On the August 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly responded to a viewer e-mail, which accused him and right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin of "savaging" Iraq war protester Cindy Sheehan, by claiming that the viewer was distorting the show's coverage. O'Reilly maintained, "Both Michelle and I were respectful to Mrs. Sheehan, sir." But on the previous day's O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly falsely claimed that Sheehan's "story has been inconsistent" and suggested that she hates the government and the United States. Malkin also falsely claimed Sheehan's "story hasn't checked out," and said Sheehan should be scorned for the views she and O'Reilly falsely imputed to her. And on her weblog, Malkin sought to discredit Sheehan by suggesting that her son who was killed in the Iraq war would not approve of her protest.
From the August 10 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Heather O'Neill, New York City: "I see the right-wing smear tactics have begun against Cindy Sheehan."
Well, I don't know where you're seeing that. Not here, Ms. O'Neill. We've reported the story accurately and fairly.
Al Nagengast, Payson, Arizona: "O'Reilly, the savaging of Mrs. Sheehan by you and Michelle Malkin is a new low for The Factor."
Both Michelle and I were respectful to Mrs. Sheehan, sir. You are distorting and perhaps lying about the segment.
O'Reilly has treated this story neither accurately nor fairly. As Media Matters for America documented, he repeated the false claim that Sheehan, a critic of President Bush and the Iraq war, has changed what she has said about Bush and the war since meeting with him in June 2004.
As for O'Reilly's claim that he and Malkin were "respectful" to Sheehan, the transcript of the August 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor shows otherwise:
O'REILLY: Well, I have to say that she obviously does because she's the lead story on Michael Moore's Web site on an almost daily basis. And she knows -- I mean, Michael Moore isn't a subtle guy. Everybody knows where he stands.
So I mean, I think Mrs. Sheehan bears some responsibility for this and also for the responsibility of other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq, who feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous.
You know, you got to think about those people as well. What about their feelings?
O'REILLY: She has thrown in -- there is no question that she has thrown in with the most radical elements in this country. That is -- now, it happened before. Some of the 9-11 families also took this road, you'll remember, and are still active to this day. There's a big controversy about the 9-11 Museum down at the World Trade Center.
And, you know, there are some people who hate this government, hate their country right now, and blaming Bush for all the terrorism and all the horror in the world.
Here's a question, Michelle. Do they have a right to this opinion without being scorned?
MALKIN: No, without being scorned, no. And I wouldn't call it scorned. I would call it scrutiny. And the mainstream media is not doing it. I mean, the New York Times editorial board is all too eager to prop her up as some sort of martyr and to buy her line when clearly her story hasn't checked out.
O'REILLY: Yes, her story hasn't [sic] changed.
MALKIN: And so I think -- and I think that angle you're emphasizing is absolutely right here, which is the mainstream media just lapping this up and perpetuating myths and inaccuracies when they know it's not the truth.
O'REILLY: Yes. They don't identify -- in the New York Times editorial today, it was obvious they did not say her story has been inconsistent. And they did not pinpoint that she is in bed with the radical left.
Malkin also found another way to smear Sheehan. In an August 8 entry on her weblog, Malkin purported to divine what Sheehan's son Casey, an Army specialist who was killed in Iraq in 2004, would think of his mother's actions: "I can't imagine Army Spc. Casey Sheehan would stand for his mother's crazy accusations that he was murdered by his commander-in-chief, rather than the Iraqi terrorists who ambushed his convoy."