Fox News has fired the veteran journalist Bill O'Reilly. He was supposed to return from vacations in Italy on April 24th but "according to an agreement" of both sides, he won't. The agreement clearly wasn't as symmetric as the Fox News P.R. demagogues paint it because O'Reilly said he was "disheartened" by the decision.
The O'Reilly Factor was renamed to The Factor and Tucker Carlson will be taking the slot, anyway. This is weird because just weeks ago, Tucker Carlson was announced to take the slot from Megyn Kelly. Megyn Kelly could have worsened the situation of Bill O'Reilly. Nevertheless, Fox will have neither O'Reilly nor Kelly and this may be a detectable loss, indeed. However, if you want me to predict whether these changes will lead to the bankruptcy of Fox News, I don't think so. But you know, Carlson is a good journalist and I praised him in several recent blog posts. But the experience of watching him isn't in the O'Reilly category.
O'Reilly's program – called The Report in the first two years – began in 1996 when Fox News was a relatively newborn TV channel itself which focused on some of the widely discussed topics of the (first and only) Clinton presidency. I believe that he has contributed to the growth of Fox News. You shouldn't imagine that I am a regular viewer of The O'Reilly Factor – it's hard and far, especially from Central Europe. But there was a period of my life, in the first half of 2000, when I actually was a regular viewer of O'Reilly's show at least for several months.
I was in Santa Cruz, California, and the channel with the O'Reilly show was just conveniently located on a TV I found in my room, and I loved it, despite the fact that – with hindsight – I must say that I always disagreed on some issues with him. In my eyes, O'Reilly is at most a global warming lukewarmer. And I also count him as one of the knee-jerk Russophobes.
The official justification of his departure are allegations of sexual harassment. They have already led to the "No" from dozens of advertisers. As far as I can see, none of them has really been proven. I don't think that such out-of-court allegations should be allowed to interfere with very important things such as the most successful programs on American TVs.
Only wrongdoings that are confirmed by courts or moral failings that are clearly "in the same category with crimes" should be capable of having this power – and only when it's obvious that the courts would or should agree with the accusers, the decisions could be made before the court verdict. But it's not the case of allegations against Bill O'Reilly which are neither verified nor serious.
At any rate, I was trying hard to find out what the accusations really are and I didn't find anything that would be worth a discussion. He is said to have described a black woman as "hot chocolate". Even if it is true, is that really a crime that should terminate a $20 million TV program? The problem is that if the factor's correspondent's member remained flaccid in the presence of the black woman, it would also be wrong – surely a proof of a form of racism. Some people want to impose certain rules that bring trouble to a guy like Bill O'Reilly regardless of what he does.
And he also made animal sounds in some contexts. Is that a crime, too? I am sorry but you would need a court verdict on O'Reilly's rape to make a sensible decision like that. In the absence of that, if O'Reilly likes to play with women like in zoo, Fox News should build a special cage for him and hire the women. For the people in Fox, doing anything less than that means to rob the TV viewers.
I don't claim that Bill O'Reilly is the ultimate template for a gentlemanly behavior but he shouldn't have the duty to be one and as far as I can say, nothing bad has happened to anybody. So I am annoyed when the assorted zeroes – screaming protesters in front of the Fox News headquarters etc. – basically won. It's hard not to agree with O'Reilly's lawyer that this whole affair is a conspiracy produced by the far left-wing scum. I've looked who celebrates O'Reilly's departure and why and the correlation with their being far left-wing scum is huge.
On one hand, the obsession with the harassment charges is linked to the characteristic American puritanism. On the other hand, O'Reilly shook the Pope's hand and it didn't help – clearly, the screaming women in front of the Fox News building are already more important in the U.S. than the Pope.
But let me return to the show. O'Reilly has always been an articulate, entertaining man who has carefully watched important enough events happening around him from the viewpoint of a common-sense Republican guy who still cherishes some old-fashioned values that have passed the test of time. And yes, as I mentioned, I do think that he is basically a middle-of-the-road American man politically. He has been undoubtedly right in a vast majority of situations. In particular, he knows why the far left folks and organizations are pure evil and I think that his kind of hatred towards them is very similar to mine.
Bill O'Reilly's show has been so important that it has helped many others to earn millions just by emulating him – The Colbert Report is the most famous but not only example. And even the world's best physics blog has adopted Bill's moniker for the main presenter, namely "your humble correspondent". Yes, if some of you read TRF but have never watched O'Reilly's shows, this is where I stole it! ;-)
Fox News is basically the only major American TV station that is compatible with self-confident, shining conservative hosts. This quasi-monopoly may therefore lead to similar effects as censorship. I sincerely hope that another major network will hire him – or has already hired him – because doing anything else would mean a big loss for the American viewers and for America as a whole.
Mr O'Reilly, thank you for the decades – so far not centuries – of the excellent journalistic work and entertainment for millions of not only American TV viewers including myself.