O’REILLY: ‘NO BACKPEDALING’…. Dr. George Tiller was clearly a key target for opponents of abortion rights, but his most high-profile opponent was Bill O’Reilly, who went to great lengths to characterize the Kansas physician as one of the nation’s most dangerous and evil men. The Fox News personality was practically obsessed, launching a one-man, anti-Tiller crusade.

O’Reilly, who routinely described the doctor as “Tiller the Baby Killer,” went after Tiller 28 times on his Fox News program in recent years, and that doesn’t include O’Reilly’s radio commentary, which at one point featured the host wishing he could get his “hands on Tiller.” Among his more memorable criticisms, O’Reilly compared Tiller to Nazis and al Qaeda.

Given this, when Tiller was assassinated on Sunday morning, more than a few observers noted O’Reilly’s role in making the doctor Public Enemy #1 among pro-life activists. Last night, O’Reilly offered a obligatory condemnation of the murder, before making the slaying all about himself.

[O’Reilly] went on to discuss his feelings upon hearing of the doctor’s killing — naturally, he thought not of Tiller or his family, but of Bill O’Reilly and his enemies. “Now, when I heard about Tiller’s murder, I knew pro-abortion zealots and Fox News haters would attempt to blame us for the crime,” the host said.

But O’Reilly promised “no backpedaling” away from his foes. … “It is clear that the far-left is exploiting, exploiting, the death of the doctor. Those individuals want to stifle any criticism of Tiller. That and hating Fox News is the real agenda here… If these people were soooooo compassionate, so very compassionate, so concerned for the rights and welfare of others, maybe they might have written something, one thing, about the 60,000 fetuses who will never become American citizens. Or am I wrong?”

O’Reilly’s mad at the journalists who made note of the host’s crusade. O’Reilly’s mad at politicians who didn’t shape the laws to his liking. O’Reilly’s mad at those who disagree with him on abortion rights. And wouldn’t you know it, he found some guests for his program who think O’Reilly is completely right.

I’m sure O’Reilly meant to use his media platform to reflect, even briefly, on whether he’s been responsible in his rhetorical attacks, but there wasn’t time for self-examination or contemplation. He was too busy feeling sorry for himself, disappointed that some might make a connection between O’Reilly’s enraged criticisms of a law-abiding physician and the slaying of that doctor.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.