07/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

O'Reilly Unrepentant, Tones Back 'Tiller the Killer' Rhetoric on First Show Since Murder

Claims himself victim of 'left-wing' cabal out to get him, Fox 'News'

Acknowledges Tiller broke no laws, but stands by 'reporting' nonetheless...

After years of demonizing Kansas physician Dr. George Tiller who was assassinated in his Wichita church on Sunday, Fox "News" host Bill O'Reilly toned back his inflammatory rhetoric on his first show back since yesterday's murder.

Where he had previously, and repeatedly, described Tiller as "Tiller the Baby Killer", compared him to a Nazi, described him repeatedly as "executing babies" and "operating a death mill", tonight O'Reilly characterized himself as the victim of a "left-wing" cabal of "Fox News haters" trying to "exploit" the tragedy to "shut guys like me down". He did not, however, use the same strident rhetoric that had characterized his "reportage" of Tiller in the past.

"What [Tiller] did was within Kansas law," O'Reilly admitted, following his Talking Points commentary segment in which he identified critics in the media and blogosphere who had noted his years of demonization and dehumanization of Tiller, suggesting some complicity by the man who anchors the most-watched program on cable "news".

In response to a Huffington Post editorial which claimed O'Reilly would "back-peddle" on tonight's show following the murder, he told viewers "No back-pedaling here...Every single thing we said about Tiller was true."

He then went on to back-pedal on largely everything, at least the most outrageous allegations, that he'd previously reported.

"We based on our analysis on the facts," O'Reilly said in his own defense tonight. Though his previous "analysis" including the repeated allegation that Tiller was a mass-murderer was nowhere to be heard this evening. He did not use the term "murder" to describe what Tiller did, as he had so frequently in the past. He used carefully selected, non-libelous phrases such as "destroyed fetuses" instead.

And where he had previously charged Tiller with "operating a death mill," the closest he came to that tonight was the carefully worded use of "this mill" when he admitted that Tiller hadn't been found guilty of breaking any laws. "The people of Kansas allowed this mill to take place" for thirty five years, he said.

In a later segment, he alleged that pro-life groups have been very respectful since the tragedy, but that his critics were "exploiting Tiller's family." He did not note any of the dozens of blog comments from rightwingers applauding and celebrating the death of Tiller, as we noted in an update to our item yesterday. Neither did he report on the statement on Tiller's death by Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, a frequent guest on Fox "News", which began: "George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God."

Though his reportage is still as misleading and inaccurate as ever, we're happy to see O'Reilly's new, more responsible approach to his hateful, libelous and dangerous rhetoric. In the toning back of his own rhetoric, Bill O'Reilly acknowledges the irresponsibility of his own previous behavior.

We hope he'll continue to recognize the power of his words and use that power carefully. It's a shame he hadn't taken a similar tack over the 4 years, and at least 29 episodes in which he'd irresponsibly accused Tiller of committing crimes that he hadn't.

Everything O'Reilly said was not true, despite his claims to the contrary tonight. A man is dead in Kansas, in no small part, thanks to the type of irresponsible "reporting" and incessant, outrageous hatred, that O'Reilly helped to inflame.

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We hope to have video from tonight's O'Reilly Factor posted here soon. Until then, a compilation of some of O'Reilly's most outrageous attacks on Tiller over the last 4 years follows below, courtesy Jed Lewison at Daily Kos...

UPDATED: Video of tonight's show, plus video responses from MSNBC's Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, all now posted here.