article

06.01.09

Pro-Life's Happy Warrior

Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry tells the Daily Beast’s Max Blumenthal that, while not condoning Sunday’s murder of abortionist George Tiller, the “evil” victim bears blame and Bill O’Reilly doesn’t.

Operation Rescue’s Randall Terry tells The Daily Beast’s Max Blumenthal that, while not condoning Sunday’s murder of abortionist George Tiller, the “evil” victim bears blame and Bill O’Reilly doesn’t.

George Tiller was one of only a handful of doctors in the United States who performed late-term abortions. For years, he was demonized by right-wing politicians, antiabortion zealots, and radio jocks—Bill O’Reilly accused him of “Nazi stuff,” he was shot in both arms in 1993 by an attempted assassin, and his clinic was once bombed. On Sunday, he was murdered while serving as an usher at church. The suspected killer, Scott Roeder, was an apparent associate of Operation Rescue, a radical antiabortion outfit that inspired attacks on several abortion doctors during the 1990s. Speaking with The Daily Beast less than 24 hours after Tiller’s murder, Randall Terry, one of Tiller’s most strident antagonists, stopped short of endorsing Tiller’s murder, he also blamed the victim—literally—while also proclaiming: “I am happy for the babies who will not die at his hands.”

“It’s clear that George Tiller did reap what he sowed,” Terry told me. “Our duty in this movement and in this time is to not fear and not flinch and not retreat a single inch.”

“It’s clear that George Tiller did reap what he sowed,” Terry told me. “Our duty in this movement and in this time is to not fear and not flinch and not retreat a single inch. The pro-abortion community and the Obama administration are going to try to browbeat the pro-life movement into surrendering our most effective images so we must remain aggressive.”

During the 1990s, Terry organized blockades outside women’s health clinics across the country. These demonstrations often turned violent, and some of Terry’s closest cadres resorted to domestic terrorism. In 1998, while cooking dinner for his wife and four children, Barnett Slepian—a doctor who performed abortions and whose home had been the site of protests by Terry and his followers—was shot to death through his kitchen window by James Kopp, a former volunteer at Operation Rescue's Binghamton, N.Y., office. With Tiller's death at the suspected hands of another Operation Rescue cadre, Terry has revised a familiar public-relations tactic: denying all responsibility while highlighting the doctor's supposed evildoing.

While condemning Tiller as “every bit as evil as Nazi war criminals,” Terry declared, “I take no responsibility whatsoever [for Tiller’s murder]. We are absolutely committed to nonviolence and peaceful action. We’ve been peacefully protesting against this holocaust for years and the reason something like this sticks out is because we’re such a peaceful movement.”

Terry also defended Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly against accusations that his stream of invective against Tiller incited the doctor’s murderer to take action. “O’Reilly exposed him and I think it was good that he did,” Terry remarked. “If you’re looking to cast blame, the blame falls to the man who tried to shoot him and to Tiller because it’s Tiller’s deeds that precipitated this.”

In order to deflect charges that Operation Rescue has spawned acts of domestic terrorism, Terry painted Roeder as a lone wolf who “just snapped.” “When was the last time an abortion doctor was killed?” Terry asked me. “It’s been over 10 years.” When I pointed out that antiabortion violence had virtually disappeared during the presidency of George W. Bush, when abortion opponents felt they could accomplish their goals through political means, and now with a Democratic government the antiabortion movement’s radical wing might return to “direct action” tactics like assassination, Terry became agitated.

“Your reasoning suggests that we should not say the truth,” Terry said. “If you want to blame someone for this, blame Moses. Moses said, ‘Thou shall not kill.’ What you’re asking for is surrender and we will not do that. George Tiller was a mass murderer. I said that in his life and I’ll say it after his death.”

Xtra Insight: The Daily Beast's Michelle Goldberg: Is Tiller's Murder the Start of Right-Wing Revenge?

Xtra Insight: The Daily Beast's Joe Stumpe: Tiller's Muder Was 10 Years in the Making

Max Blumenthal is a senior writer for The Daily Beast and writing fellow at The Nation Institute, whose book, Republican Gomorrah (Basic/Nation Books), is forthcoming in Spring 2009. Contact him at maxblumenthal3000@yahoo.com.