Don’t Shed A Tear for Bill O’Reily
Ding Dong! The wicked witch is dead! After twenty years at FOX News that saw his ratings soar to unprecedented levels of viewership, Bill O’Reily has finally been removed from his on-air position by the conservative news network many credit him for brining to national prominence. Turns out that even the folks at FOX News, where they seem to live by the motto of “Oh, boys will be boys…”, even these folks have some level of intolerance for a repeated pattern of sexual harassment of female employees. Apparently, they have a limit for just how many times you can make blatantly inappropriate gestures and comments that lead these women to file complaints against you. Yes, apparently they have a limit, and that number is six. They let Bill O’Reily get away with the first five, paying out $13 million to discreetly settle these cases, but when the firestorm of criticism became deafening in the wake of the recent allegations regarding O’Reily’s grossly inappropriate behavior and major sponsors withdrew their support of his show, even FOX News had had enough.
What’s that sound you hear? That is the sound of liberals everywhere rejoicing. They’re not just dancing on O’Reily grave; they are having a downright tequila party over it. And who can blame them? For years, Bill O’Reily has been the face of racist and misogynistic views that degrade anyone with skin pigmentation or a vagina. In fact, most probably wonder what the hell took so long. They question how he has been allowed to say the clearly discriminatory things he has routinely voiced on-air. O’Reily’s dismissal thus seems like a victory for women’s right to work in a professional environment free from the type of unwelcome sexual advances O’Reily finds himself accused of. After all, if even the great Bill O’Reily, the master of the “No Spin Zone” who himself became the face of the conservative news network, could be fired for sexual harassment by an employer who has had a longstanding reputation for tolerating such behavior in their workplace, then perhaps, just perhaps, this might signal that things truly are moving in the right direction towards a protection of women’s basic right to work.
But don’t go popping the cork on that champagne quite yet there Chippy. Yes, O’Reily’s firing does signal some progress in regards to the influence that we can exert on bad agents to clean up their acts lest we hold them accountable where it really hurts: their wallet. But don’t underestimate the equal forces of economic influence that have propped up O’Reily in the first place. Fact is, O’Reily isn’t going away. I had this exact debate with a friend of mine the other day, and all I needed was one piece of evidence to convince him that O’Reily would be back, probably sooner rather than later. Ratings for O’Reily’s show “The Factor” were actually up 22% (25% in the key age 25-54 demographic) last Wednesday night in the wake of O’Reily’s firing. When I gave those numbers to my friend, he merely dropped his forlorn head and said, “Shit, you’re right. That bastard isn’t going anywhere.”
He may be leaving FOX News but make no mistake, O’Reily will be hosting a show again soon enough, largely because the people who watch him don’t care what he did. They may cloak it in terms that he was unfairly victimized by a liberal witch hunt and that these charges are entirely without merit, but c’mon, who are these folks kidding? Even they have to know he’s guilty. When this many women come together to complain about you, either you are guilty of sexual harassment or they have videotape of you going into their bathroom to leave the toilet seat up. No, O’Reily’s supporters know deep down that he’s guilty as hell, but they just don’t care. When I went to do the research for this column, I came across an opinion poll on the conservative news website, The Blaze, that asked whether or not O’Reilly should join another television network to restart his show. Despite me casting my dissenting vote in the negative, 81% of nearly 40,000 votes suggested he should.
Those that support O’Reily will overlook his misogyny and discriminatory workplace practices because in the end they just want their champion of liberal-slaying justice back. And make no mistake, they will get their wish. O’Reily barely got to finish his vacation to Italy before beginning his new podcast this past Monday night which had already shot to #3 on the iTunes podcast charts the last time I checked. Meanwhile, he is sifting through potential new television contract offers from Newsmax, One America News Network, TheBlaze and Sinclair Broadcasting. Factor in the $25 million contract buyout that FOX gave him on the way out the door, and it is really hard to muster much sympathy for a guy who seems to be paying little to no price for crimes he has committed against the women he worked with.
And what that means is that this will not be the last we see of outrageous behavior like this. FOX may finally be putting it’s foot down and suggesting that they will not tolerate sexual harassment, but O’Reily’s audience is not, and when the rubber hits the road, they are really the ones that dictate the consequences for his actions. That O’Reily still maintains a cadre of supporters who will overlook his egregious discrimination sends a signal to like-minded dinosaurs living in a prehistoric age where it was perfectly acceptable to slap a woman on the ass and call her “Hot Chocolate” that this behavior will somehow be tolerated, as long as you preach to a like-minded choir.
So don’t shed a tear for Bill O’Reilly. Instead, shed a tear for the rest of us who have to live in a world where men of his ilk are still granted an audience.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: in 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com