O’Reilly Smears Reporter in Defense of ‘Anti-Gay Bigotry’

New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg tells (12/5/08) of being targeted by Fox‘s Bill O’Reilly for connecting Newt Gingrich to “anti-gay bigotry.” O’Reilly’s grievance against Hertzberg sparks from this passage in the writer’s December 1 New Yorker piece:

Like a polluted swamp, anti-gay bigotry is likely to get thicker and more toxic as it dries up. Viciousness meets viciousness. “Look,” Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, said the other day (on the air, to Bill O’Reilly), “I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence…. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact.”

O’Reilly cried foul:

What Hertzberg did not tell New Yorker readers is that that conversation with Speaker Gingrich was about gay violence against a Christian missionary in San Francisco. It had nothing to do with the gay marriage vote, only militant reaction to it. Hertzberg does this kind of dishonest stuff all the time, because he knows many of his readers never watch the Factor, and Gingrich and I are easy targets for his distortions.

Maybe you won’t be surprised to learn that O’Reilly wasn’t giving the whole story. Here’s what O’Reilly actually said just before the Gingrich quote:

OK, now the culture war, I know you’ve been flying around the country and doing stuff. In the last three or four days, really nasty stuff. I mean, you know, hyper. We’re going to show you some of the video. A woman getting a cross smashed out of her hand. We had a church in Michigan invaded by gay activists. We’re going to show you the video on Monday of that. We have exclusively. We had a guy in Sacramento fired from his job. We have boycotts called on restaurants. I mean, it is getting out of control very few days after the election. How do you assess that?

So the “nasty stuff” O’Reilly referred to really ranged from a cross-smashing (which actually sounds considerably less fascistic when you learn more about it) to boycotts of businesses–the latter being the sort of thing that O’Reilly routinely encourages his viewers to participate in. From this sort of predictable distortion, O’Reilly moved on to what Hertzberg described as “simply a lie”:

O’Reilly said last night that I “refused to come on the Factor,” as he calls his program…. Neither he nor any of his staff asked me to appear on his program, either directly or through anyone else at the New Yorker. I’m puzzled that O’Reilly said otherwise, since he has to know that we know he was lying. I guess he just doesn’t care. He’s got his base.

Hertzberg might be a little less puzzled had he read FAIR’s book-length exposé of such loathsome behavior: The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, by Peter Hart.