Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank fired back Wednesday at Bill O'Reilly after the Fox News host criticized Milbank three nights last week and joked about whether Sharia law would permit decapitating the writer.
Milbank said that "O'Reilly has every right to quarrel with my opinion or question my accuracy." But the writer questioned why O'Reilly would "resort to intimidation and violent imagery."
"O'Reilly's on-air fantasizing about violent ends for me was precipitated by a column I wrote describing Fox News's election-night coverage as a victory party for the Republicans," Milbank wrote. "This didn't strike me as a terribly controversial point, but it evidently offended O'Reilly. "
It's not simply that O'Reilly simply disagreed with columnist's point of view (which he surely did). O'Reilly said Milbank lied in writing that "Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen," who described election night as "a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party." O'Reilly contended that Milbank was being dishonest by not mentioning that Fox News had Democrats like Bob Beckel and Juan Williams on the air, too.
Milbank acknowledged in Wednesday's column that Fox News did bring in other Democratic voices -- albeit ones critical of their own party.
"Though I didn't claim Schoen was the sole Democrat, in hindsight I should have quoted other putative liberals who appeared on Fox that night—and sounded much like Schoen," Milbank wrote. "There was Bob Beckel, proclaiming: 'I feel like the blind guy whose guide dog died' and 'I give all the credit to Republicans on this.' Or Juan Williams on President Obama: 'I just don't think he gets it.'"
O'Reilly first sounded off on Milbank—and Washington Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt—during a discussion of media coverage on last Wednesday's show. On Thursday, O'Reilly again took shots at Milbank and joked with Megyn Kelly about beating up or even beheading the Post columnist (the author of a recent unflattering book about O'Reilly's fellow Fox News host Glenn Beck). Watch:
O'Reilly quickly said on air that he was only joking about decapitation, but Milbank didn't think it was funny.
Milbank wrote that "the topic of journalist beheadings brings to mind my late friend and colleague Danny Pearl, who replaced me in the Wall Street Journal's London bureau and later was murdered in Pakistan by people who thought sharia justified it."
Maybe these two can work through their weeklong war of words on the air. Milbank told The Upshot on Wednesday that he's willing to appear on O'Reilly's top-rated cable news show to discuss the matter.
(Photo of O'Reilly in 2007: AP /Jeff Christensen)