I often do not know what to make of Bill O’Reilly. There’s a part of me that thinks he, like Rupert Murdoch, is in it for the cash. He’s exploiting the tendencies of his viewers and fans for his own monetary benefit — and laughing all the way to the bank. That’s not to say that I don’t think he’s also a cad, who is simultaneously lacking in self-awareness (how else to explain his latest book: A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity), but there has got to be more to him than the asshole that shows up on TV every night, screaming and shouting at whoever happens to sit opposite him.
But then again, maybe not. Last night he went after Rick Hertzberg, in his usual uncouth fashion, and I felt a typical surge of anti-BillO bile rise in my system.
The background: On O’Reilly’s show a few weeks ago, Newt Gingrich said that there is a “gay and secular facism” in this country that should really frighten anyone who believes in traditional religion. This because a scant few of the protesters at the post-election No On Prop 8 rallies got a bit violent, with no mention that the vast majority of the rallies were peaceful (although, I wouldn’t blame these people if they started to use some muscle, really).
Hertzberg, writing in The New Yorker said this of Gingrich’s comments: “Like a polluted swamp, anti-gay bigotry is likely to get thicker and more toxic as it dries up. Viciousness meets viscousness.” Then he quoted Gingrich, and went on to say:
This sort of sludge may or may not prove to be of some slight utility in the 2012 Republican primaries, but it is, increasingly, history. A couple of days before the California vote, the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Wildermuth noticed a “No on Prop 8” sign on a front lawn. The lawn and the sign belonged to Steve Young, the football Hall of Famer and former 49er quarterback, and his wife, Barb. Steve Young is a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is named for his great-great-great-grandfather. The Youngs still belong to the Mormon Church. “We believe all families matter and we do not believe in discrimination,” Barb Young said. “Therefore, our family will vote against Prop 8.” It wasn’t enough this time. But the time is coming.
O’Reilly was incensed that Hertzberg went so far as to call Gingrich a bigot. How dare he! When Hertzberg declined an offer to defend (read: get yelled at) his commentary, O’Reilly sent a flack to track him down in New York City. Ambushed on the street, Hertzberg had no compunction about his remarks, and proudly (hooray!) called Gingrich a bigot again (after catching his bearings a bit).
Look — conservative crazies have been calling anything liberal/gay/secular/progressive facist for years now. They seem to think that the next era of Nazism is right on the horizon. And yet, their “analysis” is devoid of any real understanding of what Nazism stood for (one would think that merely by equating a fascist regime with the modern day gay rights movement the logic would be found wanting, given that most were based on taking away rights, not giving them, especially to gay people and other “undesirables”) and is, simply, patently absurd. For another thing, it is nothing short of bigotry to claim that traditional religion, in any way, is at risk because a contingent of human beings seek the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Oh, and for good measure, let’s point out that Hertzberg is a terrific wordsmith and a brilliant guy — like so many of the people O’Reilly likes to tear down — to whom BillO doesn’t hold a candle.
It makes me so mad that someone like this has a sounding board. I think I’m all for the complete annhilation of Cable TV News. I’d be able to live without Rachel Maddow if I knew it meant we would never have to hear from Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity ever again.
UPDATE: According to Michael Calderone at Politico, Fox did not ask Hertzberg to appear on The O’Reilly Factor. Hertzberg called the allegation an “outright lie”.