Hate Speech and the Assassination of Dr. George Tiller

This story has been churning in my stomach for the last few days and really makes me sick. For anyone living in a cave:

George Tiller, one of only a few doctors in the nation who performed abortions late in pregnancy, was shot to death here Sunday in the foyer of his longtime church as he handed out the church bulletin. The authorities said they took a man into custody later in the day after pulling him over about 170 miles away on Interstate 35 near Kansas City. They said they expected to charge him with murder on Monday.

The New York Times

Not surprisingly, the suspect, Scott Roeder was heavily involved in the “pro-life” movement. He obviously isn’t your typical pro-lifer, among whom are many of my close friends, but rather a subscriber to the extreme positions of the “pro-life” movement.

Those who know Roeder said he believed that killing abortion doctors was an act of justifiable homicide.

“I know that he believed in justifiable homicide,” said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City anti-abortion activist who made headlines in 1995 when she was ordered by a federal judge to stop using a bullhorn within 500 feet of any abortion clinic. “I know he very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn.”

Dinwiddie said she met Roeder while picketing outside the Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic in 1996. Roeder walked into the clinic and asked to see the doctor, Robert Crist, she said.

Robert Crist came out and he stared at him for approximately 45 seconds,” she said. “Then [Roeder] said, ‘I’ve seen you now.’ Then he turned his back and walked away, and they were scared to death. On the way out, he gave me a great big hug and he said, ‘I’ve seen you in the newspaper. I just love what you’re doing.’”

Roeder also was a subscriber to Prayer and Action News, a magazine that advocated the justifiable homicide position, said publisher Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines, Iowa.

I met him once, and he wrote to me a few times,” Leach said. “I remember that he was sympathetic to our cause, but I don’t remember any details.”

Leach said he met Roeder in Topeka when he went there to visit Shelley Shannon, who was in prison for the 1993 shooting of Tiller.

He told me about a lot of conspiracy stuff and showed me how to take the magnetic strip out of a five-dollar bill,” Leach said. "He said it was to keep the government from tracking your money."


In the last few days many anti-choice activists and groups have come out with statements condemning the killing, however, some of these statements seem only to try to distance themselves from the killing without actually condemning the act.

Randall Terry, founder of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, a group that Roeder had associations with and whose Senior Policy Advisor’s phone number was taped to his car dashboard.

George Tiller was a mass-murderer. He had blood all over his hands. Now we grieve for him that he was shot in this deplorable manner and he did not have a chance to get things right with his maker perhaps. Every man deserves to have a trial of a jury of his peers and then a proper execution, not to have somebody become judge, jury and executioner on their own.

Randall Terry

We must not fear, we must not flinch, we must not retreat a single inch. George Tiller was a mass murderer, and we must continue to say so in his death just as we did in his life.

Randall Terry

Others just come out and say it with joy.

The lives of innocent babies scheduled to be murdered by George Tiller are spared by the action of American hero Scott Roeder. George Tiller the Babykiller reaped what he sowed and is now in eternal hell.

Army of God

Admittedly, the second group isn’t one of the well known anti-abortion groups, like National Right to Life, and is as far from mainstream as it gets, but in this case, it is groups like these that lead to the idea of justifiable homicide. If you don’t like the extremist groups and think it is unfair to lump the pro-life movement in with this kind of hate speech, how about someone a little more prominent? How about a TV and Radio host whose shows reach an audience of millions?

Lets take a look at some of Bill O’Reilly’s comments during his 5 year war against Dr. Tiller. Since 2005, O’Reilly has ranted at least 29 times about Tiller on his Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor.

Records show he’ll do it for vague medical reasons, that is, he’ll kill the fetus, viable outside the womb if the mother wants it dead.

I don’t care what you think, we have incontrovertible evidence, incontrovertible evidence, alright, that this man is executing babies about to be born, in late term, because the woman is depressed.

Tiller himself, when he injected the fetus with the killing agent, then when he took the afterbirth, he never said anything to you at all?

Tiller the Baby Killer, as the Factor has been reporting, this man will terminate fetuses at any time for $5000.

I wanted George Tiller, Tiller the Baby Killer going YEAH! I can make more money killing babies now!

Bill O'Reilly

Now, I would never say that Bill O’Reilly or any of the other people mentioned in this post were complicit in this murder. Scott Roeder did this. He made a choice to murder someone whose views differed from his own. What I will absolutely say is that people like Bill O’Reilly should be held accountable for the words they use. It is clear that his words were meant to dehumanize Dr. Tiller, to make him into a monster rather than a man. For a person like Scott Roeder, these kinds of words work. There must be some accountability for public figures who use language to demonize a person to the point that people no longer view them as a human being.

Anyone who brands a man as “Baby Killer” is a part of the reason why someone would feel it was justifiable to kill that person. Bill O’Reilly obviously sees it differently.

O’Reilly said that he had never incited people to do anything, and that he wished he heard more compassion expressed by some of these critics for the aborted fetuses.

I’m coming at it from a factual point of view,” O’Reilly said. “The man aborted 60,000 fetuses, potential human beings, all right? Human beings to some, not human beings to others but to everyone 60,000 potential human beings were aborted by the man who made millions doing it. To me, that’s unconscionable. As an American, I have a right to say that.”


Rather than condemn the murder, O’Reilly joins the “It’s bad to kill someone, but he got what was coming to him” crowd. As if anyone would expect him to do differently.