Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Bill O’Reilly is a one man money-making media juggernaut who’s influence and reach is unrivaled in the whole of the talking head realm. His show, The O’Reilly Factor, has been the number one show of its kind for some years running and has generated literally hundreds of millions of dollars in ad revenue for Fox News.
Well, at least it did gin up all that dough until yesterday, that is. In the wake of a New York Times investigation that revealed multiple settlements over allegations of sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior as well as fresh allegations against O’Reilly from human behavior expert Dr. Wendy Walsh, over 16 companies pulled their ad buys from The O’Reilly Factor.
But the fallout isn’t the real issue. The real issue, in our opinion, is the media’s obsession with image, branding and the lengths it will go to maintain said image no matter the cost (in O’Reilly’s case, it’s already cost Fox News $13 million to settle other cases against O’Reilly).
What’s interesting, though, is Donald Trump is sitting in the White House right this second even after being caught on tape claiming that he just “goes up and grabs ’em (women) by the pussy.” The difference between Trump and O’Reilly? We always knew Trump was a womanizing, misogynistic son-of-a-bitch, whereas with O’Reilly, well, he was always viewed as the veritable benchmark for conservative values and when that expectation wasn’t met, well, disappointment ensued and hence, the retreat of all that big ad money.
Conservative values ….
Couple things are curious about conservative values: 1) History is rife with those who claim to uphold them and get caught indulging in sexual or other acts that they themselves would characterize as amoral or detestable. Preachers (Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard & Eddie Long, to name a few), Politicians (Newt Gingrich, David Vitter, Larry Craig & Henry Hyde, again, to name a few). 2) It seems that said values are negotiable depending on what’s at stake. Just about every Bible-thumping, fire and brimstone espousing, sexual purist and scripture reciting so-called conservative in America voted for Trump in spite of his admission of grabbing women “by the pussy” without their permission, his hateful comments against women, his history of racism in his housing developments and his misogynistic tirade against any and all women who dared to stand up to him. But, he was going to be president and lead them to the right-wing promise land, so not only did conservatives turn a blind eye to Trump’s antics, they even defended them, often times characterizing the investigation of his actions a witch hunt perpetuated by progressives and the mainstream media, like the media made him treat women that way.
Sheesh … it’s not rocket science, either you believe grabbing women by their lady parts without their permission is wrong or you believe it’s right.
So Trump is president and O’Reilly is being taken to the proverbial woodshed because of his image as a clean-cut, all-American conservative. Companies placed HUGE dollars behind his name and his show because they trusted him to hold that image unblemished before the American consumership. It wasn’t that they didn’t know Fox had settled $13 mil in lawsuits, they just jumped ship once it all went public because they’d be guilty by association. But if Ms. Walsh had never gone public, these companies would still be in business with Fox News, Bill O’Reilly and The O’Reilly Factor.
Truth is, we all have bones we’d prefer to keep buried. Every last one of us. And beyond the harassment allegations themselves, what’s detestable about this whole affair is the utter hypocrisy. O’Reilly and people like him would probably look down their nose at people who’ve been in any kind of trouble, run afoul of the law or in whatever manner not measured up to conservative expectations. They give a cold shoulder to imperfect people as they perpetuate this air of perfection even as they know the image is false and contrived. They begin to believe their own press, as if they can reside in two worlds with separate modus operandi indefinitely and with impunity. I mean the denial is incredible. Even in the wake of the news that Fox actually settled suits on his behalf, Mr. O’Reilly is still playing this entire situation as if he’s a victim, even going so far as to hold his daughters up as reasons why he would never do the things he’s accused of … the things he settled out of court to resolve.
Wake up, America, and realize that all heroes are flawed because every single person we hold on a pedestal is freaking human. But then again, at some point, we all want to believe, don’t we? We all, in spite of our best instincts, willfully indulge in the bliss of the blind for the sake of that belief. Because when it all shakes out, our beliefs are really all we have to cling to, it’s what makes us who we are, shapes us, molds us, buoys us in tough times and propels us when times are good. And men like Bill O’Reilly are fully aware of this. So, while they know they do not measure up to that which they perpetuate, for the sake of the almighty dollar, they line themselves up in the sights of our beliefs and invite us to trust them, believe them and journey with them. And we do it, to their ultimate enrichment and to our inevitable disappointment.
Think Passionately. Disrupt Strategically.
-A. Lawrence Haskins
United States Congress: (202) 225-3121
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