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The O'Phony Factor

Reported by Judy - January 20, 2005

Bill O'Reilly likes to refer to himself as "your humble correspondent." Besides exposing his flip-flop on phone sex, O'Reilly's book, The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life, exposes the star of Fox News' O'Reilly Factor as a phony when it comes to being a working-class stiff.

My personal hero in the left-wing writing stable, Al Franken, explained in his best-seller, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, how O'Reilly crafts an image of himself as a "no-nonsense, bare-knuckled, working-class straight-shooter who sticks it to the phonies and sticks up for the little guy" (p. 74).

Quoting O'Reilly's mom, Franken has pointed out that actually O'Reilly grew up in a well-to-do suburb, Westbury, N.Y. not working-class Levittown; that he went to private schools and a private college, and that the families took vacations in Florida.

As much as I respect Team Franken, they didn't get all of O'Reilly's phony assertions about his humble roots. To prove his blue-collar upbringing, O'Reilly says his father (who had a college degree and worked as an accountant) "never made more than $35,000 a year" (p. 5). Doesn't sound like much today, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator, $35,000 in 1970 was worth $170,399.50 in 2004. O'Reilly is vague about what year his dad made a miserable $35,000, but if the year was 1975, it still was worth $122,890.30 in 2004. O'Reilly's dad must have been a union accountant.

But in case the reader still doesn't feel sorry for him, O'Reilly adds that when he went to college (private college), the girls at Vassar looked down on him (p. 7). Still not weeping? How about the fact that O'Reilly felt inferior to his rich classmates while getting a master's degree (from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, no less) because of his clothes? We're not talking patches here. O'Reilly writes: "I had a nice enough tuxedo, I thought, but a friend might have several" (p. 9). And Jesse Jackson thinks black people suffer in this country!

O'Reilly's point throughout much of the book is, in fact, that class, not race, determines one's fate in modern America. O'Reilly addresses his comments to Jesse Jackson on occasion, and makes much of his own Irish background. His approach conceals a racist agenda – an attempt to claim that class is more powerful than race in keeping people down and that if white ethnics like O'Reilly can make it, blacks should be able to, also. The implication is that if blacks can't make it, it's due to their own laziness, not racism.

While the most amusing parts of the book are the chapters dealing with sex, dating, and spouses, the rest of it offers insights into O'Reilly's life, including where his love of bullying people comes from.

For example, he rarely mentions love in connection with his parents. He broadly hints that his father was violent. He described one confrontation: "My six-foot-three-inch father loomed over me. I hunched in my shoulders, prepared for loud yelling and perhaps a couple of hard punches on the arm" (p. 94). While no blows fell that time, elsewhere O'Reilly writes in regard to his father's child-rearing philosophy that, "Dr. Spock was lucky he never met William O'Reilly, Sr. There would have been violence" (p. 117).

Although O'Reilly advises against child abuse (whew!), he does say that children should fear their parents and that his own father immunized him against fear with his "sometimes brutal" regime (p. 95). A parent's "really important duties," he writes, are: "teaching discipline, morality, and the truth about how the world works" (p. 89). Providing love doesn't make O'Reilly's top three.

Other lines in O'Reilly's book drip with irony:

Regarding the news media: "A watchdog press … can be the voter's best protection against exploitation by the powerful. Except the people who own and control much of the press and other media are the very rich themselves." (pp. 18-19) And who does O'Reilly choose to work for?

How cable news would have handled LJB's Gulf of Tonkin resolution, giving the president the go-ahead in Vietnam: "Tell me I'm arrogant, but I know that this cock-and-bull story would not get by me on today's The O'Reilly Factor—or on other cable shows and Internet magazines. There are too many of us today who are not paid lackeys of the establishment. And more than one of us would be on the ground within hours, getting the real story from the guys on both ships." (p. 48) Kind of like how the phony WMDs didn't get by you, O'Reilly? Or may I call you "Lackey.."?

On politicians who write books: "I don't begrudge politicians their books or paid lectures. The marketplace is competitive." (p. 154) What was it he said about Senator Clinton's book?

On forgiving and forgetting: "Do I hold grudges? Yeah." (p. 154) But we already knew that.

On the last page, O'Reilly finally explains that he wrote the book to "instill in you a belief that you can realize your dreams and goals" (p. 214). Glad he cleared that up at last. I thought he wrote it to sucker a lot of people into buying it so he would be rich enough to live in Nassau County, N.Y. (sixth highest median income in the country, according to the census bureau).

Is O'Reilly looking out for you? Don't bet on it.

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