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“Mutual Back-Scratching Session With Donald Trump”: Where’s Bill O’Reilly’s Full-Throated Defense Of Megyn Kelly?

Fox News is an organization famous for loyalty. The culture starts from the top, where boss Roger Ailes sits. When anchors come under fire for some reason or other, Ailes is there to back them up. A year ago, for instance, ratings king Bill O’Reilly struggled to respond to a plume of reports documenting how he’d misled people about past reportorial exploits. Whereas other news organizations would audit such a situation, Ailes supported O’Reilly and waited out the storm.

On his program last night, O’Reilly demonstrated how not to return the favor. In a highly anticipated quasi-interview/mutual back-scratching session with Donald Trump, O’Reilly carefully avoided a full-throated endorsement of his colleague Megyn Kelly. Trump has been hammering Kelly ever since the Aug. 6 GOP debate in Cleveland, when she sought an explanation from Trump about how he’d mistreated women over the years. In tweets and interviews, Trump has called Kelly a “lightweight” and cheekily used the term “bimbo” in criticizing her, among other insults — conduct that speaks to the righteousness of Kelly’s Cleveland question.

In recent days, Trump renewed his rips against Kelly and on Tuesday his campaign announced he wouldn’t be showing up for tonight’s Fox News debate, at which Kelly, Bret Baier and Chris Wallace will serve as moderators. Trump will hold his own event in Iowa at the same time as the Fox News debate.

A way-too-long conversation on “The O’Reilly Factor” accorded the host a great number of opportunities to rebuff Trump for invoking the term “bimbo” in a tweet about Kelly; to stand foursquare behind Kelly’s Aug. 6 question; and to otherwise stand up for journalism. He turned them down, perhaps preferring not to rupture his decades-long friendship with the real-estate mogul.

Sure, O’Reilly gave the three moderators a vote of confidence, telling Trump that they’d treat him fairly if he decided to show up for the contest. And he did say that Kelly’s question was “within journalistic bounds.”

That said, O’Reilly did some retroactive editing of his prime-time Fox News colleague: “If I had been debate moderator last August, I would have asked you about that comment. I wouldn’t ask it the same way. But once you said something about Carly Fiorina, you open the door for it,” said O’Reilly to Trump. There’s a mistake in there: Kelly didn’t ask about Fiorina at the Aug. 6 Cleveland debate. The controversial and very sexist comments from Trump about Fiorina — “Look at that face!” he said in mocking his fellow candidate’s appearance — surfaced in a September Rolling Stone interview. With her famous question one month earlier in Cleveland, Kelly was focusing on other sexist comments by Trump. Here’s the transcript:

Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women.
You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.” Your Twitter account … has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

When O’Reilly says he wouldn’t have asked that question the “same way,” what he means is that he would have said, “Mr. Trump, my friend of many decades, with whom I’ve gone to many sporting events and bought a great number of milkshakes, would your presidency help women?”

 

By: Eric Wemple, The Erik Wemple Blog, Opinion Page, The Washington Post, January 28, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Megyn Kelly, Roger Ailes | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“And Why Does It Matter?: Why Are We So Obsessed With The Race And Religion Of Mass Killers?

For a few hours on Twitter and cable news on Wednesday night, there was a restless anticipation, as if everybody with a chyron or two thumbs was waiting at some imaginary line on a virtual track, waiting for the starting pistol.

A few hours earlier, everybody knew, two or three heavily armed people had shot up a center that helps disabled children in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people and wounding 17 before escaping. The updates started trickling in: Police had surrounded a bullet-ridden black SUV; one person from the car was on the ground, motionless; one male and female suspect wearing “assault-style clothing” were dead, and a third possible suspect had been arrested after fleeing from the scene of the massacre. Politicians were tweeting out calls for gun control (Democrats) and “thoughts and prayers” for the victims (Republicans, mostly).

People were worried about the victims. Were they children with disabilities? Social workers dedicated to helping them live meaningful lives? People from the Department of Public Health trying to enjoy a holiday party at the facility?

But the real question on everyone’s mind was this: Were the killers white people, Muslims, or something else? Lots of talking heads were tiptoeing around that question, but Bill O’Reilly just laid it out.

“We have to be careful here,” O’Reilly told counterterrorism expert Aaron Cohen, a guest on Wednesday’s show. “Very, very careful. If it is a terrorist attack, generated by fanatical Muslims, it becomes an international Paris-type story, with implications for the president of the United States on down. So we don’t want to speculate.” That didn’t deter Cohen, who immediately responded: “My sources have also said that an Islamic name has been released. That is compounded by the fact that the attackers went to a specific place with tactical gear that would allow them to create maximum damage. I believe this is strongly linked to Islamic-motivated international terror.”

The obvious inference is that if the shooting turned out to be “just a local beef in San Bernardino,” as O’Reilly put it, it’s just another mass shooting in America. We play this game every time there is a mass shooting in America: If the assailant has a Muslim-sounding name, we react one way, and if he (it’s almost always a he) is white, we react another way.

Just think about that for a second. As you are undoubtedly aware, mass shootings are nothing new in the United States — there has been, on average, more than one a day this year, and Wednesday was no exception, with one person killed and three wounded in a mass shooting in Georgia. In 2015 alone, mass shootings — defined as four or more people shot — have left 462 people dead and 1,314 wounded.

Yet America’s foreign and domestic policy hinges to an insane degree on a killer’s name and religion.

If the murderer of 20 grade schoolers and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, had been a Muslim from Nigeria, for example, do you doubt there would be thundering calls for eradicating Boko Haram? Instead, since he was a young white male, the U.S. essentially did nothing.

We don’t yet know what prompted Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, to allegedly murder 14 people, and unless they left a note or manifesto, we may never be sure. Law enforcement hasn’t ruled out terrorism, and maybe it will turn out they were radicalized at some mosque or on Twitter and wanted to become jihadis. But if somebody named, say, Robert Dear had crashed his own office Christmas party wearing “assault-style clothing” and murdered 14 of his colleagues or their guests, you can bet your pundit card nobody would be talking about international terrorism.

Motive does matter if we are serious about trying to address the cause and prevent future mass murders. But if it’s a Muslim terrorist, “we” seem to think that lets “us” off the hook. Mostly, we appear interested in which Twitter/TV battle we are supposed to engage in: Is this a “foreigner” problem we can fix with bombing other countries and sealing America’s borders, or a domestic problem we can tackle by enacting new gun legislation? If you disagree with either of those propositions, you can argue the other side.

More serious than this idiocy is the fact that one or two sociopaths can push America into foreign entanglements, if they have one specific type of last name and creed. Freedom of religion is a cornerstone of America’s social contract, as is presumption of innocence. We betray both with this Pavlovian grief bifurcation.

Soon after Wednesday’s shooting, BBC News reporter James Cook described the murder of 14 people in San Bernardino as “just another day in the United States of America. Another day of gunfire, panic, and fear.” That stings. But given America’s evolving reaction to the killings, we probably deserve worse.

 

By: Peter Weber, The Week, December 3, 2015

December 5, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Race and Ethnicity, Religious Freedom, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“This Ugly Atmosphere Feels A Bit Familiar”: It’s Beginning To Feel Like 2002 All Over Again

At the end of last week, the liberal group Media Matters noted that in the wake of the Madrid bombings in March 2004, Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly asserted that “If al-Qaeda attacks here, President Bush is re-elected in a heartbeat,” since “unlike the Spanish,” who are passive sheep (or something), the strong American public “won’t surrender, they’ll get angry.” But after the recent attacks in Paris, O’Reilly sang a different tune: “We get hit, [Obama] goes down as the worst president in U.S. history. No doubt.”

While Media Matters’s purpose in juxtaposing these two quotes was surely to mock O’Reilly for his partisan hypocrisy, you can look at it another, much more depressing way: O’Reilly was probably right both times.

Not about history’s judgment of Obama, obviously. But given what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, it’s becoming hard to hope that anything resembling a rational reaction to the events in Paris will take hold. As I wrote last week, Republicans are rushing to exploit the attacks in the most cynical and repugnant ways, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. But the real problem is that most of the public is going to eat it up.

That’s partly because of what they’re hearing from their leaders. Today’s Republicans would never consider rallying around President Obama if there were an attack in the U.S. the way Democrats did after September 11. They might gather on the Capitol steps, but it wouldn’t be to sing “God Bless America” as Democrats and Republicans did soon after the attacks; it would be to rush to the cameras to condemn Obama for having blood on his hands. Indeed, they already have; “John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama have all served as apologists for radical Islamic terrorism,” said Ted Cruz last week.

People of all parties take cues from their leaders, which helps explain why support for Bush was so universal in the days after 9/11, and why Republicans’ hatred of Obama only grows when they’re made to feel vulnerable to foreign threats. But today’s Republicans are harvesting fertile soils of fear and hate.

People like me can explain until we’re blue in the face that becoming a refugee to Europe is nothing like becoming a refugee to the United States, a process that can take two years; and that sneaking someone into the U.S. posing as a refugee is probably the single hardest way to get them to the U.S. (as opposed to, say, buying them a plane ticket). We can explain that the threat to you and your family’s lives from terrorism is infinitesimal (the number of Americans who have been killed in the U.S. by jihadi terrorists since 9/11—26—just happens to be the same number of Americans who have been killed by lightning in 2015 alone). But it won’t much matter.

A majority of the public opposes bringing in refugees from Syria. Americans now cite terrorism as the most important issue facing the country, though by any logical standard it most certainly is not (for instance, it takes less than two days for more Americans to die from gun violence as died in the Paris attacks). In the wake of those attacks, Donald Trump remains strongly in front in the Republican presidential primary race. As Politico reports, conservative voters in Iowa may be turning away from Ben Carson and toward Ted Cruz now that they’re thinking about terrorism. In truth, Cruz has the same amount of foreign policy experience as Carson (zero), but he’s a lot angrier about it, which seems to be the order of the day in the GOP.

Reporters have spent much of the last week or so trying to pin Trump down on whether he thinks the government should create a database that every Muslim in America would have to register with, a positively fascistic suggestion that he may or may not have been unfairly entrapped into supporting. Like everything else related to government policy, Trump obviously hasn’t given it any serious thought, but reporters are operating on the quite reasonable assumption that it would be scandalous if he actually believed such a thing. But would it?

At least in the Republican primary, where virulent xenophobia now seems to be the order of the day, the answer is probably not. Trump is now talking about putting Muslim houses of worship across the country under surveillance, Marco Rubio agrees, and most voters may find that to be utterly untroubling; after all, it’s not their freedoms being taken away. Trump also wants to begin torturing prisoners again (not that we have any ISIS prisoners), Chris Christie says he wouldn’t even allow a 5-year-old orphan from Syria into New Jersey, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush say we should only accept Christians but keep out Muslims, and Ben Carson compares refugees to rabid dogs. Nothing that any of the candidates have said since Paris suggests that there is any position they could take or thing they could say that would be regarded by their voters as beyond the pale.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that heightened fears of ISIS will sweep the Republicans into the White House next year; there’s lots of time between now and then, and other issues will grab the electorate’s attention. The American public and its political elite may not have taken leave of their senses to quite the degree they did in the months and years after September 11, when no restriction on individual liberty went far enough, no expansion of government power was too much, and invading a country that had nothing to do with the attacks on us seemed like the perfect way to handle our fear and anger. But the increasingly ugly atmosphere is beginning to feel awfully familiar.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, November 23, 2015

November 24, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Public Opinion | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Hundreds Of Thousands Of Bad People”: Fact-Checking Bill O’Reilly’s Dumb, Hateful Lies; Fox News Propaganda Breaks New Ground

When Bill O’Reilly got his start on Fox News, he was charmingly irreverent, a moderating factor on a right-leaning news network; and I liked him for it.  I was 14 years old, and would go on, in my teen years, to read one of O’Reilly’s early books, along with Christopher Hitchens’ “Letters to a Young Contrarian,” and eventually Dinesh D’Souza’s “Letters to a Young Conservative” and Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil.”  I was hashing out a political identity into my 20s, and, as this awkward reading list suggests, it was complicated.  It’s perhaps a shame that today’s O’Reilly is not complicated.

In the segment where O’Reilly calls Salon a “hate site,” and his program ambushes a handful of San Francisco civil servants, I was struck more by the “talking points memo” working in conjunction with O’Reilly’s monologue than with the breach of decorum or even the comparison of Salon to white-supremacist outlet Stormfront.  The real danger of that O’Reilly segment isn’t so much the ambush tactics or the sensationalism as the sloppy thinking O’Reilly performs for his viewers, which gives the appearance of justifying that sensationalism.

For this reason I’ve decided to work through that O’Reilly segment, which Salon’s Scott Eric Kaufman has reported on, paying close attention to those moments when O’Reilly uses both rhetorical tricks and logical fallacies to convey a provocatively hateful message about undocumented immigrants, a message that, ironically, comes a lot closer to hate speech than the simple act of advocating on either a conservative or progressive media outlet like National Review Online or Salon.

O’Reilly kicks off the segment by addressing the “evil” of the coldblooded murder of Kate Steinle before airing a clip of an interview with Steinle’s parents, who speak of the “battle of evil and goodness.”  I mentioned Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” above because it’s a powerful critique of Manichaeism, the belief in a dualistic moral struggle of good versus evil.  Manichaeism makes it easy to oversimplify conflicts and tragedies by defining actors as pure good and pure evil.  This is exactly what O’Reilly will go on to do in his “talking points.” He writes, “Every sane person knows that gunning down a 32-year old woman in the street is an act of pure evil.”  The memo goes on: “There are many Americans who will not act to prevent that kind of evil from taking place.”

Here we can see two important rhetorical moves designed to bring audiences to the conclusion that, despite the culpability of the evil man who murdered Steinle, we are to identify that murderous evil both with undocumented immigrants and with people who don’t agree with O’Reilly’s hard-line immigration views.  O’Reilly first sets up the scenario as though it’s as simple as good people versus evil people (as opposed to, for example, a more complicated policy nexus of immigration and gun control issues).  Then he swiftly aligns “the Americans who will not move to act to prevent that kind of evil from taking place” with the evil itself.  In these steps O’Reilly effectively conflates the evil of coldblooded murder with the evil of some Americans who will fail to act on some measure that O’Reilly will assign as a cure for that evil.

What, then, is that measure?  O’Reilly begins by blaming the media, which “does not oppose sanctuary cities,” “sanctuary city” being a term with no legal meaning that refers generally to cities that don’t spend city funds and resources to enforce certain federal immigration policies.  O’Reilly claims that the “sanctuary city policy” (it’s not a coherent policy at all) “is supported by people who believe that poor illegal immigrants should not be held accountable for violating immigration law,” “folks cloaking themselves in compassion, thinking they’re being humane to the poor who want better lives.”  Crucially, however, O’Reilly goes on to re-label these people “hundreds of thousands of bad people.”

Here we can see, again, O’Reilly invoking the Manichaean framework with which he started, only this time, the “evil” one isn’t simply the individual who murdered Kate Steinle, but the “hundreds of thousands” of undocumented immigrants, whom O’Reilly lumps together as “bad people.”  This is the point of O’Reilly’s slippage from the evil of murder to the evil of being an undocumented immigrant, to use a negative example of one to stand in for the whole.  O’Reilly completes the slippage by claiming that “it is insulting when pro-sanctuary city people equate poor immigrants with violent criminals,” going on to further conflate all undocumented immigrants with violent criminals with one phrase: he calls them “brutal undocumented people.”

From this point, O’Reilly moves onto San Francisco city supervisors, holding them up as an example of the next link in a tenuously constructed chain of evil that begins with a murderer, who, by his undocumented status, becomes a stand-in for all undocumented immigrants, and ends with the civil servants of San Francisco and the broader left, presumably the kind of people who “will not move to act to prevent that kind of evil from taking place.” O’Reilly states unequivocally that Kate Steinle “is dead because of policies that endanger the public,” conflating once again the act of murder with the refusal to support O’Reilly’s specific vision of border security.  O’Reilly’s closing judgment is that “it’s a damn shame that all Americans cannot support a policy that would protect people like Kate Steinle … if you saw the heartbreaking interview with her parents last night, how could you not support tough measures against criminal illegal aliens?”

In all of this we should note three tactics of distortion.  First, by framing the entire issue of Steinle’s murder as a Manichaean problem of good versus evil, O’Reilly is able to pretend for his viewers that there can only be one problem (lax immigration law), which is itself a manifestation of evil.  Both gun control and wider issues of how to distribute limited city funds and resources (O’Reilly isn’t exactly a fan of higher taxes) are as significant factors in this tragedy as immigration law.

Second, O’Reilly’s entire argument relies on the fallacy of composition, which presumes that if something is true of a part of a whole, it must then be true of the whole.  This is why, because an undocumented immigrant is alleged to have committed a murder, O’Reilly goes on to call all undocumented immigrants things like “bad people,” “brutal undocumented people,” “violent criminals” and “criminal illegal aliens.”

Third, O’Reilly avails himself of the fallacy of false equivalence in two ways.  He equates the culpability for murder with the politically mainstream disagreement between San Francisco city officials and O’Reilly on immigration policy; and he equates sites like Salon and MediaMatters with the self-proclaimed white-supremacist outlet Stormfront, confusing yet again mainstream, partisan media outlets with neo-Nazis.  A simple test to reveal the fallaciousness of the comparison would be to ask yourself how long a site like Salon or MediaMatters would exist, drawing articles from prominent policymakers, politicians, artists, academics and journalists, if any of these sites regularly proclaimed white supremacy as its reason for being.

Though it’s a little laborious to go through talking points like O’Reilly’s in this manner, it’s important to reverse-engineer them from time to time to expose what lies at the heart of the machine.  In this case we find that the source of hatred isn’t a side of a mainstream political debate about immigration policy, but a desire to paint all undocumented immigrants as murderous villains, “bad people,” “brutal undocumented people” on the side of evil who threaten to put out the white light of America.

 

By: Aaron R. Hanlon, Salon, July 17, 2015

July 19, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Fox News, Immigrants | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bill O’Reilly Will Never Pay”: Why Domestic Abuse Allegations Won’t Faze Fox News

It should come as no surprise that Fox News didn’t mention the latest awful allegations about Bill O’Reilly’s behavior toward women on Monday night. But given the ugliness of the reports – Gawker says that his ex-wife accused him, in sealed divorce documents, of choking her and dragging her by the neck down the stairs of their Manhasset mansion – it’s hard not to wonder what, if anything, would get O’Reilly in trouble with Roger Ailes.

We already know he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit by Fox producer Andrea Mackris, whose details became the stuff of journalistic legend – we will never think of falafel, or loofah, the same way. Now, while we don’t know the entire truth about his divorce, or why he lost custody of his children, we know enough to say he probably shouldn’t be lecturing anyone on family values. (For the record, O’Reilly today denied the charges.)

Yet he will almost certainly continue to tell African American men how to behave with women, and how to parent, because Roger Ailes doesn’t care about hypocrisy.

Now, we do have one example of Ailes tiring of a tempestuous host: Glenn Beck, in 2011. But Beck’s insane shtick was tarnishing the brand. O’Reilly’s angry white man shtick is the Fox brand. Without some explosive new evidence – his ex-wife refuses to comment on the charges, and she apparently did not call police when it happened – O’Reilly is likely to survive.

That doesn’t mean he isn’t wholly reprehensible. The cluster of reports about O’Reilly’s divorce from Maureen McPhilmy are appalling. He used his clout as a donor to police charities to make trouble for McPhilmy’s new boyfriend (now husband), a Nassau County police detective. As a powerful (and hypocritical) Catholic, he’s tried to have their marriage annulled, which would negate the “sin” of divorce and allow the parties to marry again in the church.

That privilege used to be reserved for short term, childless (at one time, “unconsummated”), disastrous marriages that both parties quickly recognized as a mistake; now powerful Catholics, usually men, receive annulments for long-term marriages that produced children, and they often force them on unwilling spouses. (Yes, you’ll recall that Rudy Giuliani did that to his first wife.) And in the meantime, the Fox bully tried to get McPhilmy ex-communicated from the church for the “sin” of divorce, and succeeded in getting her local parish to reprimand her for taking communion.

This latest allegation is particularly awful because it comes from his 16-year-old daughter, who told a custody investigator, according to Gawker, that she witnessed the abuse before her parents separated five years ago. McPhilmy got sole custody at least partly because O’Reilly violated the terms of their joint custody agreement, hiring the children’s therapist, who was supposed to supervise the custody situation, as a member of his staff.

But at least he didn’t yell at his wife, “Hey M-Fer, I want more iced tea.”

Of course, even if you give O’Reilly the benefit of some doubt, it’s clear his family life is a mess. Yet he regularly rails at African American families from his lofty perch at Fox. “The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family…The lack of involved fathers leads to young boys growing up resentful and unsupervised,” he said last August.

In December, he continued to fulminate: “The astronomical crime rate among young black men—violent crime—drives suspicion and hostility. … No supervision, kids with no fathers—the black neighborhoods are devastated by the drug gangs who prey upon their own. That’s the problem!”

Now O’Reilly’s kids are growing up with no father in the home – but apparently a judge thinks they will be better off that way.

O’Reilly has even called domestic violence “a terrible plague,” telling 2016 GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson last year:  “I’m telling you, battery against women in this country and around the world is just out of control.”

But why would Ailes care about any of that? His audience probably doesn’t care. Fox’s over-65, predominantly male viewers probably see both sexual harassment and domestic violence as issues hyped by feminazis and the liberal news media.

Ailes’s entire news operation is built on a central fiction – and the fiction is that it’s a news organization at all. So why would it be a problem if it’s fronted by a family values hypocrite who’s actually a serial abuser of women?

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, May 19, 2015

May 20, 2015 Posted by | Bill O'Reilly, Domestic Violence, Fox News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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