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On the August 11 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, guest host John Gibson defended host Bill O'Reilly, falsely claiming that O'Reilly had not attacked "Ms. [Cindy] Sheehan personally." Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed fighting in Iraq, is an outspoken critic of President Bush and the Iraq war. Gibson played an audio clip in which Sheehan explained that she had canceled a scheduled August 10 appearance on The O'Reilly Factor because O'Reilly "attacks me personally." O'Reilly accused Sheehan, among other things, of behavior that "other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq" think "borders on treasonous."
On the August 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly echoed a false August 8 report by Internet gossip Matt Drudge that Sheehan had "dramatically changed her account" of a June 2004 meeting with Bush. Drudge's item took out of context quotes of Sheehan in a June 24, 2004, article in her hometown newspaper, The Reporter of Vacaville, California. Although The Reporter pointed out Drudge's misrepresentation of its work in an August 9 article, O'Reilly parroted Drudge's attack on his television show that evening, claiming that Sheehan's "story has been inconsistent." O'Reilly also suggested that Sheehan hates the government and the United States. In the same segment, right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin claimed that Sheehan's "story hasn't checked out" and said Sheehan should be scorned for the views she and O'Reilly falsely imputed to her. O'Reilly also charged "that she has thrown in with the most radical elements in this country."
During the viewer email segment of his August 10 show, O'Reilly responded to a complaint about the previous day's Sheehan-bashing segment by claiming, "Both Michelle and I were respectful to Mrs. Sheehan, sir."
From the August 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
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 gotta 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.
From the August 11 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
GIBSON: Turns out Ms. Sheehan is involved with some very far-left factions, a story O'Reilly first broke on this program.
And here's more proof. This conference call with liberal activists and bloggers, where Ms. Sheehan explained why she canceled her appearance on The Factor yesterday.
SHEEHAN [audio clip]: I'm not going to go on that show because, you know, I don't like it when people lie about me and attack me for exercising my freedom of speech.
You know, it's one thing for Bill O'Reilly to disagree with my policy or my view on the war, but it's absolutely another thing that he attacks me personally about it.
And I -- he actually again asked me to go on the show today. And I said -- my first reaction was, all right, I'll go on it if you publicly apologize for lying about me. But then my second reaction was, no, no. I'm not going on it. I'm not going to dignify his show by my presence because I believe his show is an obscenity -- is an obscenity to the truth. And it's an obscenity to humanity.
GIBSON: Obscenity. Now, we want to emphasize that Bill analyzed the situation without ever attacking Ms. Sheehan personally.