Bill O’Reilly led off his show last night with “an American witch hunt focusing on the media” as the topic of both his Talking Points and opening debate. He began by criticizing the conservative Media Research Center’s call for firings on MSNBC. But it was pretty clear that O'Reilly was at least as concerned about the boycotts of Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, as you probably know, ignited a firestorm of criticism with his misogynistic attacks on student Sandra Fluke – comments that O’Reilly echoed in less inflammatory language. O’Reilly has mostly refrained from discussing Limbaugh. Last night, O’Reilly spoke out against media boycotts in general, insisting he had “never threatened anyone.” I guess that depends on your definition of “threaten.”
O’Reilly announced last night that in a dispute with Pepsi over an endorsement deal with Ludacris, “I simply said I would not buy Pepsi.” Well, not quite. Here’s what O’Reilly actually said in August, 2002:
"I'm calling for all Americans to say, Hey, Pepsi, I'm not drinking your stuff. You want to hang around with Ludacris, you do that, I'm not hanging around with you." On The O'Reilly Factor the very next day, O'Reilly took credit for Pepsi's decision to cancel the Ludacris ad campaign, saying, "But because of pressure by Factor viewers, Pepsi-Cola late today capitulated. Ludacris has been fired."
Media Matters points out that in 2006, O’Reilly came up with a list of organizations he thought were “helping the enemy” and said to his radio show listeners, "[I]t's up to you guys to take action against them in a sense of boycotting their products, letting them know that this is unacceptable." The groups included the ACLU, the International Red Cross, the BBC, Air America Radio and The New York Times.
O’Reilly has also made a thinly-veiled threat against the State of Vermont if they didn’t impeach or reassign a judge he disliked. O’Reilly told a Vermont State Representative, “The state of Vermont's never gonna recover from this- ever! - unless Cashman is removed. People will not go there. They will not buy your products. They will turn their back (sic) and your state will be - have a stigma for-ever.”
He also encouraged protests outside the house of a Missouri judge. I'll bet the judge and his family construed that as a threat!
Last night, O’Reilly went on to praise MRC, call the Limbaugh boycotts “un-American” and said MRC was making a mistake. “We want free speech all over the place,” O’Reilly said. When free speech gets “irresponsible,” the “marketplace should dictate, not pressure groups armed with threats.”
Apparently, O’Reilly thinks of himself as a “marketplace.” If he suggests his audience do something, that's the marketplace at work. If people who don't have the ability to utter a few casual words and reach thousands of people organize for the same purpose - that's a pressue group "armed with threats."
I applaud O’Reilly’s attempt at even-handedness and I’m one who was for boycotts before I was against them. But O’Reilly ought to be able to face his viewers and tell them the truth about his record. Maybe he needs to tell himself the truth first.
Worse in the show was O’Reilly’s inability to recognize that Brent Bozell has actually been a very negative presence in the media, and that he not only runs the MRC, he also is responsible for the behavior of the PTC, which was humiliated over 10 years ago, after they slandered the World Wrestling Federation, saying that WWF encouraged violence in children.
I wonder how he kept his face that straight through that.
NOTE TO BILLY
Tell the masses Dr. James David Manning is boycotting your show. What? You won’t? You must be afraid of him. He is saying all sorts of nasty things about you.