, 2012.