It’s truly a pity what has happened to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. Of course, the “pity” has made him incredibly rich, with huge ratings and the head of a empire.
Once upon a time O’Reilly was a highly talented and skilled newsman, both on network news and later when he went on to host the highly popular syndicated show Inside Edition. He conducted excellent interviews and clearly did his homework — a skill he would later display in his Fox News specials. But when he started a Fox News show titled “The O’Reilly Factor” it was clear by the title what that show would be about: him.
Unlike conservative talkers Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, O’Reilly is not always predictable. He calls himself an independent and can be counted on to be in sync with conservative Republican viewpoints on most — but not all — issues. His show has evolved into a weekly show about O’Reilly’s reaction to issues, O’Reilly yelling at people, O’Reilly telling people periodically to shut up and even, on occasion, O’Reilly ordering his techs to turn off a guest’s microphones (he who owns the show has the last word and if he can’t control the argument, then he makes the other part of the argument unheard).
Fair enough. It gets ratings and O’Reilly has become to Fox News in terms of money what Mickey Mouse was to Disney in the mid twentieth century. His kind of show has its place: it’s a the logical extension of the old 1960s Joe Pyne Show, or the 1980s Morton Downey, Jr (except instead of “Zip it!” it’s “Shaddup!” — SEE VIDEO BELOW). On the other hand, O’Reilly has broken from the GOP talk radio political culture by NOT suggesting that Obama is about to impose a dictatorship or fascist state and he has never said he can’t wait to see Obama fail. If Glenn Beck has gone off the deep end, O’Reilly is not there, even though he swims to the far right.
But O’Reilly has a tiny problem — which translates into a ratings plus and has helped him make rich. He REALLY holds a grudge and tries to ensure that he turns his audience against those who he hates.
He demonizes any info outlet that seriously criticizes him (or in one case didn’t offer him an Op-Ed response immediately from an op-ed piece critical of him). To hear O’Reilly describe them, these outlets are run by palm rubbing, evil leftist ideologues who don’t really care about news but only want to pick up what he says are smears by left wing websites and spread them using their audiences. Forget for that O’Reilly worked in the news media and knows full well that most reporters (and editors) are actually focused on getting a story, not ideology, so they can advance in their profession.
The result? O’Reilly’s “Hall of Shame” which includes those outlets that he rants against — the ones who aroused his ire. He recently added the Chicago Sun-Times to this group — but didn’t count on a true pro with words…Roger Ebert…who has answered him:
Dear Bill: Thanks for including the Chicago Sun-Times on your exclusive list of newspapers on your “Hall of Shame.” To be in an O’Reilly Hall of Fame would be a cruel blow to any newspaper. It would place us in the favor of a man who turns red and starts screaming when anyone disagrees with him. My grade-school teacher, wise Sister Nathan, would have called in your parents and recommended counseling with Father Hogben.
Yes, the Sun-Times is liberal, having recently endorsed our first Democrat for President since LBJ. We were founded by Marshall Field one week before Pearl Harbor to provide a liberal voice in Chicago to counter the Tribune, which opposed an American war against Hitler. I’m sure you would have sided with the Trib at the time.
I understand you believe one of the Sun-Times misdemeanors was dropping your syndicated column. My editor informs me that “very few” readers complained about the disappearance of your column, adding, “many more complained about Nancy.” I know I did. That was the famous Ernie Bushmiller comic strip in which Sluggo explained that “wow” was “mom” spelled upside-down.
Ebert explains to O’Reilly that his column started to run on the CST “while it was owned by the right-wing polemicists Conrad Black (Baron Black of Coldharbour) and David Radler. We dropped it to save a little money after they looted the paper of millions. Now you call for an advertising boycott. It is unusual to observe a journalist cheering for a newspaper to fail. At present the Sun-Times has no bank debt, but labors under the weight of millions of dollars in tax penalties incurred by Lord Black, who is serving an eight-year stretch for mail fraud and obstruction of justice. We also had to pay for his legal expenses.”
Read it all.
O’Reilly’s ideology isn’t the same, but you can see a tad of similarity with Morton Downey, Jr. in terms of style (but Bill is NOT quite so over the top):
Now watch Bill:
And — at risk of appearing on his Wall of Shame — there’s also this video made by a non-fan which contains an extensive medley of O’Reilly’s schtick which has built his ratings (critics may not like it, but a key reason that’s WHY he has megaratings). WARNING: Some adult language:
Now re watch Morton Downey, Jr. again…
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.