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He has no public office. No following. No flock. But he has a turned-around collar. And he promotes the monstrous crime of murdering doctors who perform legal abortions.

So that landed the Rev. David Trosch of Mobile, Ala., in the spotlight of the peacock as NBC News' "Today Show" gave this obscure renegade Catholic priest what his own archdiocese has stripped from him - a free forum and live microphone.The officially repudiated Father Trosch told us all on Aug. 25 that killing doctors in cold blood can be a good and godly thing. He also counseled the same sick theme in sound bites on CNN newscasts.

On NBC News' "Today Show," co-host Elizabeth Vargas pressed energetically and repetitiously to get the most sensational statements from this suspended priest. (The Rev. Trosch avidly supports the former Presbyterian minister David Hill, who is charged in the murder of a doctor who performed abortions at a Pensacola, Fla., clinic.)

She asked: Does defending the unborn include "killing a doctor?"

Trosch said: "When necessary, yes."

She asked: "Are you encouraging people to . . . take a gun . . . (and) attack a doctor?"

Trosch replied: "Whatever is necessary."

"In the name of the church, I have contradicted him, repudiated him, disciplined him," the archbishop of Mobile, Oscar Lipscomb, was quoted as saying. It added that the Rev. Trosch had lost his church job, his salary and was barred from saying Mass in the presence of anyone.

The "Today Show," well into its piece, brought in the director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, the Rev. Flip Benham, who took issue with the Rev. Trosch's advocacy of murder to fight abortion. "He shouldn't be on television," the Rev. Benham said. "He is spreading heresy."

NBC News' only response, given by a "Today Show" spokesman, defended the decision to award Father Trosch this video forum. He was "in the news . . . newsworthy . . . timely and topical news," the spokesman said.

But wait - from CNN comes a view that is indeed newsworthy. It is good news.

I had called CNN's executive vice president Ed Turner (on whose network I appear on the Sunday show "Reliable Sources") and explained that I was writing a column critical of the TV coverage this priest was getting for advocating murder. I was prepared for another round of we-stand-by-our-story.

"I'm sorry we ran it," said CNN's Ed Turner. "What we fell for was the shock factor (of a priest expressing that view) and we should be more sophisticated than that. We should not have fallen for it. And I put myself among the fallen. We should be smarter than to pick up on the claims and philosophies of people who are not truly responsible. We have to be subjective in the judgments we make.

"I really feel rotten about it."