I thought liberals were against bullying. So why are they taking such joy in piling on Bill O’Reilly?
It should be obvious. The left is a sore loser. Consider the 2016 election, whose outcome Hillary Clinton recently attributed to several factors, none of them named “Hillary Clinton.”
And, for 16 years, the political left and the liberal media lost out to O’Reilly, the undisputed king of the highly competitive sandbox of cable television news/talk. He decisively beat his competitors in the ratings no matter who they put up against him.
His show – “The O’Reilly Factor” – brought in an estimated $100 million or more in annual revenue. Under a new contract, he was earning an annual salary of $25 million.
Such success often creates jealousy and resentment, especially among hypercompetitive television commentators for whom ratings are everything.
I don’t need to make a disclosure, because I’m not a Fox News contributor. I have appeared on the network a couple dozen times over the last 15 years to offer analysis and commentary, as I have on other networks. I was a guest on O’Reilly’s show more than a dozen times, and he was always kind and respectful to me. I liked him. I was a fan.
O’Reilly consistently hit the ball out of the park because he was a natural on television who understood both the medium and his audience. He was highly watchable but didn’t take himself too seriously – at least off camera. Once, before an interview segment, he told me: “OK, I’ll set up the topic, and offer my normal ridiculous comment, and then toss it to you.”
Unlike some sanctimonious colleagues on other cable networks, what the host “got” was that it was not his job to do social work and make the 3 million to 4 million members of his audience into better human beings. His task was to explain to them in simple but compelling language a crazy and complicated world.
O’Reilly is often called a conservative. He frequently hammered President Obama and considers Donald Trump a longtime friend. The former is what media figures are supposed to do with people in power, and the latter is probably attributable, at least in part, to geography; O’Reilly lives on Long Island and, before moving to the White House, Trump lived in Manhattan.
Actually, the host is more of a libertarian. I once saw him delight an audience in Dallas during a speech by recalling the time that he – as a death-penalty opponent – stunned then-Gov. George W. Bush by asking him: “Governor, you say that Jesus Christ saved your life. How do you think Jesus would feel about the fact that you’ve executed so many people in Texas?”
You’ve probably also heard – from the political lefties and the liberal media who ignored Obama’s anti-immigrant crackdown – that O’Reilly is anti-immigrant.
Not so fast. In June 2013, O’Reilly earned the ire of the right wing by publicly supporting the idea of giving the undocumented a path to legal status. And in August 2015, O’Reilly took apart Trump when the presidential candidate suggested changing the popular interpretation of the 14th Amendment to deny birthright citizenship to the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. The takedown was so brutal that nativist columnist Ann Coulter wrote a snarky column defending Trump and attacking O’Reilly. But the host was right, and Trump and Coulter were wrong.
Of course, O’Reilly could also be wrong, as he was when he would argue with me over so-called sanctuary cities. He honestly thinks that there are safe havens where illegal immigrants can evade arrest, and it’s just not so.
I’m sure that O’Reilly also has personal failings. There are rules about how decent people treat one another in the workplace, and he’s been accused of breaking them. Fox News has paid out more than $13 million in settlements to multiple women who claimed O’Reilly harassed them.
Although, I am liking this new look for liberals, who are suddenly all broken up at the thought of lecherous men degrading women. Where was this moral outrage during the 1990s when another “Bill” was accused of breaking the rules? Win or lose, the left is so blinded by perpetual anger that it can’t see its own hypocrisy.
Like his namesake, O’Reilly will be just fine. Some news outlets reported that his contract had recently been extended through the 2020 presidential election and that it’s possible the host could collect on the full value of the agreement: $100 million.
And that will only make his angry critics even angrier.
Ruben Navarrette can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.