It was shocking, but hardly surprising, when Paul Hill was arrested for the killing of a doctor and his escort outside a Pensacola, Fla., abortion clinic on July 29. After all, the former minister had been advocating such action on national TV for more than a year.
Appearing as a guest on CNN‘s Sonya Live (3/8/94), Hill hailed the man who had murdered abortion provider Dr. David Gunn as a hero “willing to lay down” his life to fulfill “the commandment of Christ.”
Host Sonya Friedman responded by seeming to question Hill’s commitment to action: “But Mr. Hill, indeed, you personally are not laying down your life. One might suggest that you are offering that message to others and they may be laying down their lives.”
When Nightline‘s Ted Koppel (12/8/93) brought on Hill and another anti-abortion activist to debate whether doctors should be killed, Koppel gave every indication that it was a question worthy of discussion. Koppel responded to Hill’s argument in favor of doctor-killing by posing a question to Helen Alvare of the Conference of Catholic Bishops: “If a parent would be justified in using violence, even deadly force, to protect a one-day-old infant,” Koppel asked, “why is that same parent not justified in using the same kind of force to prevent the abortion of, let’s say, a five-month-old child?”
If a pro-choice advocate had been allowed to participate in the Nightline discussion, she or he might have pointed out the difference between a child and a fetus. Or noted that 99 percent of abortions are performed before the 21st week of pregnancy.
In Extra! Update (2/94), a newsletter sent to Extra! subscribers, FAIR pointed out the danger posed by Koppel’s uncritical treatment of Hill: “Is it possible that people will die because Nightline provided a platform to an advocate of murder?”
News media today should be exposing political movements that turn to violence–especially one that rationalizes murder as “pro-life.” But putting a floodlight on such extremists is different than giving them a media spotlight.