In the final analysis, it is crystal clear that five women and 13 million dollars in sexual harassment settlements were not enough to force Fox News to can Bill O’Reilly. No, O’Reilly got the axe only after advertisers began to abandon ship in droves. Then and only then did Fox News aficionados finally find the testicular fortitude to eliminate a man who is a major reason behind the caustic state of public discourse about race and gender in America.
Since taking the air in 1996, O’Reilly has become a cult hero for millions of fans of the Fox Network who enjoyed what he called the “No Spin Zone,” one in which he railed against multiculturalism and feminism all under the guise of patriotism and his fight for America’s “Christian” values.
The truth of the matter, though, is that O’Reilly was no arbiter or defender of the Christian faith; O’Reilly was simply the most popular pundit purveyor of hard-core American jingoism and the push to take America back to a period where, to paraphrase Justice Roger B. Taney, minorities had no rights that the majority were bound to respect. That same period was marked by the distinct notion that women knew that their place was in the home or quietly acquiescing to the sexual whims and tawdry talk of their male bosses and co-workers ala Don Draper et al in the former hit AMC series “Mad Men.”
No matter how much O’Reilly says that the harassment allegations against him through the years are untrue, the truth is that in his mind, O’Reilly does not believe that he has ever done anything wrong. In that respect, he is not unlike his friend, President Donald Trump, he of “grab them by the p___y” infamy who just last week, boldly stated that O’Reilly was a “good man” who “should not have settled anything.” O’Reilly’s settled acts and Trump’s defense come as no surprise, mind you, because in their world’s view, such talk is merely “boys being boys” and historically, the “boys” are never held to account for anything that they do or say that offends women or other minorities.
As for O’Reilly, if it had been one woman who accused him then perhaps, emphasis on perhaps, he would have been afforded the benefit of the doubt. But when it is five women and counting, multiple millions of dollars already doled out in settlements, a long history of offensive and dismissive comments spun as “No Spin,” well, it is clear that O’Reilly was out of line on a regular basis and needed to get checked for his behavior.
Indeed, if you have watched O’Reilly through the years, whether he was diminishing the negative effects of slavery and Jim Crow, publically mocking or condescending to the first Black President of the United States, Barack Obama, when he interviewed him several years back, or discussing the Fox “Blonde” brigade and demanding that highly educated female political analysts “show more cleavage,” it was clear that O’Reilly was a cretin but that as long as he helped his network earn big money, no one would dare pull his card and discard him.
As a lover of American history, O’Reilly reminded me of the old slave plantation overseers, the ones who were not to the manor born but due to their race, were afforded an opportunity to beat, harass and rape the enslaved men and women that they supervised. Such overseers were as racist as their plantation owning bosses, but their language and acts were often far more petty, crude and vituperative, much like O’Reilly’s recent comments about California Representative Maxine Waters’ wig, one that proves that if he is that type of low life in public, surely he says and does (and did) far worse in private.
While I am happy that O’Reilly has received a public put-down, such is not a total victory at all. O’Reilly still got a huge paycheck to leave and his publisher, Henry Holt, has indicated that his books will continue to be sold right in schedule. I also realize that O’Reilly is but a symptom and that the disease, patriarchal racism that has been America’s calling card since its inception, will continue to be purveyed by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and countless others who mimic them on a daily basis. Still, the blueprint is there to shut people of this ilk down, and that is to pressure advertisers to pull their dollars while encouraging victims of their sexism and racism to raise their voices in courts of law and public opinion.