For more than a year, Bill O’Reilly has been railing against the New York Times for what he believes is its excessive coverage of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Back on May 27, 2004, he said, “some press people are using the terrible Abu Ghraib prison scandal as a political hammer. Some people don’t see that as a bad thing, but I do. I think the story should be reported accurately and aggressively, but not used by the media to advance an agenda.” (Emphasis added.)
O’Reilly feels the Times, more than anyone else in the “left-wing media,” has focused far too much on the military prison torture scandal. On his Fox News show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” he has repeatedly condemned the paper for its Abu Ghraib coverage, and has kept a running tab of the number of front-page stories the Times has written about it. O’Reilly hasn’t always had the numbers exactly right — on May 27th, he said there had been “total of 50 front page articles” in the Times about the scandal, and then on June 22nd said, “They got 47 stories on Abu Ghraib on the front page” — but his point is clear: The Times “is using the prisoner story to hammer the Bush administration.” In the past year, in addition to the examples above, he criticized the Times’ Abu Ghraib coverage on June 11, June 14, June 30, July 1, July 9, July 21, August 9, Oct. 8, Oct. 25, Nov. 9, Nov. 22, Feb. 16, March 9, April 12, May 3, May 16, and May 17. The notion that the Times is allowing ideology to dictate its coverage has become a common refrain on the show.
But there’s another common refrain of late on “The O’Reilly Factor,” one that puts his criticism of the Times into a different light. Last January, University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill made news when students and faculty members at Hamilton College protested a scheduled speaking appearance by Churchill, who had written an incendiary essay that compared the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to Nazis. The night after the story broke, O’Reilly attacked Churchill, calling him an “anti-American fanatic,” and invited onto his show a Hamilton faculty member and the family of a man who died in the Sept. 11 attacks.
You might think that was ample coverage of a story concerning whether or not an obscure but controversial professor would or should speak at an equally-obscure small college. But O’Reilly covered the story for nine straight days — and has barely slowed down since. Here’s a recap of the Churchill coverage on “The O’Reilly Factor”:
Jan 28: O’Reilly attacks Churchill and interviews the Hamilton professor and Sept. 11 family.
Jan 31: O’Reilly interviews anti-Churchill University of Colorado professor Paul Campos.
Feb 1: After Hamilton cancels Churchill’s appearance, O’Reilly interviews conservative crusader David Horowitz and two Hamilton students.
Feb 2: O’Reilly gets a call from the Times asking if he felt responsible for the death threats Churchill has received since the story broke. “I knew this was going to happen. I told you last night that the left wing media would be angry that “The Factor” could influence the national discourse,” O’Reilly says.
Feb 3: O’Reilly attacks Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, who had written a column criticizing O’Reilly because he “went to town on the controversy.” He interviews FOX News correspondent Carol McKinley, who was covering a Colorado University meeting about Churchill. O’Reilly’s column about Churchill is posted on billoreilly.com.
Feb 4: Guest host John Gibson interviews two wide-eyed CU college students who support Churchill. One says, “I believe Professor Churchill’s a wonderful, wonderful man. He’s taught a lot of students a whole lot of things.”
Feb 7: O’Reilly interviews Colorado governor Bill Owens, who has called for Churchill’s resignation.
Feb 8: O’Reilly talks about how the ACLU “has finally broken [its] silence” and backed Churchill. He sarcastically feigns shock.