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April 20, 2014

Latest 'Law & Order' Headline Is Ripped From Bill O'Reilly

by Scott Harris, posted Dec 14th 2009 5:00PM
Controversial talk show host Bill O'Reilly is involved in another spat. But does he have a point this time?

The latest feud involving the star of Fox's long-running opinion series 'The O'Reilly Factor' stems from last week's episode of 'Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit,' which revolved around a killer stalking the children of illegal immigrants. During the course of the episode, the suspect's defense lawyer, played by veteran television actor John Larroquette, argued that his client was incited to violence by the words of conservative pundits such as O'Reilly.Controversial talk show host Bill O'Reilly is involved in another spat. But does he have a point this time?

The latest feud involving the star of Fox's long-running opinion series 'The O'Reilly Factor' stems from last week's episode of 'Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit,' which revolved around a killer stalking the children of illegal immigrants. During the course of the episode, the suspect's defense lawyer, played by veteran television actor John Larroquette, argued that his client was incited to violence by the words of conservative pundits such as O'Reilly.

"Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly, all of 'em, they are like a cancer spreading ignorance and hate," Laroquette's character said during the episode, "and they've convinced folks that immigrants are the problem, not corporations that fail to pay a living wage or a broken health care system."

Needless to say, O'Reilly was less than thrilled with this characterization and called out 'Law & Order' chief Dick Wolf on the air, saying that the dialogue was "defamatory and outrageous," adding that "Dick Wolf is a coward for putting it out there." O'Reilly went on further to call Wolf "a liar," insisting that over the course of his career on 'The O'Reilly Factor,' the pundit has "consistently defended poor people who only want a better life."



This is hardly the first controversy for either O'Reilly or Wolf. O'Reilly most notably has been involved in an ongoing feud with MSNBC's liberal newsman Keith Olbermann, for instance. But while that ideological tussle has been mostly a case of right-left he-said, she-said, this latest brouhaha may have more teeth to it.

That's because Wolf and his cohorts on 'Law & Order' have made it a habit to pillory conservative opinion makers on their shows, effectively using the 'Law & Order' franchise as covert commentary by not-so-subtly working figures such as O'Reilly into episodes as straw men to be taken down by the system. CNN's Nancy Grace, for example, was parodied in the 'Law & Order: SVU' episode 'Haystack' in 2007, which featured a "ripped from the headlines" version of the on-air confrontation that eventually led to the suicide of one of her guests.

While that incident may seem like fair game, other choices by Wolf have unquestionably gone over the line. In 2006, Wolf famously created a character named Elisabeth Hassenback, who was a clear stand-in for 'The View''s conservative co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck; when the character was raped and murdered on an episode of 'Law & Order: SVU,' Hasselbeck's protest was echoed by thousands of offended viewers.

This case differs from those, however, in that Wolf chose to use O'Reilly's real name rather than disguise the commentary behind a fictionalized character, which could cause some headaches for Wolf and NBC. While legal action is unlikely -- and would probably be little more than symbolic anyway, as this likely falls under protected speech regardless of O'Reilly's claims that is "defamatory" -- it also paints a bull's-eye on Wolf and the network, which has enough trouble already trying to deal with sagging ratings without having to worry about a possible organized conservative backlash.

And if Wolf is, in fact, promoting a liberal agenda through his show as O'Reilly claims, then the move seems doubly ill-advised. Because by calling out O'Reilly in this context, you not only allow him to claim the moral high ground, which he usually does anyway, you actually allow him to claim it rightfully for once.

And that's not just bad business. It's also bad politics.

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