Why Bill O’Reilly’s “Scandal” Doesn’t Interest Me Like Brian Williams’ Did…

I don’t remember exactly how many blog posts I put up regarding Brian Williams’ scandal. Was it ten? Fifteen? More? I don’t remember how many times I’ve written about O’Reilly but it was an order of magnitude less. There are reasons for that…

First, lets get the obvious out of the way. This is a scandal for Bill O’Reilly. It’s not a scandal that’s going to cause him to get fired. It never could be. Anybody, regardless of political affiliation, who knows anything about his show knows what they’re going to get. Whatever that may be, and it’s going to be different depending on your POV, most would agree it’s not a detached recounting of the news of the day. You tune in to O’Reilly to hear his opinions. You tune in to Brian Williams to hear the news. The bar for career ending scandal therefore is significantly higher for O’Reilly than it was for Williams. Put another way, the small number of anecdotes that have come out regarding O’Reilly would have probably sunk Williams if they had been about him.

But it’s still a scandal for O’Reilly because, opinion host or not, it goes straight to his character…but not just the details of the scandal itself but how O’Reilly has addressed the charges.

I gave him a pass on the original Falklands story. It was only one incident after all. The fact that one of his accusers had penned an anti-FNC rant on his Facebook page undermined his argument in terms of raising questions about his motivation.

But when we got to the nun shooting story, O’Reilly lost me. He lost me because of his explanation. Saying that he was referring to pictures of nuns being shot is just too big a dodge to accept at face value. If that was indeed the case O’Reilly should have said, “I was referring to pictures and I should have included that detail and that error was mine.” He did nothing of the kind. Instead his explanation did two things. First, it turned O’Reilly’s explanation from one of explaining what he meant to putting the onus on the reader/viewer to figure out what O’Reilly meant without knowing what the parameters were. That kind of defense is not one that can be sustained because it invites another round of questions. Second, it turned the story from questions regarding O’Reilly’s original reporting to questions regarding O’Reilly’s preposterous response to said questions regarding his reporting.

Then came the JFK book anecdote and all the supporting evidence which makes it extremely difficult to conclude anything other than O’Reilly’s story can’t stand up.

Now it’s no longer just an isolated Falklands incident. The Falklands, dead nuns, O’Reilly saying he was somewhere at a specific point in time when the evidence strongly contradicts it…this is a pattern. You can’t ignore a pattern. You have to pay attention.

So, I believe that the evidence paints a picture of a less than accurate O’Reilly. In my mind, he got caught. That some of the charges came from people and organizations with more than a passing interest in seeing O’Reilly in trouble is noteworthy but only to a point. That point is when O’Reilly can’t credibly shoot down the charges. We have reached that point, if not with the nun story than certainly with the Mohrenschildt suicide story.

For inexplicable reasons, some have painted this as a case of “one of theirs got it so now they go after one of ours”. That’s just plain laughable. First of all, the Right never went after Williams…the MSM did. So how “they go after one of ours” because “we got one of theirs” when “we” never “got one of theirs”…”they” did? Second, those who have been digging up stuff on O’Reilly, specifically Media Matters, doesn’t view Williams as “one of theirs”…certainly not anywhere close to the way the Right is associating O’Reilly as “one of ours”. Though even that argument that O’Reilly is considered “one of ours” by the Right doesn’t exactly square with reality either. I know a lot of Conservatives who don’t think O’Reilly is one of theirs. Either way the idea that this is a tit for tat revenge thing is just not in the realm of the believable.

But, even though I think they got O’Reilly dead to rights here, I have to ask the obvious question: What did you expect?

O’Reilly is an opinion host. Cable news opinion hosts regularly distort facts, cherry pick arguments, ignore inconvenient truths, deflect/mitigate blame, and on and on. Why is this news to anyone? It’s not to me.

So that’s why O’Reilly’s scandal doesn’t interest me…because it falls into a category which is part and parcel of the opinion host. I discount it precisely because it is O’Reilly. Now, if the scandal fell outside of the opinion realm…if it was a case of O’Reilly embezzling FNC funds or getting caught doing drugs…that would be a different matter because those are not things we associate with opinion hosts.

But this isn’t anything like that. It’s an opinion host playing fast and loose with the truth. I really couldn’t care less.

27 Responses to “Why Bill O’Reilly’s “Scandal” Doesn’t Interest Me Like Brian Williams’ Did…”

  1. Kevin Ehsani Says:

    The reason why O’Reilly’s lies are significant is because he was saying all of these things (which ended up being lies) when he actually was a straight reporter/journalist working at CBS News, then later at Inside Edition. I personally don’t believe those things he did from other jobs should get him fired from his current job, but the whole “he’s an opinion host” excuse doesn’t fly here.

    Also, he has continued to repeat those lies he said as a journalist to this day, and many of them on Fox’s air. So he’s just repeating a bunch of stuff he made up as a journalist to use while he’s an opinion host. If a liberal opinion host did this, there would be a relentless demand for them to get fired.

    By the way, just to correct you, Spud: conservative groups, like the Media Research Center, were pushing for Williams to be fired (and are still doing so), so there was a lot of pressure from the other side.

  2. I agree with Spud that this story has no real future. The only way I saw that this scandal could actually have an effect on Bill was if his coworkers like Shep, Greta, Megyn Kelly or Chris Wallace (I know his show is on FOX and not FNC) demanded he apologize for his threats against reporters. That hasn’t happened and so it’s over.

    The fact that O’Reilly lied outright on a number of occasions in his past history as a reporter or threatened reporters doesn’t matter if your employers are OK with having their masthead host be a proven liar. It must galling to other less partisan hosts on the network, like Shep and Greta, when they are tarred just by association with O’Reilly and how FNC handles this scandal.

    The thing is this is the only network where the ethical behavior of it’s top host is irrelevant to that host keeping his job. No other news network host in cable news could survive the revelations that BillO has survived. FNC is a very special network in that regard.

  3. By the way, just to correct you, Spud: conservative groups, like the Media Research Center, were pushing for Williams to be fired (and are still doing so), so there was a lot of pressure from the other side.

    If that’s all it was…if it was just the MRC and a few right wing sites screaming over the original helicopter incident…Williams would still be on the air (though maybe after a short vacation…hard to say about that). The MRC routinely calls for so and so’s head (as does Media Matters). Very rarely does anyone do anything about it.

    No the reason Willliams got suspended was due to two things. 1) The MSM piled on early and heavily with certain rival news organizations at least partially aiding and abetting in the “research”. 2) The evidence was overwhelming and all encompassing. What the MRC did amounted to nothing to sway things.

  4. The thing is this is the only network where the ethical behavior of it’s top host is irrelevant to that host keeping his job. No other news network host in cable news could survive the revelations that BillO has survived. FNC is a very special network in that regard.

    Rubbish. Do the words Fareed and Zakaria mean anything to you? How about Lara and Logan? Al and Sharpton?

    Nobody’s hands are clean…

  5. I am in vacation so my reading of issues is spotty. But…based on Spud’s story I will have to do more reading. If all of these stories are true then Bill should set the record straight and say mistakes were made. I do think this won’t matter much in the sense that, as many have pointed out here, the age of folks watching O’Reilly is “old” in the scheme of TV demo. They, as a group, will probably not do much other research/reading of other sources, to see the extent of the “lies”.

    O’Reilly has gone way down in shows I watch these days so I don’t know what he has said about any of this. When I did watch him it was not for the NEWS value. I watch Bret Bair for that and read more sources than watch TV for my hard news. I can see how this would be annoying for the “news” staff of Fox but I do compare this to the Williams story in that you have to judge each person individually. Plus, he was the head of the on air hard news part of NBC News and there are different standards at play here.

    I am sure there is much happiness out in the “news” arena about this because it involves both Bill O’Reilly AND Fox News.

  6. “Do the words Fareed and Zakaria mean anything to you? How about Lara and Logan? Al and Sharpton?”

    ^^I don’t think any of these cases are analogist to the BOR situation.

    Criticism of Zakaria’s supposed plagiarism never got past some blog posting and a few MSM mentions. It never really took off with the public (mostly because the accusations were confusing, not clear-cut and hard to explain to the masses) and CNN and Zakaria dealt with the charges perfectly by just ignoring them. O’Reilly and FNC would have been better served to follow the CNN example.

    Lara Logan was suspended and both she and CBS apologized for their mistakes so it is also a bad comparison to O’Reilly. The Logan scandal is closer to the William’s one than BillO’s because there is an element of trust involved.

    Sharpton is an odd case because the conflicts of interest with his employers, Comcast, have not yet been fully explored by the MSM. I think eventually he will have to go as the story of his Foundation’s ties to Comcast and how he got and keeps his hosting gig (Comcast buying the Sharpton Foundation’s support for it’s racial policy’s by giving the Foundation money and Sharpton hosting job at MSNBC) are made more public by the MSM.

    The best analogy to BOR may be the departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC. He was the face of the network at the time; but broke network rules and was suspended and soon after left the network.

    IMO, his offense was ethically much less egregious than O’Reilly’s and yet the network suspended him. I’ll give you KO’s relationship with MSNBC was far more confrontational than BillO’s is with FNC, but MSNBC still suspended their most popular host for an offense (legal donations to politicians) that most viewers, at the time, found minor at best.

  7. I don’t think any of these cases are analogist to the BOR situation.

    They absolutely are analogous. They all have one thing in common…that a network makes the decision to stick by its star regardless of how damning the evidence is.

    Olbermann left the network because of intra-network squabbling and turf wars over show content and direction. It wasn’t about any suspensions.

  8. erich500 Says:

    One interesting aspect – interesting meaning revealing – for me is O’Reilly’s silence over these latest allegations, i.e., the nun shooting story and the de Mohrenschildt suicide. He’s gone from “Fightin’ O’Reilly” to “Where’s William”?

    The three saving points for O’Reilly are:
    (1) He’s a bigfoot and, as the saying goes, if you try to kill the king you better kill the king, i.e., it has to be extremely damaging and not just damaging;
    (2) His erroneous (to be charitable) accounts are about decades old stories; and
    (3) Nobody knows what standards to use with these anchor/commentator/pundits. Clearly if he was a straight news reporter he’d be in deeper trouble. It’s similar to Zakaria who, had he been a news reporter on CNN, would have been suspended if not fired.

    Still, FNC/Ailes has to do something here. Or should. And O’Reilly has to address the suicide story. He made that claim in a book and not in some off-the-cuff comment. That is more serious.

    One other point: Has Kurtz addressed these latest stories? The nun shooting and the de Mohrenschildt suicide?

  9. savefarris Says:

    The thing is this is the only network where the ethical behavior of it’s top host is irrelevant to that host keeping his job.

    Along with Spud’s fine examples, I’d go ahead and throw Nancy Grace’s hat into the proverbial ring.

  10. “They all have one thing in common…that a network makes the decision to stick by its star regardless of how damning the evidence is.”

    ^^Zakaria has a low rated (but much admired)weekend foreign affairs show while BillO has the highest rated opinion news show in cable news. CNN could have dropped or suspended FZ without much of a viewer blowback but FNC would face a major viewer revolt if they tried the same thing with BillO. Comparing Zakaria’s plagiarism accusations to O’Reilly’s lies while a reporter is like comparing a speeding ticket to vehicular homicide. The situations are just not analogous.

    Lara Logan situation is analogous to Brian Williams but not O’Reilly because she was dealt with by CBS; she apologized, CBS apologized and she was suspended. Her mistake didn’t deserve firing and so that punishment wasn’t given.

    Sharpton may yet get suspended or fired. It’s just to early in the story for that to have occurred yet.

  11. “Along with Spud’s fine examples, I’d go ahead and throw Nancy Grace’s hat into the proverbial ring.”

    ^^Good point farris. Her many scandals and unwavering support by CNN are analogous, on a lesser scale, to BillO’s many scandals and unwavering support by FNC.

  12. fritz: Do you watch Monday Night Countdown on ESPN?

    If so, C’MON, MAN!!!
    🙂

  13. “Do you watch Monday Night Countdown on ESPN?”

    ^^No. So I have no clue what your talking about. Sorry.

  14. You don’t watch Monday Night Football? I knew there was something wrong with you, fritz!

  15. “You don’t watch Monday Night Football? I knew there was something wrong with you, fritz!I”

    ^^Fine. But I still have no clue what your talking about.😉

  16. They do a segment called “C’mon Man” when players, coaches, fans, etc. do/say something ridiculous. This was my way of (nicely) saying the stuff in your post was a little ridiculous. I mean, you make it sound like O’Reilly killed a guy or something.

    Anyway, I was just having some fun. All good.

  17. savefarris Says:

    I’ll give fritz a pass on this one: Chris Berman is about 15 years past retirement.

  18. “I mean, you make it sound like O’Reilly killed a guy or something.”

    ^^I don’t see where you get that from?

    He’s been caught out, with lots of audio and video evidence, in multiply lies and past reporting embellishments and then, most damming IMO, threating reporters for doing their jobs. I said the story is over because FNC, his sponsors and coworkers are standing with him.

    Marty Bashir got justifiably fired for much less cause, but he lacked the support of his bosses. BillO is a lucky guy with a lot of viewers. End of story.

  19. “Small correction: Bashir resigned.”

    ^^Well yes that’s true, but I assume he was pushed into quitting. But you are technically correct.

  20. Bashir’s offense(s) were not “much less cause”. He completely obliterated the lines of human decency. If he talked that way about my wife, he’d be eating through a straw for the remainder of his pathetic life.

  21. Agreed, farris. I’ve never been a huge fan of Berman but the last decade or so have been truly awful.

    Side note, minor thing, I can’t believe they let him in the broadcast booth for PGA events.

  22. “Bashir’s offense(s) were not “much less cause”.”

    ^^OK take away “much less cause”.
    Then it’s:
    “Marty Bashir got justifiably fired, but (should have read because) he lacked the support of his bosses.

    O’Reilly provably repeatedly lied about his reporting history and threatened reporters doing their job. On any other network those ethical violations would get any host punished and most likely suspended or fired. But FNC is not like regular cable news net in that they support their top hosts no matter what. That makes them ‘special’ in my book.

  23. imnotblue Says:

    O’Reilly “threatened” a reporter to do their job, and not just regurgitate the smears from Media Matters.

    And arguing the hypothetical of what another network “might” do is pointless.

  24. O’Reilly “threatened” a reporter to do their job, and not just regurgitate the smears from Media Matters.

    ^^At least you admit he threatened them That’s a big step up from other BillO fanboys.

    “And arguing the hypothetical of what another network “might” do is pointless.”

    Maybe but it’s better than being an apologist for a blowhard liar.

  25. imnotblue Says:

    Bill Clinton?

  26. Funny you should bring up Clinton because O’Reilly has been positively Clintonian in how he’s addressed these accusations. I half expected him to say “It depends on what your definition of warzone is”

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