Politico’s Alex Weprin writes about Bill O’Reilly’s appearance on the Today Show this morning…
O’Reilly, appearing on NBC’s “Today” show to promote his new book “Killing the Rising Sun,” was asked by co-anchor Savannah Guthrie about Ailes’ departure from the channel, and Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment claims.
“I don’t know anything about the case, nothing,” O’Reilly said. “So, he was a great boss. Best boss I ever had, and that’s what I said to [NBC late night host] Seth Meyers, that’s all I’ve said. And I’m not going to say anything else because I work for this company. And I don’t really have any insight into anything. So for once in my life, I’m going to keep my big mouth shut.”
If you are a close follower of cable news you no doubt started choking as you read that last paragraph.
I have refrained from writing anything on the FNC talent that commented on Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit after it was filed save for when Jeanine Pirro made news accidentally and Greta Van Susteren’s rather innocuous commentary to Lloyd Grove.
I didn’t write about Neil Cavuto’s op-ed or Geraldo Rivera and Sean Hannity’s Twitter ramblings or anyone else’s commentary about the lawsuit before alleged victims started coming out of the woodwork and before the eventual settlement.
I certainly didn’t write about Bill O’Reilly’s commentary.
Oh…you didn’t know about Bill O’Reilly’s commentary? Apparently neither does Bill.
At the risk of provoking Johnny Dollar’s wrath by citing the liberal activist Think Progress, Think Progress’ Judd Legum takes O’Reilly to task for his revisionist history (note: Legum called it “Amnesia”)
Back in July, a week after Carlson’s suit was filed, O’Reilly declared on NBC’s Late Show with Seth Myers that Ailes was the victim of a frivolous lawsuit. O’Reilly told Myers that “[i]n this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target.”
He suggested that Carlson’s lawsuit against Ailes, which Fox News ended up settling for $20 million, was “a frivolous lawsuit.” He suggested that America adopt “the English system of civil law whereby if you file a frivolous lawsuit and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs.”
He called the entire situation a product of an “out-of-control tabloid society that is tremendously destructive.”
“I stand behind Roger 100 percent,” he concluded.
It’s one thing to re-assess the available public evidence and decide to totally reverse course and fall on your sword as Geraldo Rivera did very publicly on Facebook. Sure some of Rivera’s most cynical critics will question the timing of his U-turn because Rivera lost his book deal with Harper Collins just two days earlier…and regardless of whether there’s any merit to that line of questioning…the timing automatically puts that question into play regardless of whether it is deserved or not.
But at least Rivera looked at the evidence and decided his original position could no longer be supported.
That’s more than O’Reilly has ever done. O’Reilly has basically denied that he offered any defense or show of support to begin with. That should not be any surprise to anyone who has followed O’Reilly’s M.O. which is to rationalize and re-parse everything rather than admit to any weakness or error in his original argument.
To listen to O’Reilly this morning is to listen to someone deny his past. Pathetic, Bill. Really pathetic.
Update: I incurred Johnny Dollar’s wrath…
This kind of slippery, inaccurate rewording is why I dinged @ErikWemple & @InsideCableNews for citing ThinkProgress.
Fine. Here’s the verbatim quote of the relevant section offered by O’Reilly on Seth Meyer’s show courtesy of Tommy Christopher at Mediaite…
In this country, every famous, powerful, or wealthy person is a target. You’re a target, I’m a target. Anytime, somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press, or anything like that. Until Amer — and that’s a deplorable situation because I have to have bodyguards. I have to hire bodyguards, physical bodyguards, all right? Until the United States adopts the British system of civil law, whereby if you file a frivolous lawsuit and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs. Until we adopt that very fair proposition, we’re going to have this out of control tabloid society that is tremendously destructive. I stand behind Roger 100 percent.
The bolding is mine but I bolded it because this is the part that where O’Reilly tries to cast Carlson’s suit as somehow not legitimate. Otherwise why bring it up at all? It’s a total non-sequitur to the rest of O’Reilly’s answer. A complete tangent.
O’Reilly doesn’t do tangents. Everything O’Reilly says is related to a point he’s trying to make.
This adoption of the British legal system O’Reilly called for is something he’s been hot about for well over a decade. Consider this Jack Shafer article in Slate from 12 years ago…
Bill O’Reilly came alive last night (July 14) on his highly rated Fox News Channel show, The O’Reilly Factor, during a discussion with Keith Graves, a reporter for the United Kingdom’s Sky News. In his opening, O’Reilly asked Graves, “What should be done with people … who continue to continue to accuse Prime Minister Blair and President Bush of deliberately lying about WMD?”
Graves didn’t adequately respond, so O’Reilly rephrased the question:
Now if somebody calls a prime minister a liar in print or on television in Britain, can they get in trouble? Because here you can call your president or anybody else a liar, even when the evidence that there is no lie is overwhelming, and simply walk away and not get anything to happen to you. Is it the same in England?
Yes, Graves replied, the prime minister would have grounds for a libel action if somebody called him a liar without evidence. And with that O’Reilly got to what was really on his mind. The subject wasn’t the failings of the CIA and MI6. And it wasn’t Tony Blair’s damaged reputation. It’s the damage being done to Bill O’Reilly’s reputation by Al Franken’s book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them!
Some of those smear books that are written here are being sold in London. Can I go over there and sue those people over there? Because I can’t win here. Can I go over there and sue? Because I’ll go.
So, O’Reilly in typical O’Reilly fashion did, at the very least indirectly, de-legitimized Carlson’s lawsuit and did back Roger Ailes’ version of events. Here’s the smoking gun…
I stand behind Roger 100%
You don’t “stand behind” someone in a controversial case unless you are backing their version of events.
O’Reilly could have offered support to Ailes based on Bill’s history with him. That would be both understandable and fair. Others did take that route.
That’s actually the direction Bill started out at with Meyers but then he veered off in another direction. Bill backed Ailes…stood behind him “100%” in the very next sentence after going on a rant about frivolous lawsuits. You would have to be in complete denial to not automatically arrive at a conclusion that the two are linked together and linked on purpose.
I will give the benefit of the doubt to O’Reilly in one area. O’Reilly could have just fumbled in his original response to Meyers. The problem is the Today Show interview would have been his opportunity to clean up any inadvertent mess me made on Meyers’ show.
Instead of cleaning it up, he ignored it entirely. Worse, he lied…
Well, first of all, my comments were made to Seth Meyers about what kind of a boss Roger Ailes was, not about the case. I don’t know anything about the case, OK? Nothing. So he was a good boss, best boss I’ve ever had, and that’s what I said to Seth Meyers. That’s all I’ve said.
No that’s not all you said Bill. You went off on a rant about frivolous lawsuits.
Again, this a classic O’Reilly tactic. Double down in denial while ignoring critical contrary evidence. Malmedy, anyone?