O’Reilly: Why the king of cable news was dethroned
Just a month ago, Bill O’Reilly was sitting pretty, said Alex Wagner in TheAtlantic.com. His Fox News show, The O’Reilly Factor, “was a conservative juggernaut, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year.” With 4 million viewers a night, O’Reilly was the undisputed king of cable news. But last week, the king was summarily “ousted from his throne.” Fox News announced it was dropping its biggest star in the wake of a bombshell New York Times story that revealed O’Reilly, 67, and his employers paid out $13 million to five women who claimed the TV host sexually harassed them or verbally abused them between 2002 and 2016. On screen, O’Reilly was “abrasive and arrogant,” said Lili Loofbourow in TheWeek.com—a browbeating Irish Catholic who preached family values while launching sneering rants about liberal “snowflakes” and berating rape victims for wearing miniskirts. Offscreen, “the real man turned out to be quite a bit worse.” Female colleagues accused O’Reilly of subjecting them to “masturbatory phone calls” and high-pressure demands for sex. When Juliet Huddy, a frequent guest on his show, spurned his advances, O’Reilly set out to “professionally sabotage her,” and warned his former producer that if she complained, she’d “wish she’d never been born.” O’Reilly claimed he was the victim of a “smear campaign.” But when more than 80 companies pulled their ads from his show, Fox’s ruling Murdoch clan decided enough was enough. The “media giant” was out.
This is truly the end of an era, said Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times. O’Reilly’s stunning downfall came just nine months after Fox’s founding chairman, Roger Ailes, was also forced out amid his own harassment scandal. Together, “no two people did more to build Fox News Channel into a powerful cultural-political force.” Ailes wanted to build a cable news empire that would speak for the angry “forgotten Americans” in conservative flyover country; O’Reilly, with his Long Island working-class background and “perfectly perched chip on his shoulder,” was the ideal pick. His resentful rants against political correctness and the mainstream media, and rage-filled warnings that white, Christian America was under siege, transformed Fox News into “the beating heart of a new, populist conservative movement”—reshaping the GOP as it did so. “That rising conservative populism eventually gave birth to a candidate named Donald Trump,” said Chris Cillizza in CNN.com, “a fire-breathing, America-first populist who not only wasn’t afraid of poking liberal elites in the eye but reveled in it.” Born three years apart in New York City, Trump and O’Reilly had “a special connection.” But while his friend has risen to the nation’s highest office, O’Reilly has “fallen from grace.”
Liberals have wanted O’Reilly’s scalp for years, said Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. That’s because he was an “intellectual giant” who “exposed the abuses of liberals better than anyone else.” So while liberal hypocrites excused or ignored the serial sexual abuses of Bill Clinton, they seized on unproven allegations to hound O’Reilly and Ailes out of their jobs. Fox News will never be the same, and “America and the conservative cause are weaker as a result.”
Sorry, but this is what happens when conservatives elevate “toxic” celebrities as our “ideological gladiators,” said David French in NationalReview.com. Time and again, we’ve rallied behind arrogant, self-serving men with dubious standards of morality, valuing their combativeness over anything else. Out of tribal loyalty, conservatives defended O’Reilly even in the face of multiple, credible sexual harassment allegations, just as we’ve defended Milo Yiannopoulos and other amoral characters. “The cost has been a loss of integrity.” It’s time for conservatives to find some real heroes who embody conservative values both in public and in private, and aren’t milking our movement for money, power, and sex.
The bosses at Fox shouldn’t be given an “easy ride,” either, said Jack Schafer in Politico.com. “The network has known since at least 2002 of O’Reilly’s—what shall we call them—appalling ways around the newsroom.” It was only when advertisers fled that the sons of Rupert Murdoch, CEO of parent company 21st Century Fox, pushed for O’Reilly to be fired. As for O’Reilly himself, while coverage of his ouster reads “like a giant Irish wake, he’s not dead yet.” His ardent fans don’t care about sexual harassment charges. “Hell, many don’t care about sexual harassment, period.” They’ll follow O’Reilly wherever he chooses to go, such as the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting chain. Mark my words, liberals: “You’ll have Bill O’Reilly to kick around for a long time.” ■