Bill O'Reilly claimed he was not "vilifying" anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan, just stating the "fact" that Sheehan was being "run by far-left elements who are using her, and she's dumb enough to allow it to happen."
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During a discussion with a caller on the January 4 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly again claimed that he wasn't "vilifying" Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war protester whose son was killed in Iraq. O'Reilly stated: "I'm not vilifying the woman. I play her comments, and I tell you the truth." Continuing, O'Reilly claimed that Sheehan was being "run by far-left elements who are using her, and she's dumb enough to allow it to happen." O'Reilly then added: "It's not a vilification, it's a fact."
O'Reilly was responding to a caller who stated, "I think it's wrong to attack and vilify someone like Sheehan." The comment came during a discussion of O'Reilly's guest appearance on the January 3 edition of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman in which host David Letterman challenged O'Reilly's criticism of Sheehan.
As Media Matters for America documented (here and here), O'Reilly has accused Sheehan, among other things, of behavior that "other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq" think "borders on treasonous" and has included her as a member of his "coward list."
Sheehan became a national figure as a result of a 26-day vigil outside of President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch in August 2005, helping to spark a national anti-war movement.
From the January 4 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
CALLER: First, I want to commend you for even going on the Letterman show. People like, I think, [Rush] Limbaugh and [Sean] Hannity don't have the guts to do it. At least you did it, so I commend you for that. But I -- I tend to side with Letterman's viewpoints, particularly the Cindy Sheehan issue. I think it's wrong to attack and vilify someone like Sheehan. And you did the same thing with [son of 9-11 terrorist attack victim] Jeremy Glick. I think it's deplorable. Let me ask you a question --
O'REILLY: Well, I mean, you just --
O'REILLY: Let me ask you a question here. You just heard her sound bite saying that terrorists who kill babies, women, anybody, are freedom fighters. Do you believe that?
CALLER: Well --
O'REILLY: Do you believe that?
CALLER: I don't agree with it.
CALLER: However, I don't think it is fair to attack and vilify her --
O'REILLY: Of course -- I'm not attacking and vilifying. I'm --
CALLER: Let me ask you a question.
O'REILLY: Hold it, hold it. You sh -- all right, get rid of him. I'm not attacking and vilifying anybody. That comment that she's -- that Cindy Sheehan puts forth to the American people that these people are "freedom fighters." Do you know how painful that is to people who have lost soldiers and Marines in Iraq? Yeah, she lost her son. We feel bad. I'm not vilifying the woman. I play her comments, and I tell you the truth. She's run by far-left elements who are using her, and she's dumb enough to allow it to happen. It's not a vilification, it's a fact.
From the January 3 broadcast of CBS' Late Show with David Letterman:
O'REILLY: The soldiers and Marines are noble, they're not terrorists. And when people call them that, like Cindy Sheehan -- called the insurgents "freedom fighters," we don't like that. It is a vitally important time in American history, and we should all take it very seriously and be very careful about what we say.
LETTERMAN: Well, and you should be very careful with what you say also.
O'REILLLY: Give me an example. Give me an example.
LETTERMAN: How can you possibly take exception with the motivation and the position of someone like Cindy Sheehan?
O'REILLY: Because I believe she's run by far-left elements in this country. I feel bad for the woman.
LETTERMAN: Have you lost family members in armed conflict?
O'REILLY: No, I have not.
LETTERMAN: Well, then, you can hardly speak for her, can you?
O'REILLY: All right, I'm not speaking for her. All right, let me ask you this question.
LETTERMAN: Let's go back to your little red and green stories.
O'REILLY: Whoa, whoa, whoa, this is important, this is important. Cindy Sheehan lost a son, a professional soldier in Iraq, correct? She has a right to grieve any way she wants, she has a right to say whatever she wants. When she says to the public that the insurgents and terrorists are freedom fighters, how do you think, David Letterman, that makes people who lost loved ones by these people blowing the hell out of them -- how do you think they feel? What about their feelings, sir?
LETTERMAN: What about -- why are we there in the first place?
O'REILLY: We're there --
LETTERMAN: The president, the president himself, less than a month ago, said we are there because of a mistake made in intelligence. Well, whose -- whose intelligence? Was it just, somebody got off a bus and handed it to him? No, it was the intelligence gathered by his administration.
O'REILLY: By the CIA.
LETTERMAN: Yeah, so why are we there in the first place? I agree to you, with you that we have to support the troops. They are there, they are the best and the brightest of this country. There's no doubt about that. And I also agree that now we're in it, it's going to take a long, long time. People who expect it to be solved and wrapped up in a couple of years -- unrealistic, it's not going to happen. However, however, that does not eliminate the legitimate speculation and concern and questioning of why the hell are we there to begin with?
O'REILLY: If you want to question that and then revamp an intelligence agency that's obviously flawed -- the CIA, OK? But remember, MI6 in Britain said the same thing. [Vladimir] Putin's people in Russia said the same thing, and so did [Hosni] Mubarak's intelligence agency in Egypt.
LETTERMAN: But does that make it all right?
O'REILLY: No --
LETTERMAN: That the intelligence across the board makes it all right that we're there?
O'REILLY: It doesn't make it right. Mistakes are made --
LETTERMAN: I'm very concerned about people like yourself who don't have nothing but endless sympathy for a woman like Cindy Sheehan, honest to Christ.
O'REILLY: No, I'm sorry.
LETTERMAN: Honest to Christ.
O'REILLY: No way --
LETTERMAN: I just --
O'REILLY: No way you're gonna get me -- no way that a terrorist who blows up women and children --
LETTERMAN: You have children?
O'REILLY: Yes, I do, and they're the same age as yours. No way a terrorist who blows up women and children is gonna be called a freedom fighter on my program.