O’Reilly, Milbank, and the importance of keeping our heads

O’REILLY, MILBANK, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF KEEPING OUR HEADS…. On Election Night, Fox News did what viewers expected it to do: it featured a panel of media personalities lavishing praise on Republicans. There was a token Democrat — pollster Doug Schoen, who appears to hate Democrats and exists to bolster GOP talking points — but none of this was especially surprising.

The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank described the coverage as a victory party for Republicans. Bill O’Reilly was enraged by Milbank’s assessment, telling viewers, “He said there were no Democrats except for Schoen on. It was an outright lie.” Milbank hadn’t said that, but it’s Fox News, where such details are easily ignored.

This would all be pretty meaningless, if O’Reilly had been willing to move on. But as Milbank noted in his column today, that wasn’t to be.

On Thursday night, the Fox News host asked, as part of a show that would be seen by 5.5 million people: “Does sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?” He then added, “That was a joke.”

Hilarious! Decapitation jokes just slay me, and this one had all the more hilarity because the topic of journalist beheadings brings to mind my late friend and colleague Danny Pearl, who replaced me in the Wall Street Journal’s London bureau and later was murdered in Pakistan by people who thought sharia justified it.

The next night, O’Reilly went after Milbank again. And then again the night after that.

On Thursday night, he made an eerie reference to The Post’s editorial page editor. “Would you put Fred Hiatt’s picture up on the screen here?” he asked. “This is the editor, Milbank’s editor, Fred Hiatt. And, Fred won’t do anything about Milbank lying in his column. I just want everybody in America to know what The Washington Post has come to. All right, you can take Fred’s picture off. Fred, have a nice weekend, buddy.”

Shortly after this, O’Reilly proposed to his fellow Fox News host, Megyn Kelly, a way to handle their disagreement with me: “I think you and I should go and beat him up.”

In my heart of hearts, I find it very hard to believe that O’Reilly would commit an act of violence against Milbank or his editor. I also rather doubt O’Reilly intends for his viewers to go out and become anti-media vigilantes, attacking journalists in the streets.

But there have been some awful incidents lately of politically-motivated violence. The more media professionals make an effort to lower the temperate a bit, the better off we’ll be.