The term “assassination” is loaded with political implications, but it applies to “The Assassination of Dr. Tiller,” a first-rate MSNBC documentary airing Oct. 25.
Hosted by Rachel Maddow, the hour-long special takes a methodical look at the anti-abortion forces that assailed Wichita, Kan. doctor George Tiller (right) before his death, and what role they might have played in influencing Scott Roeder (below), the blank-faced loon who put a gun against Tiller’s head — in church — and pulled the trigger.
This is ultimately a strong piece of advocacy journalism, clearly contending that the rhetoric employed by anti-abortion activists has stoked extremism and not-so-subtly encouraged violence against doctors who provide abortions.
Here are two key quotes, in fact, from Tiller’s colleagues:
Dr. Shelley Sella: “The ones who don’t carry guns definitely incite the ones who do have guns.”
Joan Armentrout: “They gather all these people up, they fill them with hate, and then they stand back when the least [sic] imbalanced among them does something.”
An interview with Tiller is also excerpted within the special, discussing his commitment to provide women the option to these legal procedures, despite the threats and harassment both he and his staff regularly endured.
Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who featured Tiller on his program several times — and referred to him as a “baby killer” because the doctor performed late-term abortions — is mentioned, though it’s worth noting in light of his recent volley of insults with Maddow that the project doesn’t dwell on him. The hour does contain interviews with several people involved in the pro-life movement, among them Randall Terry, who often speak in martial terms but insist their words couldn’t possibly induce anybody to act out in violent ways.
The program was written and produced by Toby Oppenheimer, and even if you disagree with its thinly veiled politics, as a primer on the poisonous atmosphere in the abortion debate, it deserves a look. Maddow has also carved out something of a documentary niche by hosting shows regarding right-wing extremism. Her previous one was regarding Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.