It's great news that Fox News has finally decided that Bill O’Reilly’s harassment of coworkers will no longer be tolerated. I’m even willing to overlook the “What took you so long?” question (spoiler: money). But as Maya Angelou might have said, Bill O’Reilly has been showing us who he is for years. Did we really need to know about his off-air behavior to finally believe him?
O’Reilly has shown his abusive personality on the air over and over and over again. As long ago as 2004, the documentary “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism” (for which I served as a researcher) famously shone a spotlight on O’Reilly’s abuse of an anti-war activist and son of a 9/11 victim. “You have a warped view of this world,” O’Reilly snapped at guest Jeremy Glick. Jabbing a finger, O'Reilly repeatedly told Glick to “shut up” and then ended the interview by announcing, “Cut his mic.”
O’Reilly long ago showed us he’s a racist, too. In 2007, he talked on his radio show about how much he enjoyed a dinner at a famous restaurant in Harlem where the black patrons were as well-behaved as white people: “There wasn’t one person in Sylvia’s who was screaming, ‘M-Fer, I want more iced tea.’ You know, I mean, everybody was — it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn’t any kind of craziness at all.”
As blatantly bigoted as those statements were, I would argue that O’Reilly’s intention there was not to insult, demean or denigrate. That was not the case in many of his other on-air comments. For example, in 2012, O’Reilly suggested that President Obama was re-elected only because minority welfare kings and queens saw him as one of their own. “It’s not a traditional America any more,” O’Reilly groused. “The white establishment is now the minority. […] People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?
In 2013, O’Reilly exploited upset in the black community over George Zimmerman’s acquittal for murdering unarmed teen Trayvon Martin not by educating Fox viewers about the African American perspective but by deliberately vilifying it. O’Reilly shouted, “What do the race hustlers and limousine liberals yell about? The number of black men in prison for selling drugs. Oh, it’s so unfair! It’s a non-violent crime. And blacks are targeted! That is one of the biggest lies in the history of this country!” Not only did that have nothing to do with the Zimmerman case, it suggested that African Americans had not “earned” the right to be disturbed by it.
No one paying even half attention could have missed O’Reilly’s misogyny, either. Rush Limbaugh has paid (some) for his horrible comments labeling law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” because she advocated for mandated contraception coverage in health insurance. But O’Reilly closely echoed Limbaugh’s smear: “Sandra Fluke believes that all of us should pay for her sexual activities… I’m asking this with all due respect, I am. You want me to give you my hard-earned money so you can have sex? Is that what you’re asking for? Good grief."
That’s not at all what Fluke believed. But O’Reilly repeatedly smeared Fluke. His producer, Jesse Watters (just promoted in the wake of O’Reilly’s ouster) boasted about trying to “stake out” Fluke and having “chased her down” at the 2012 Democratic convention. He had been hoping for a humiliating ambush interview.
Then there's O'Reilly's harassment of Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who provided legal abortions. For years, O'Reilly demonized him on the air as “Dr. Tiller, the baby killer.” When Tiller was assassinated by an anti-abortion zealot, O'Reilly played the victim for having fingers pointed at him.
O’Reilly’s harassment of African American contributor Jehmu Greene was also evident years before she formally reported it. In 2011, O’Reilly accused her of being “brainwashed” after she challenged his contention that “everybody understands” African Americans vote en masse for Democrats merely because of “entitlement spending.”
Last week, Greene reportedly called the law firm investigating complaints about O’Reilly to complain about off-air harassment that she described as more an effort to “put me in my place” than sexual. She said she resorted to that measure after she received no response to an email to a network executive about her experiences. I don’t know whether Greene included that "brainwashed" episode in her complaint. But there was no reason for her to have to fight to get her voice heard. O’Reilly’s abusive behavior toward her and others has been hiding in plain sight of anyone with a pair of eyes, ears and a television screen.
As Salon noted, O’Reilly and Fox News have been harassing us all with the bullying divisiveness that has taken the place of thoughtful analysis and debate – without even much concern for the truth. But it wasn't until The New York Times revealed $13 million in payouts to five different women that progressive activists galvanized and successfully toppled him.
Isn’t it time that we all stand up and refuse to take it any more?
Watch the clip of O'Reilly berating Glick below, from the 2004 documentary, Outfoxed.
(Bill O’Reilly caricature by Nina Brodsky.)
A quick Google found this:
There is little doubt Rupert didn’t know what was going on at Fox News. Years of lawsuits might be his first clue. Hell, him and Roger ‘Zipper Down’ Ailes probably swapped their favorite casting couch stories. Maybe him and O’Reilly shared a party phone line dialing up interns.
But Rupert had plausible deniability by pretending he heard it in the news just like us. And while it’s obvious it’s all about money and Rupert was happy to have his male stars get ‘side benefits’ as long as the millions rolled in, he can pretend to claim the high moral ground that ousting the sexual predators now – after many years of abuse and fat profits – is proof his company respects women.