It’s been clear from the start that O’Reilly was never a Cliven Bundy fan. But now that Bundy has been completely discredited as a racist – instead of just a lawbreaking America hater – O’Reilly feels sorry for the guy. Not only that, O’Reilly thinks Bundy is just ignorant and not really a racist. To top it all off, O’Reilly told his African American guest, Democrat Basil Smikle, that he and Bundy would be friends if only Smikle would give him a chance. Seriously.
I don’t mean to come down too hard on O’Reilly because he has been one of the better hosts on Fox about Bundy. O’Reilly was noticeably quiet during the Bundy cheerleading days. And he was somewhat scathing, if indirect, in his criticisms of conservatives for getting behind Bundy tonight in the Talking Points Memo commentary that preceded this segment. Even though O’Reilly used his Talking Points to play the liberal media victim (more on that later). But in this segment, O’Reilly seemed to be bending over backward to make Bundy a sympathetic figure, even while distancing himself from Bundy’s views.
O’Reilly’s two guests for this segment were Democrat Basil Smikle and conservative Mike Gallagher. Fox News contributor Gallagher had already spoken out against Bundy earlier in the day and not just because he’s a racist. Not surprisingly, Smikle was the most critical of the three.
At around 4:15 in the video below, O’Reilly began to paint Bundy as a sort of lost soul:
The national media was gleeful when Bundy said this (about African Americans). Gleeful. They said, ‘Yes! Yes! Now he’s a nut. Now, we don’t like him anyway, alright? Now we got him!’ Was that the right reaction? I feel sorry for this 67 year-old man. I feel sorry for him.
Smikle said he doesn’t feel sorry “at all” for Bundy. “Do I feel sorry that at 67 years old he has spent his life believing something and will go on TV with armed individuals to espouse that belief? No, I don’t feel sorry for him,” Smikle replied.
“He should be pitied,” Gallagher said.
“I feel bad for him,” O’Reilly continued. “I don’t think you have to defend him. But I think we should all feel terrible for him and his family. Because number one, he’s embarrassed himself and his family forever. Forever! You know?
Gallagher added, “And it festers with people. People who are racists, Bill, this is something they feed on, too.”
O’Reilly responded with this jaw-dropper:
I don’t even think – I know this is gonna be kind of outrageous. I don’t think he’s a racist. I think he’s ignorant. …If he spent three days with you, Basil, I think you and he would be friends. Maybe you couldn’t forgive him. …But I think he would like you. …I’d make him like you.”
Now, I’m not one to advocate hanging tough with hardened attitudes. And I think O'Reilly meant well. But there’s a whole world of difference between feeling charitable and being friendly with a guy like Bundy, especially if you’re an African American who believes in the rule of law and not having your buddies threaten federal law enforcers with loaded guns. And maybe I'm reading too much into this but the whole thing struck me as rather insensitive. If Bill wants to befriend this guy, educate hiim about African Americans, then why doesn't O'Reilly get him on the show and talk things over? Why is it Smikle's job to make Bundy the person O'Reilly believes he is?
Furthermore, if O’Reilly really wants to make this world a kinder, gentler place, he could start by showing some genuine good will to the people he disagrees with. Instead of going out of his way to demonize them.
@jan : reflecting on that sentence, I think a pretty good translation would be: “you (Gallagher) are a POS but I’ll do you a favor and tell Bundy that you’re someone he could have a beer with”.
“I’d make him like you.”
Hidden message is you have got to like Bundy because I say so.
The more interesting part of O’Reilly’s Talking Points tonight was that I believe he completely pilloried Sean Hannity, possibly even worse than Colbert and Jon Stewart. O’Reilly’s recounting of the horrors of slavery, stacked next to his discussion that “not everybody” at Fox News was making Bundy their pal, sounds like a pretty direct shot across the bow at Hannity. Given that the men have no love lost between them, I’m sure this will make for some wonderfully frosty times at the building in New York.
Now, I’m just gonna sit back and wait for our Bundy defenders to come on and try explaining how Smikle is such a racist and a bad person for not jumping at the idea. You know, kind of like how they defended Rick Perry saying Harry Reid should go talk to armed lunatics that are dangerously obsessed with the notion that he’s their oppressor, and have used the words “one way or the other” talking about getting him out of office.