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Bill O’Reilly And Bernard Goldberg Use Michael Jackson Funeral To Take Swipes At African American Community

Reported by Ellen - July 8, 2009 -

It’s one thing not to like Michael Jackson or to feel that the media coverage of his death is over the top. But it takes a particular kind of insensitivity (some might call it bigotry) to use the occasion of a man’s memorial service to attack him and his mourners as somehow morally deficient racists. But that’s exactly what Bernard Goldberg and Bill O’Reilly did last night on The O’Reilly Factor. Goldberg even compared Jackson to O.J. Simpson. Even worse, this is not the first time Fox has used the funeral of a black icon to attack African Americans. Sean Hannity was so enraged at the anti-Bush talk at Coretta Scott King's funeral that he launched into an attack of the NAACP. With video.

In his Talking Points at the beginning of the show, O’Reilly said he was “fed up with all the adulation” over Jackson. “The truth is that Jackson’s interactions with children were unacceptable for any adult. His incredible selfishness, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on himself while singing ‘We Are The World’ should make any clear thinking American nauseous.” Then he attacked Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and other African Americans for “playing the race card” by claiming Jackson as one of their own.

O’Reilly at least had the decency to allow Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, an extremely articulate expert in hip hop culture, a segment of his own to debate O’Reilly’s vile assertions that, “If (Jackson) were a white guy,” his bizarre behavior would never have been tolerated,” and “You don’t become an African American icon” if you bleach your skin.

But as bad as O’Reilly was, his next guest, media critic Bernard Goldberg was worse.

Goldberg began by defending Rep. Peter King, who has come under fire for calling Jackson a “low-life” and a “pervert” and complaining that the coverage of Jackson is “too politically correct.” What can “too politically correct” mean in this case other than too sensitive to African Americans? The fact that King said such harsh words before Jackson had been buried and eulogized added insult to injury. It has absolutely incensed Jackson’s fans who are now raising money for any candidate to run against King.

Goldberg declared he knows King is not a racist “because if he were, we would have heard a lot more racist things coming out of his mouth.” I wonder how carefully Goldberg follows King. Just asking.

“But,” Goldberg added, “some people think (King) is (a racist) and you have to wonder why.” In other words, Goldberg was suggesting that the black community is wrongly playing the race card.

Goldberg allowed as how since man “emerged from cave, we always looked out for our group over any other group” and that that’s why, for example, when people attacked Frank Sinatra, Italian Americans would “bristle.” But he was still implying that the only reason African Americans were upset was because of clannishness, not because that what King said might have been genuinely offensive.

Then Goldberg added, “What makes this thing with Michael Jackson so sad… is that it’s not enough for the elites to simply… honor him as a great American entertainer. They have to make him a black hero.”

So what, exactly is wrong with that? And what gives Goldberg the right to decide who should be a hero for anyone else? Sure, there are very troubling aspects of Michael Jackson’s life, especially in his later years, but over his 40+ year career, there was lots to admire. It wasn’t just African Americans who thought so. Who could listen to Brooke Shields’ heartfelt eulogy and not feel that there was plenty to love in Jackson’s character?

On the other hand, Goldberg, who, unlike Shields, did not seem to know Jackson, sneered, “A black hero of a man who bleached his skin to the point that at the end he was as white as you and me? It’s one thing to honor him as an entertainer. But as a civil rights hero? That just strikes me as ridiculous.” The truth is, Jackson was something of a civil rights here. As Rev. Al Sharpton explained, Jackson fans “grew up from being teenage comfortable fans of Michael to being 40 years old and being comfortable to vote for a person of color to be the president of the United States of America.” Also, Jackson broke an extremely important color barrier when his videos were played on MTV.

But “fair and balanced” O’Reilly did not point out those positive aspects of Jackson's career. Instead, he allowed Goldberg to further and gratuitously malign the black community as he said, “Then again, to many black people, if you remember the reaction after he was acquitted, O.J. Simpson was a hero.”

“Here’s the sad part, Bill. Race in this country is the wound that never seems to heal,” Goldberg added. Yeah, and we can guess at whose feet Goldberg lays most of the blame.

After stressing that Jackson was “a great entertainer,” Goldberg said he was most struck by how Jackson had been “elevated to something more than that.” Um, that’s because he was something more than that to many people. He was a pop icon for more than 40 years, which means most people grew up with him as a major figure. Goldberg and O’Reilly are showing their age if they don’t get at least that part of it. Do these guys scorn Princess Diana as "a ceremonial figurehead?" Somehow, I doubt it. She had her own personal troubles, too.

Goldberg continued grousing, “Not one of the people who paid tribute to (Jackson) today and not one of the anchors who traveled all the way across the country to anchor the coverage today – I’ll bet you not one of them would have let their kid stay overnight with Michael Jackson when he was alive. If I’m right about that, that tells you something about their coverage also.”

Well, by that reasoning, how many Fox News anchors will be lining up to get pregnancy tips from Sarah Palin, who made the risky choice to get on a plane for the long flight from Texas to Alaska after her water broke, when she was pregnant with her fifth child, whom she knew was going to have Down Syndrome merely because she wanted to have the baby in Alaska?

Palin was, in fact, up next in the discussion. But unlike Jackson, Palin’s bizarre behavior was not to be mentioned, much less criticized. O’Reilly complained about “the glee” that CNN’s Rick Sanchez, whom he referred to as “that clown,” supposedly exhibited by asking reporter Candy Crowley whether Palin might have resigned from the governorship because she’s pregnant again. Maybe I missed it but I didn’t see any glee from Sanchez. But whatever it was, it paled in comparison to the kinds of attacks on Jackson made by Goldberg and O'Reilly right on that very show.

“You don’t have to express every thought that pops into your head and certainly not on national television,” Goldberg said, by way of “friendly advice” to Sanchez. Goldberg then ran through his list of “legitimate” kinds of speculation over Palin’s resignation: whether she quit to run for president or to make money in the private sector. “But it is not legitimate speculation to wonder out loud... if she’s pregnant.”

But in Goldberg’s book, it’s OK for a white, Jackson disliker to wonder out loud why the black community takes such pride in him.

(Thanks to reader Cindy P. for the heads up)

If you can't view the videos below, here are links for the Goldberg segment, the Hill segment and the Talking Points Memo.