When Bill O’Reilly comes on “The View”, a heated exchange is sure to be a part of the show. O’Reilly is an outspoken conservative (though, strangely, he finds himself as a moderate on Fox News). Meanwhile, most of the “The View” hosts could be described as liberal, with the very notable exception of Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Put those ingredients together and you have a powder keg of politics, and on live television. Having said that, in past experiences O’Reilly and his hosts at least have been able to have a somewhat civil conversation. However, in today’s visit O’Reilly said something that offended two of the women so much they stormed off stage to the applause of many in the audience (video to the left).
At the heart of the controversy was O’Reilly’s claim that the Cordoba House project (called the “Ground Zero mosque” by conservatives) should not be built. O’Reilly agreed with his hosts, and President Obama, that the group has a right to build the mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero, but he argued the President still should have come out against the community center. To support his claim, O’Reilly argued that polls show 70% of Americans oppose the “mosque.” O’Reilly also claims that the families of 9/11 victims oppose the Cordoba House. Finally, what caused Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to storm off stage was O’Reilly’s claim that “Muslims killed us on 9/11!”
So was O’Reilly correct?
As is the case with many conservative commentators, O’Reilly relied on a list of half-true/half-lie arguments that are difficult to parse out on live television.
Contrary to O’Reilly’s assertion, President Obama never said the Cordoba House “should” be built. Instead, the President said that the builders had a right to build where they wanted. The two ideas are distinct. As Patrick Henry once famously said, one can disagree with what someone else says while still vehemently defending their right to say it.
As to the issue of polling, anyone with access to Google can quickly find a poll which finds approximately 70% (some polls are higher, others lower) of the American public opposes the “Ground Zero mosque.” There are two problems with the polls. First, the question in the poll is typically worded in such a way to greatly affecy the answer. The question typically presents a scenario of a mosque at Ground Zero, rather than a community center, open to all faiths, two blocks away from Ground Zero (which is actually the case). Secondly, in America we rarely put constitutional rights up for a vote. We do not vote on whether people have freedom of speech or freedom of religion; we simply respect those rights regardless of the will of the majority.
Finally, the people who “killed us” on 9/11 did call themselves Muslims. Of course, Timothy McVeigh also called himself a Christian when he killed 168 people in Oklahoma City. David Koresh compared himself to Jesus before killing federal agents and causing the deaths of 80 people inside the Waco compound. The actions of the extremists on 9/11 have been condemned by the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world, just as the actions of McVeigh and Koresh have been condemned by the overwhelming majority of the Christian world. O’Reilly’s statements are correct, only if we allow extremists to define themselves as part of a religion.