As I arrived at the ballroom of the Omni Shorehem hotel in Washington yesterday to give a speech at the Take Back America conference, I was approached by one of Bill O'Reilly's video crews, looking to do an ambush interview about objectionable anonymous comments that appeared on our site (comments that we unequivocally repudiate and take down as soon as we become aware of them; more on this in a moment).
O'Reilly has been banging this tired drum -- calling me no different from Nazis and the KKK -- for weeks now and is giddily promoting yesterday's exchange on his website as "An Explosive Showdown. We confront the Huffington Post over Tony Snow comments." (It will apparently air tonight).
My first response to the Fox hit squad was that they needed a lesson on the rudiments of how the Internet works, especially when it comes to comments.
HuffPost gets around 500,000 comments a month. These comments are anonymous and in no way represent my opinions, or the opinions of HuffPost or our bloggers. We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to abusive or hateful language or comments -- such comments are taken down as quickly as they come to the attention of our moderators.
And we are constantly working to develop new technologies -- and backing them up with more and more 24/7 moderators -- which will allow us to more effectively filter out objectionable comments. But no system is perfect and offensive comments occasionally slip through -- on our site and any place else on the Internet that encourages a free and open exchange of ideas. Including the Fox News site.
Indeed, Crooks and Liars' John Amato has gathered a collection of hateful comments that can still be found on foxnews.com. And Keith Olbermann has pointed out comments posted on Bill O'Reilly's own site that, among other things, threaten the life of Hillary Clinton.
Let me be as clear as possible. We find the kind of toxic comments O'Reilly is pointing out utterly repugnant and take them down. Period. But we refuse to let the vile actions of a miniscule number of anonymous, trouble-making trolls force us to shut down our comments section -- as many sites, including many conservatives sites, have done. We are committed to striking a balance between freedom of expression and freedom from a noxious atmosphere that ultimately discourages expression.
Finally, I find it laughable to be lectured on hate speech by Bill O'Reilly, who has done as much if not more than anyone else in the media to debase the public dialogue. He spews hate as readily as he breathes. It's his lifeblood.
In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if O'Reilly had one of his staffers put these offensive comments up on HuffPost, just so he could have something to rail against.
Follow Arianna Huffington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ariannahuff