Political blogs and morning TV shows are having a field day with Bill O'Reilly's explosive appearance on "The View" Thursday. As Wire readers know, co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar stormed off the set after a heated debate about the proposed Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan. O'Reilly said most Americans oppose the center because "Muslims killed us on 9/11." To which Goldberg replied "Oh my God! That is such bullshit!" incensed that O'Reilly didn't distinguish between a small number of extremists and an entire religion. She and Behar walked off the set.
It was vintage "The View." Heavy on the emotional theatrics, light on constructive dialogue. In other words: great television. Later Thursday night, O'Reilly clarified his remarks on his show, saying that he didn't mean to conflate Islam with terrorism but that "after ten years" Americans understand the difference between "peace-abiding Muslims and people who make war under the banner of Islam." In essence, Goldberg's point that he say "Muslim extremists" instead of "Muslims" was moot. Nobody says "Japanese extremists attacked us" during World War II, O'Reilly noted:
Weighing in on O'Reilly's World War II comparison, Nitasha Tiku of New York Magazine gives him the benefit of the doubt:
It's true, no one refers to the bombing of Pearl Harbor as perpetrated by Japanese extremists, perhaps because Japan is a country and not a religion, and extremism during a World War could sound redundant... Nonetheless, his point about political correctness is a fair one. It doesn't really seem like the tenor of the national discussion on Islam and 9/11 is erring on the side of caution to us. But maybe pointing out the religion of a terrorist, no matter how much you intended to mislead or incite hate, shouldn't necessitate a walkout.
Glenn Davis at Mediate is less supportive. "Remembering that our treatment of Japanese people during World War II involved this, this might not be the best analogy," she says, linking to information on Japanese interment camps. "We still say, however, that even though Behar and Goldberg returned later, walking off the set during a debate made O’Reilly look like the winner…and the segment on his own show a victory lap."
Meanwhile, MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan gave a stirring rebuttal to O'Reilly on "Morning Joe" Friday. He contends that the distinction between Muslims and Muslim extremists is crucial because the American people, by and large, haven't gotten the message:
What do you think?