Keeping Up Appearances
To avoid harming the anti-abortion agenda, WorldNetDaily and CNS would rather that its readers not know certain things regarding the death of George Tiller, such as Randall Terry's reaction to it and the alleged killer's ties to Operation Rescue.
By Terry Krepel
The ConWeb is generally, and unsurprisingly, anti-abortion, so the May 31 killing of controversial late-term abortion doctor George Tiller was a subject of interest -- and spin.
Upon his death, CNSNews.com and WorldNetDaily were quick to rush to press with denouncements by anti-abortion activists of Tiller's shooting and efforts to portray Tiller's alleged killer, Scott Roeder, as having no links to the mainstream anti-abortion movement:
Conspicuous by their absence, however, were the words of one anti-abortion activist in particular: Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue and a seminal figure in the movement. Terry issued the following statement after Tiller's death:
"Dr. Tiller was a mass murderer.
To this day, neither WND nor CNS have mentioned Terry's statement; only Newsmax among the ConWeb has reported Terry's remarks.
It's all the more puzzling because both WND and CNS had no issue with reporting Terry's antics in protesting Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement.
That WND and CNS would turn squeamish and spin-centric about reporting relevant facts about the anti-abortion movement is as unsurprising as their anti-abortion stance. Perhaps CNS felt it didn't need to after its leader, Media Research Center head Brent Bozell, engaged in some Terry-esque rhetoric in his June 2 column.
Complaining that the anti-abortion movement was the victim of "liberal mudslinging" because of an "unhinged vigilante," Bozell attacked Keith Olbermann for calling Tiller's death an "assassination": "Olbermann insisted that the mere act of denouncing Tiller as a killer of babies as if he were instead removing tumors is an invitation to terrorism and murder." Bozell concluded: "George Tiller was a monster who personally murdered 60,000 babies. May God have mercy on his soul."
That sentiment was echoed by Colleen Raezler, a writer for the MRC's Culture & Media Institute. In April, Raezler complained that the media allegedly failed to report the fact that the victims of a plane crash were an abortion doctor and his family; Raezler's repeated insistence that "loss of human life is a tragedy" was overshadowed by the overall tone of her piece, which made it clear that she believed the deaths of these people weren't a tragedy.
In a June 2 CMI article co-authored with Sarah Knoploh and also posted at NewsBusters, Raezler went even farther, suggesting that Tiller deserved to be targeted:
Loss of human life is a tragedy and should be reported as such, and premeditated murder is always wrong something all the mainstream pro-life groups were quick to affirm in the wake of the killing. But in reporting this tragic story, the news media have much to say about a man who helped provide women with the “right” to end their pregnancies, but have little to say about lives he helped to end. In failing to highlight what Tiller’s work actually entailed, reporters do nothing to help their audience understand why this man was targeted.
By suggesting that Tiller was targeted for completely understandable reasons, she's also saying that it's completely understandable that someone would want to murder him, her disingenuous blather about how "loss of human life is a tragedy" notwithstanding.
Further, as ConWebWatch has detailed, CNS itself has had a longtime labeling bias on the subject, preferring "pro-life" to "anti-abortion" and "pro-abortion" to "pro-choice."
WND, meanwhile, has long been sympathetic to the extremist end of the anti-abortion movement. Two examples particularly stand out, as ConWebWatch has previously detailed:
WND has also regularly attacked Tiller; according to WND's search engine, the phrase "Tiller the killer" occurs no less than 94 times on WND's website as of this writing, including several headlines. WND's attacks on Tiller have tended to be one-sided with little to no effort to fairly tell both sides of the story. WND -- and particularly Cashill -- has promoted the anti-Tiller crusade of Phill Kline, former Kansas attorney general and current county attorney.
WND writers have unloaded harsh rhetoric against Tiller as well. For instance, in a July 2007 column, Cashill lamented that "In Kansas, we don't even have a Gestapo to explain our passivity" toward allowing Tiller to stay in business, adding that "I have to ask myself whether we judged too harshly those 'Good Germans,' who turned a blind eye to Nazi inhumanities." And in a March 2007 column, Jill Stanek asserted that Tiller's "secret is to spread abortion blood money so thickly among politicians that there is allegedly nary a one with prosecutorial influence he has not bought off!"
If violent rhetoric by anti-abortion activists can be said to have been a contributing factor in Tiller's death, then WND has undoubtedly contributed. Unsurprisingly, WND would rather divert your attention elsewhere.
WND managing editor David Kupelian engaged in such a diversionary tactic in a June 1 column, insisting that "anti-abortion violence is extremely rare and is utterly repudiated by every pro-life organization and leader." (No mention, of course, of Randall Terry's deviation from that supposed norm.) Kupelian went on to assert that the Obama administration will use Tiller's shooting like Hitler used the Reichstag fire -- yet another in the long line of Nazi smears of Obama at WND. But there's nary a word about WND's own anti-Tiller rhetoric, let alone any move by him to accept responsibility for it.
Kupelian's Reichstag reference was shot down in surprising manner by none other than fellow right-wing activist David Horowitz in a June 2 FrontPageMag blog post:
I continue to get emails comparing President Obama to Hitler, the most recent suggesting that the murder of an abortion doctor might be Obama's "Reichstag Fire" and would be used by Obama to take away our civil liberties and terminate our Republic as Hitler did the Weimar Republic in the 1930s. This is lunatic stuff. Obama is better compared to Neville Chamberlain than to Adolf Hitler if you like these kinds of comparisons. Americans are not Germans -- it's a very big difference as far as political cultures are concerned, and Obama is not Hitler. Obama is a machine politician and whatever dangers he represents (and as I see it there are many) are dangers because they reflect the heart and soul of today's Democratic Party not because he is a Manchurian candidate or a closet Islamist, as more than a few conservatives seem to think.
Randall Terry isn't the only significant aspect of Tiller's death the ConWeb has been ignoring.
On June 3, McClatchy reported that after Roeder was captured following Tiller's shooting, authorities found in his car a note that read “Cheryl” and “Op Rescue” with a phone number. That appears to be Cheryl Sullenger, a senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue. Sullenger told McClatchy that Roeder had contacted her several times seeking information about court hearings involving Tiller, which she provided to him.
Despite the fact that this appears to contradict the claim that Roeder was "not associated with the mainstream pro-life movement" -- not to mention Operation Rescue's own attempt to disassociate itself from Roeder -- neither WND nor CNS have reported this to their readers.
Why would news outlets refuse to report news of interest to its audience? Because there's a storyline to maintain -- anti-abortion activists are never violent, and they don't associate with anyone who is. Anything that contradicts that storyline must be spun; if it can't be spun, it must be ignored.
Is that the definition of a "news organization"? Most people who care about journalism would say no.