Following the July 7 terrorist attacks in London, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly expressed hope that the incident would remind Europe that the "USA is not the problem in this world. The terrorists are." Yet in their overall response to the attacks, O'Reilly and other conservatives spent much more time and ink attacking the enemy within -- including U.S. and European politicians, pundits, and news outlets -- for "helping the terrorists" than condemning, analyzing, or criticizing actual terrorists.
O'Reilly and conservative guests focus vitriol on the "anti-American press"
After a weeklong absence, O'Reilly reportedly cut short his vacation to return to The O'Reilly Factor and respond to the London attacks. But he did not devote his July 7 "Talking Points Memo" to condemning the day's attacks or analyzing why they occurred. Rather, he used his opening monologue to attack "[t]he anti-American press both here and in Europe" for "sanitizing terror."
From the July 7 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: The "Talking Points Memo" this evening is about sanitizing terror. ... Generally speaking, the European media is viciously anti-American when it comes to the war on terror. The garbage these people are throwing out to a largely clueless public is astounding. ... The anti-American press both here and in Europe is actually helping the terrorists by diminishing their threat. "Talking Points" urges you to begin holding people accountable for their position on the terror war. Walk away from media that excuses or sanitizes these brutal acts. USA is not the problem in this world. The terrorists are. And if you don't agree with that, you are helping killers like [Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi. Enough's enough. London should be the last straw.
During a subsequent interview with London Daily Express reporter Anna Pukas and Christian Science Monitor reporter Don Kirk, O'Reilly disparaged the British newspaper The Guardian, saying it "might be edited by Osama bin Laden":
O'REILLY: I mean, you know, for four years we here in New York, where I live, have -- particularly people like me who know people who were killed, all right, we lost a lot of people here -- this growing anger toward Europe particularly and the European media, which doesn't get it, and demonizes the USA.
Have you read The Guardian lately? ... I mean, it might be edited by Osama bin Laden. I mean, that's how bad that paper is. And a lot of the British press, particularly the BBC, echo this kind of garbage.
Pukas, who was on assignment in London, provided vivid details of the attack's immediate aftermath. But O'Reilly was more interested in attacking the BBC:
PUKAS: We have riverboats that ferry people up and down the Thames -- or walk. But some -- there were people standing in the middle of the road, waving 20-pound notes at any passing car, hoping to flag them down to get a lift somewhere.
O'REILLY: Yes. Now listen, are people as angry as I am about this? You heard my "Talking Points Memo". ... I mean, you know, for four years we here in New York, where I live, have -- particularly people like me who know people who were killed, all right, we lost a lot of people here -- this growing anger toward Europe particularly and the European media, which doesn't get it, and demonizes the USA, now I'm hoping that something good can come out of bad, Mr. Kirk. And maybe Europe will start to figure out who the bad guys really are, sir.
Later in the show, in an interview with discredited "terrorism expert" Steve Emerson, O'Reilly returned to the subject of the BBC:
O'REILLY: Now, what good does it do to Al Qaeda to alienate Europe when Europe has basically been, not on their side, but certainly putting the U.S. as the big villain and de-emphasizing, as I say sanitizing, what Al Qaeda has done. What good does it do Al Qaeda to alienate, you know, the BBC and all of these major organizations that have basically not dealt with the threat in a realistic way?
EMERSON: The BBC should -- in certain respects, BBC almost operates as a foreign registered agent of Hezbollah and some of the other jihadist groups.
Still later, in an interview with former assistant secretary of state James P. Rubin, O'Reilly said: "Mr. Rubin, I submit to you, Europe is a cowardly continent. They know what the stakes are. They don't care."
Heritage Foundation fellow Nile Gardiner joined O'Reilly in accusing the press of hindering the war on terror. O'Reilly questioned Gardiner about New York Times reporter Edward Wong's description of Zarqawi as "a Jordanian fighter" in a July 5 article, rather than as a terrorist:
O'REILLY: Why would -- why would the most prestigious newspaper in America -- and I believe The New York Times still holds that title -- why would they do that?
GARDINER: I think that, unfortunately, there are all too many people in both the United States and the United Kingdom who are willing to appease international terrorists instead of taking them on. We are engaged in a war, not in a law-and-order exercise. We have to go out and aggressively hunt down these terrorists and destroy them.
Gardiner added that Europeans are "weak, cowardly and spineless":
GARDINER: Well, I think the French and Germans and many others in Europe simply are weak, cowardly and spineless when it comes to the war on terror. Let's face it: there are only two countries, the United States and Great Britain, are actively engaged in fighting Al Qaeda and in waging the global war on terror.
(In fact, Wong's article made it quite clear that Zarqawi is a terrorist. The subject of the article was two terrorist attacks on Pakistani and Bahraini diplomats in Baghdad, and dozens of other Times articles in the last year have explicitly labeled Zarqawi a terrorist.)
Wall Street Journal editorial, op-ed blame Bush critics for weak "resolve"
The Wall Street Journal also used the London attacks to criticize the news media, but added criticism of U.S. politicians. A July 8 editorial titled "7/7/2005" complained that debate over the Patriot Act is a sign of weaking "resolve" against terrorism:
Yet that resolve continues to fade along with the public memories of that day [Sept. 11, 2001]. For months the debate in Washington hasn't been over how best to fight terrorists but how harshly we treat them. Rather than strengthen the Patriot Act, Congress wants to weaken it by creating a library loophole. The press corps has wallowed in Abu Ghraib as the defining event of the entire Iraq War.
In the wake of London, the political attacks on Guantánamo deserve special mention here.
In his July 8 column, Journal deputy editorial page editor Daniel Henninger attacked critics of the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and excoriated Senate Democrats for opposing President Bush's nomination of John R. Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations:
What happened yesterday in London was an attack on the modern world by pre-modernists. [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair said, "Our values will outlive theirs." Maybe. Ours might not, though, if against theirs of wanton murder, our answer is "close Guantánamo." But there is a better example of the fundamental inability of our politics to sustain seriousness against such a threat: the Bolton nomination to the U.N.
If the U.S. Senate wanted to send a signal of resolve and seriousness to whoever bombed London, Democrats would join with Republicans their first day back to dispatch proven anti-terror warrior John Bolton straight to the U.N. They won't. They'll keep playing political fiddles while London burns.
Wash. Times' Sammon: London attacks will silence critics of Guantánamo, Patriot Act
Echoing the Journal's criticism, on the "Fox All-Star" panel on the July 7 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Washington Times White House correspondent Bill Sammon predicted that the attacks would put to rest any debate on the Patriot Act and Guantánamo:
SAMMON: I think the entire conversation changes now. You know, we were talking about Gitmo and whether the prisoners had sufficient comforts --
HUME: Yes, what happens to that debate?
SAMMON: That debate is obliterated. And now we're back to, guess what? Good and evil. I mean, this is what Tony Blair and [British Secretary of State] Jack Straw and all these people were talking about. They're talking about using words like wicked and evil, the words that Bush was mocked for using by his detractors when 9-11 happened. But that's where the conversation's back to. We're not talking about global warming. We're not talking about Gitmo. We're back to the basics. We are at war.