180 Degree Spin Zone

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Gil Brewer profiles Bill O'Reilly

In an interview this week with Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly attacked the attempts to conflate the Tea Parties with the racist right. It was wrong, he argued, to tar a whole movement with the sins of its fringe. "You can see it that any nut—and there are some nuts, Laura, in the Tea Party movement—any nut and anything will be used to brand the entire movement," he said.

I agree with O'Reilly. I also agree with his critics at Think Progress:

O'Reilly is correct that incidents of bigotry at Tea Party events do not mean that everybody in the Tea Party movement is racist. O'Reilly's effort to make a nuanced distinction is surprising, however, considering his past efforts to use cherrypicked user comments to label the netroots as "hatemongerers" like "the Ku Klux Klan" and "the Nazi Party." In 2007, when JetBlue sponsored the YearlyKos convention, O'Reilly attacked the company, saying that "if the company was sponsoring a David Duke convention, we'd do the same story. Hate is hate, no matter where it comes from." The two or three comments picked out from a forum in which hundreds of thousands of people participate were not representative of the site as a whole.

When Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) appeared on O'Reilly's show to defend YearlyKos, which he was attending, he argued that "the fact that there are objectionable people who show up here on this site doesn't discredit everyone else who participates in this in a wonderful way to share their views on a variety of subjects." "Your description of that site is so opposite from what it is," responded O'Reilly. "You are so dead wrong on this." A year later, when former Vice President Al Gore spoke at the convention (which had been re-named Netroots Nation), O'Reilly declared that "the fact that he went to this thing is the same as if he stepped into the Klan gathering. It's the same. No difference."

For Think Progress, the takeaway here is that Bill O'Reilly is a hypocrite. True enough. But I'll add a second lesson: There's an awful lot of people on the left and center who have seem to have adopted O'Reilly as a model.