Bill O'Reilly battles Laura Ingraham: Is 'thump the Bible' a slur?

O'Reilly says that civil rights is a 'compelling' argument for gay marriage, and conservatives won't win if they just reference ('thump') the Bible. Ingraham says conservatives can do better but that, yes, 'thump,' is an insult.

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Fox News host Bill O'Reilly (l.) ripped into radio talker Laura Ingraham on 'The O'Reilly Factor' last night, and Ms. Ingraham responded in kind.

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly ripped into radio talker Laura Ingraham on “The O’Reilly Factor” last night, and Ms. Ingraham responded in kind. The subject was gay marriage – specifically, whether it’s offensive for Mr. O’Reilly to say that those on the right who simply “thump the Bible” in opposing same will lose.

It was great TV but it was also an actual interesting debate on an important aspect of a hot national issue. That’s something you don’t always get on cable news shout shows.

We’ll start with the background because it’s kind of convoluted. It begins with O’Reilly in a late March show saying that gay marriage proponents have successfully defined it as a civil rights issue, which he called a “compelling” argument that social conservatives have yet to counter.

“The other side hasn’t been able to do anything but thump the Bible,” he said.

Rush Limbaugh took umbrage at this. On his own radio show last Wednesday, he took out after O’Reilly, calling him “Ted Baxter," after the pompous anchor from the old Mary Tyler Moore show.

O’Reilly had “marginalized” many religious Fox News viewers with his statement, said Mr. Limbaugh.

Got that? So the stage is now set for last night.

O’Reilly began his Tuesday show with a segment downplaying any feud between him and Limbaugh. He said the left was trying to create an argument where none existed. Then he repeated his “thump” assertion.

“Zealots picked up on my statement that opponents must do more than thump the Bible if they want to win the civil debate. That’s absolutely true,” he said.

Then he turned to guest Ingraham, who sometimes sits in for him and with whom he seems to have a good relationship. He appeared to think she would agree with him on Bible thumping. She didn’t.

“I don’t think you really needed to say that,” she said.

Things went downhill quickly from there. O’Reilly quickly shouted her down and had his say, then let her have two minutes to respond, then jumped in and overwhelmed her with volume while she sat back and looked disgusted.

Her basic point was that opponents of gay marriage have been surprised by the quick turnaround in the national debate and haven’t had time to really articulate their beliefs. But to dismiss the beliefs of social conservatives as somehow irrelevant is insulting, she implied.

“A lot of them do have a very deeply held religious belief about what traditional marriage is,” said Ingraham.

O’Reilly countered that he was not insulting people’s religious belief.

“Why did you use the word ‘thump?’ ” asked Ingraham.

“Because that’s the way you get it across,” said O’Reilly.

By the end, they were pretty much just shouting past each other, though no furniture got thrown. Ingraham insisted that social conservatives would rally and come up with better arguments, and O’Reilly said he was just explaining the political facts of life.

“You and Rush should do a tour,” sighed Ingraham at the end.

Wow! If that happens, perhaps the furniture will need to be bolted down.

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