O'Reilly's Tiller/Pouillon comparison doesn't hold up

Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

On September 11, a Michigan man named Harlan James Drake was arrested for the shooting deaths of two men, one of whom was Jim Pouillon, an anti-abortion activist who regularly protested outside a local high school carrying signs displaying graphic photos of aborted fetuses. Drake's alleged motives for the shooting of Pouillon remain unclear, though The New York Times reported that a local prosecutor said Drake "was annoyed by Mr. Pouillon's protests, especially when they were near schools." Regardless of what Drake's motives were, the act itself was heinous -- as President Obama said in his statement on the shootings, "whichever side of a public debate you're on, violence is never the right answer."

Bill O'Reilly, however, saw the Pouillon murder as a vehicle to attack the media for some sort of double standard, saying on the September 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: All right in the Michigan, very few people know about this because it's not reported in the media anywhere, we had a pro-life activist 63-year-old Jim Pouillon murdered today. Now this is just like the Tiller thing in reverse. Now this Pouillon, there he is, took his message that abortion is wrong to the public. And he was shot dead in the street. Now, you remember the Tiller outrage and all of that about the abortion doctor being murdered. Nothing, nothing so far on Pouillon.

Tiller, of course, is Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider who was murdered on May 31. There are a couple of points to be made here. First, it's absolutely untrue that the Pouillon murder was "not reported in the media anywhere." By the time O'Reilly's show went on the air on Friday night, NBC's Nightly News had already run a story on the shooting, and CNN reported on it several times throughout the day, as well as posting a story on CNN.com.

Second, if there was a disparity in the coverage of the Pouillon and Tiller murders, part of the reason may have been that Tiller was a nationally known figure at the time of his death, whereas Pouillon was not. And Tiller's nationwide notoriety was due in large part to none other than O'Reilly, who frequently demonized Tiller on his program -- the most-watched cable news show in the country, as he so often points out -- as "Tiller the baby killer."

O'Reilly made Tiller famous, so he's not in any position to complain about how much media coverage Tiller received.

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