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O'Reilly Smears Grieving Mother as Flip-flopping Tool of the Left
Bill O'Reilly Tuesday (August 9, 2005) tried to make Cindy Sheehan look like an unwitting tool of leftist extremists who has unaccountably changed her views of President Bush. All it took was a Google search to reveal that O'Reilly was repeating false information that the far right has been spreading about Sheehan all week.
Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year, has been protesting outside President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch while the president vacations. She is demanding that Bush explain his conduct of the war in Iraq.
O'Reilly claimed that Sheehan has changed her feelings toward Bush since she met with the president a year ago. He said that in an inteview with a California newspaper shortly after that visit, Sheehan said, "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss." He also quoted her as saying, "That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together."
Both O'Reilly and his guest, far-right pundit Michelle Malkin, criticized news outlets such as The New York Times for failing to report the flip-flop in Sheehan's feelings.
But O'Reilly left out a little crucial information himself. For starters, O'Reilly never mentioned that he was merely repeating a story from Monday's Drudge Report, another cog in the right-wing noise machine.
Drudge headlined his story, "Protesting Soldier Mom Changed Story on Bush." Except that she didn't.
The Reporter, from Vacaville, California, interviewed Sheehan after her family's meeting with Bush in June 2004. The article, "Bush, Sheehans share moments," makes clear that Sheehan and her husband Patrick wanted to confront Bush then about his policy on Iraq.
The Reporter's article said:
"'We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled,' Cindy said. 'The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached.'
"The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.
"But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. It addition, Pat noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a political edge for the upcoming election.
"'We have a lot of respect for the office of the president, and I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with us,' Pat said.
"Sincerity was something Cindy had hoped to find in the meeting. Shortly after Casey died, Bush sent the family a form letter expressing his condolences, and Cindy said she felt it was an impersonal gesture."
The Vacaville newspaper Tuesday dredged up its original story on the Sheehans and noted how the Drudge Report misused it. Referring to Sheehan's quote about the "gift of happiness" Bush gave them, Tuesday's story
The Reporter said that, "Drudge included that quote in his Monday morning report, but didn't explain that it referred to sharing time with her family, not the president."
O'Reilly repeated the misrepresentation.
After setting the stage with quotes taken out of context, O'Reilly and Malkin went on to smear Sheehan. Malkin said Sheehan "has turned her private, personal pain into a public circus" with her demonstration. In other words, grieving mothers like Sheehan should stay home, suck it up, and leave policy-making on things like war to Bush and members of Congress who have no children in Iraq and can make these decisions with clear-headed logic unclouded by silly sentimentalism for dead sons.