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AP should give Snow due respect

The recent death of Tony Snow brought sadness to millions of Americans who admired the man's public service and optimism about his country. But not everybody felt the need to honor him.

Just hours after he died from cancer, the Associated Press released an obituary that has shocked some people and badly damaged the AP's image, at least in the conservative community.

AP reporter Douglass Daniel began the article by listing some of Tony's accomplishments, but then suddenly veered into ideological territory, writing: "With a quick-from-the-lip repartee, broadcaster's good looks and a relentlessly bright outlook - if not always a command of the facts - he became a popular figure around the country to the delight of his White House bosses...

"Critics suggested that Snow was turning the traditionally informational daily briefing into a personality-driven media event short on facts and long on confrontation."

Now, remember, that was written just hours after the man passed away at age 53. To accuse Snow of factual inaccuracies without citing evidence is itself irresponsible, but to do it in an obit is outrageously inappropriate and an insult to the Snow family. If the Associated Press wants to do an opinion piece about Snow's public service, fine. But at least wait until after the funeral.

The AP's treatment of Tony was in marked contrast to its sendoff for the late Tim Russert. That obituary was a glowing tribute to the man, as it should have been. Russert had a lot in common with Snow. They both worked for political guys - Russert's former boss was the late Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan - and they both hosted Sunday morning network news programs.

But while Russert was suitably honored by the AP, Snow came in for some snarky jibes.

Of course, this is all about ideology. The Associated Press has no use for President Bush, and that opinion has crept into its hard news coverage. This is a serious situation. The AP is America's primary news service; its dispatches go out to thousands of media organizations all over the world, many of which simply print whatever the AP sends them.

Increasingly, the AP is sending them opinion, not fact.

The head of the Associated Press, Tom Curley, told my producers he "stands by the obituary," so we invited him on "The Factor" to defend it. Immediately, Curley turned standing into running - as in away. He refused to come on the program or issue a further statement.

I think Curley's treatment of Snow should be included in his own obituary. And furthermore, the Associated Press may now be dead as an objective news organization.

How ironic that one obit could so quickly lead to another.

Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His "Radio Factor" can be heard from 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays on NewsTalk 1300 WIMO-AM.