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 could care less.