As Howard Kurtz reports in The Daily Beast:
I asked Ailes about a recent crack by Bill O’Reilly that seemed to envision a violent end for Dana Milbank. The Washington Post columnist had criticized Fox’s election coverage as biased and neglected to acknowledge that numerous Democrats had appeared as commentators.Hardee har-har. Very funny.
“Does Sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?” O’Reilly asked his colleague Megyn Kelly. He added: “That was a joke for you Media Matters people out there.” Milbank wrote a follow-up column objecting to the violent imagery, saying he was a friend of Daniel Pearl, who was murdered in that fashion in Pakistan. O'Reilly then accused the reporter of casting a bit of humor as a serious threat.
So should O’Reilly be joshing about beheading Milbank?
Ailes couldn’t resist: “Well, I would have cut a little lower.”
He quickly got serious: “No, he shouldn’t joke about beheading… Bill knows he probably shouldn’t have said it. He just shot off his mouth.”
Of course Bill "knows" he shouldn't say it. He knows he shouldn't say a lot of things, but yet he says them anyway because they draw viewers and make angry conservatives happy. It's a page right out of Rush Limbaugh's playbook: yank the media's chain, especially media critics' chain, then sort-of-apologize or complain about the media later if it goes too far.
Now compare this incident with a Twitter comment from British barrister Gareth Compton about a muslim journalist: "Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing really."
Compton was arrested for what he later called an "ill-conceived attempt at humour."
It's not funny. It shouldn't be. But I don't expect Ailes or O'Reilly to get a reprimand. They should be thanking GOD Americans love their liberties, even if Sen. Jay Rockefeller wishes Fox News would go away.