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About (Late) Last Night: O'Reilly and Colbert disagree (sort of) on Norway massacre [Video]

July 26, 2011 |  9:34 am


In today's overheated political climate, the line between satire and commentary can sometimes be indistinguishable. Case in point: On Monday night, fake pundit Stephen Colbert and his real-life inspiration, Bill O'Reilly, both took to the airwaves to critique the media's rush to judgment in the wake of the massacre Friday in Norway. Though O'Reilly and Colbert were making completely opposite points, their rhetoric sounded remarkably similar. 

O'Reilly opened his show with an entire segment devoted to what he sees as the media's skewed depiction of Anders Breivik, the man responsible for the terrible bloodshed. He claimed that supposedly liberal publications like The New York Times rushed to label Breivik a Christian radical because "the left wants you to believe that fundamentalist Christians are a threat, just like crazy jihadists are."

To O'Reilly, this depiction is "dishonest and insane." It doesn't matter if Breivik thought of himself as a Christian, O'Reilly claimed, because "no one believing in Jesus commits mass murder. The man might’ve called himself a Christian on the neck, but he is not of that faith." (Of course, one could say the same thing about jihadists, but never mind all that.) 

Meanwhile, over at "The Colbert Report," Colbert chastised various media outlets for making the exact opposite assumption -- that the attacks were the handiwork of Muslim extremists. He did so in his usual ironic fashion, pretending to condone their hasty guesswork in the interest of his faux-conservative agenda. "Even if there was a rush to judgment, we must not repeat that mistake by rushing to accuracy," he urged his fellow journalists. "Just because the confessed murderer is a blond, blue-eyed, Norwegian-born, anti-Muslim crusader does not mean he is not a swarthy, ululating, Middle Eastern mad man."

Colbert quoted a retraction made by conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, who originally cited the attack as evidence of the continued need to fight Islamic extremists. So what if Anders Breivik wasn't, as she originally assumed, a Muslim terrorist? "There are many more jihadists than blond Norwegians out to kill Americans," she wrote. In response, Colbert had this to say: "Right. So if you're pulling a news report completely out of [thin air, though Colbert uses a cruder metaphor], it's safer to go with Muslim. That's not prejudice, that's probability." Here's the video link.

So, Show Trackers, who's right on this one?


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--Meredith Blake