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Did O'Reilly Flip-Flop on Phone Sex?

Reported by Judy - January 18, 2005

When I picked up one of Bill O'Reilly's early books, The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life, I swear I was expecting a political tome. Instead, I got some vivid reminders of the O'Reilly sex tape scandal that so tantalized the blogging world less than three months ago. Although the book was published four years before Andrea Mackris accused her boss at Fox News Channel of repeatedly making sexually suggestive conversation with her, the O'Reilly Factor takes on a whole new meaning when read with those alleged sex tapes in mind.

For example, Mackris' lawsuit, which was settled out of court, said O'Reilly talked about his sexual exploits with others, but in his book he writes that his "most vital piece of advice" to readers is to "keep your sex life private. I mean, tell no one what you do! (This especially means you, ladies.) Otherwise, you are likely to be scrutinized, and no good can come of that. I know it, you know it, and the gossips should never know it." (p. 27) Well, some good could have come of it in this case. O'Reilly could have been fired for sexual harassment.

In yet another eerily prescient passage, O'Reilly also warns against sexual exploitation in the workplace. "Some people barter sexual favors for a push up the ladder to success," he writes (p. 26). "That can work in the short term; in the long term, sexual exploitation almost always leads to disaster. Your parents were right about that. And if you're like most of us, you know someone who played the game the wrong way and may be burned for life." Oh, we can only hope.

While condemning President Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky matter, O'Reilly makes clear he is no prude about sex himself. The book is rife with hints about his sexual conquests, although he leaves just enough unsaid to be able to deny any specific allegations. In a discussion of dating, for example, O'Reilly (who is now married with two children) brags that he has dated hundreds of women in his life and that he "was a dancing machine" who lowered women's inhibitions with a few hours at a dance club. After that, he said, "most of my dates wanted to extend the evening at their place or mine" (p. 102). I don't know about you, but thinking of O'Reilly as "a dancing machine" is enough to make me gag.

Some of the comments in O'Reilly's book would have worked so well in a trial of sexual harassment charges that it hurts to think of the missed opportunities. Mackris' attorney could have made hay with a statement like: "There's nothing wrong with men lusting all the time for beautiful women, as long as we are housebroken. Constant desire keeps men mentally occupied and out of trouble. We must have our sexual fantasies, ladies." Elsewhere, O'Reilly even lists the women he fantasies about: "Tyra Banks in Victoria's Secret catalogs …. Sarah Michelle Gellar in a tight T-shirt chasing a vampire or Jacqueline Bisset in a very wet T-shirt in The Deep; Vanessa Williams doing … ." (p. 37) Sorry, I have to stop. I'm making myself sick just typing it.

Imagine O'Reilly's lawyer leaping to his defense with another quote, this one on phone sex. Talking about the availability of phone sex for $3 a minute and nude photos on the internet, O'Reilly asks, "Can this be good? I don't think so. Dating was exciting to me because it was a slow buildup to something special—I'm talking about the best kind of dating. Now immediate gratification is the order of the day. The thrill of the chase has been replaced by the predictability of the computer or the convenience of the videocassette" (p. 104.) Is he talking about the same sort of slow build-up in the shower he described to Mackris? Can you imagine the cross-examination on that quote: "Mr. O'Reilly, have you flip-flopped on phone sex?"

In defense of Mackris's decision to have taped her boss, her lawyer could have turned to another O'Reilly quote. Discussing his experience at ABC with a tyrannical boss, O'Reilly said he once tape-recorded a phone call in which the man tried to send him on a foolish assignment and then played it for a company executive when his boss tried to get him fired for refusing an assignment: "‘You secretly taped an employee of ABC News?' the vice-president gasped," O'Reilly wrote. "Yeah, I sure did. And it saved my ass. The incident was dropped" (p. 46). What's good for the goose.

Although O'Reilly says he is a Catholic and goes to church (he didn't say anything about going to confession), O'Reilly makes no distinction between sex in and out of marriage. He recommends people "use protection" (p. 27) and act responsibly. He does not condemn adultery and advises only that people respect sex and "control it; don't let it control you. Have fun and be safe. And never, never take suggestive photos to Kmart for development." (p. 37). Obviously, O'Reilly wrote this before digital cameras were popular.

O'Reilly, of course, did not write this book with the Mackris sex scandal in mind, but given the self-image he portrays, maybe he should have seen such an incident coming. His main goals in writing the book were to establish his credentials as somebody who will stick up for everyday Americans so that we will listen to what he has to say about sex and other things. For the life of me, I can't imagine anyone following O'Reilly's advice on how to talk to their kids about sex.

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