Earlier today I warned Salon editor Joan Walsh against appearing on the O’Reilly Factor to discuss the controversy surrounding the murdered abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller. I argued that there was no possible upside because Bill O’Reilly would just turn the interview into a shoutfest wherein O’Reilly would seek only to harangue and ridicule.
This was a pathetic display of bullying by an ignorant, dishonest, and obsessed man. O’Reilly deftly validated my long-held position that no Democrat or progressive should EVER appear on Fox News. O’Reilly loaded the segment with quotes and video clips to which Walsh had no prior access and could not reasonably respond with any authority. She, however, had no opportunity to do likewise, or even to respond to his questions. When he wasn’t hollering at her, saying that “You have blood on your hands,” he was bellowing at her to “Stop talking!” That is the natural state of an O’Reilly interview. It is a format in which he excels, but others can be made to look foolish. So even though Walsh has been an effective and articulate presence on other TV programs, it was easily predictable that she would be jostled and beaten here. Walsh herself seems to agree with me after the fact:
“If I’m sorry I did the show — and I’m not yet sure I am — it’s only because of one thing: He used me to try Dr. Tiller again, postmortem.” [...] “I’m a little embarrassed because they make me look like a liberal Pollyanna, a lamb ready to lie down with the lion — to be eaten! Live and learn.” [...] “Epic fail! What was I thinking?”
You ought to be sorry, Joan. But you’re right, he did use you. He used you to attack everyone who believes that private, personal medical decisions should be between the patient and the doctor. He used you to bash everyone with liberal values that are rooted in free choice and freedom from groups or governments that seek to impose their moral standards on you. He used you to validate himself and to reinforce the falsehood that he and Fox News are “fair and balanced.”
You should be embarrassed, too. And I hope that you have learned. I hope others can learn from your unfortunate experience. The deck is stacked against anyone who wanders into that lair. It has nothing to do with your debating skills or subject knowledge. It is fixed from the outset. O’Reilly is, as you said, “driven by demons.”
I simply cannot say this enough: Stay the HELL off of Fox News. The only thing they care about is ginning up the rage and hyping the resultant conflict. Just take a look at how they are already promoting the Walsh episode just hours after it was taped:
Notice they proudly plug the flaring tempers in part one. And, worse, part two is pitched as “O’Reilly’s Dr. Tiller shoot-out.” Remember, this is about a man who was just shot to death. This is all you need to know about Fox News and how they will gleefully exploit you in the most repulsive manner imaginable.
[Update - 6/21/09] Joan Walsh wrote another followup to her O’Reilly misadventure. She seems to have learned her lesson.
“I didn’t expect to go into a debate on late-term abortion, or the details of Dr. Tiller’s practice. I was asked to discuss my reasons for criticizing O’Reilly’s crusade against Tiller, and why I hoped he would turn down his rhetoric. I was sandbagged, but that’s the O’Reilly game plan.” [...] “I should have been prepared for him to hit me again Monday, when I couldn’t defend myself, with selective re-editing that took out my criticism of him and made me look evasive and/or stupid.”
I can’t imagine why she didn’t expect to be sandbagged and ridiculed. She should have read what I wrote before her appearance. I predicted precisely what would take place. I just hope that others will learn from her mistake. When you go on Fox News you are abandoning the world of responsible media and volunteering to be victimized by unscrupulous practitioners of self-righteousness and deceit. Just say no!