Fox News mega-talent Bill O’Reilly is rip-roaring mad at my colleagues down the hall at The Washington Post editorial board. In an unsigned piece last week that made its way around the Internet, these editorialists blasted O’Reilly for saying on election night that U.S. demographics are “changing” and that we no longer live in a “traditional America anymore.” The piece charged ahead this way: “In case anyone might be confused about the meaning of ‘traditional,’ he elaborated: ‘The white establishment is now the minority.’ In other words, the problem was too many voters of color.”
A sharp elbow, to be sure, and one that stirred in O’Reilly the sort of sneering disgust and anger that he often appears to be reaching for. This time, it was authentic. After reading through The Post’s criticism on last night’s edition of the “O’Reilly Factor,” he ranted, “How vile. How vile....You pinheads have no right to lie about me by putting fabricated words in my mouth....You disgrace the journalism industry. You seek to demonize anyone who disagrees with your far-left view....The white establishment no longer dominates the political field in America. That is crystal clear. I don’t lament that. I’m not pining for a return to Calvin Coolidge. I just reported it.”
So this is the Associated Press defense. O’Reilly was sitting on the Fox News set on election night, dishing out the hard and objective truth to viewers. Free of opinion, preference, bias, whatever. Or at least that’s what O’Reilly wants us to believe.
The trouble with O’Reilly’s impromptu effort at rebranding is the 16 years he has spent spouting off on Fox News’s air. If he has positioned himself over that period as a straight-up news reporter, well, perhaps I missed those segments.
O’Reilly rules cable news because of the edge, the constant point of view that he showcases so effectively against his nightly targets, including, now, my co-workers. And he was giving hard opinion in the contested election night sequence, as the transcript reveals:
O’REILLY: My sense of the evening is if Mitt Romney loses in Ohio the President is re-elected.
MEGYN KELLY: How do you think we got to that point? I mean, President Obama’s approval rating was so low and obviously this is hypothetical. We don’t know who’s even winning right now and never mind who won. But how do you think it got this tight?
O’REILLY: Because it’s a changing country, the demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore. And there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things and who is going to give them things? President Obama. He knows it and he ran on it.
And whereby 20 years ago President Obama would have been roundly defeated by an establishment candidate like Mitt Romney. The white establishment is now the minority. And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic system is stacked against them and they want stuff.
You’re going to see a tremendous Hispanic vote for President Obama. Overwhelming for President Obama and women will probably break President Obama’s way. People feel that they are entitled to things and which candidate, between the two, is going to give them things?
Now, is that mere “reporting” or something a little more editorial? Come on. Sure, he “reported” the decline of the white establishment — just the way he “reported” his belief that Sandra Fluke wants taxpayers to foot the bill for her “lifestyle expenses,” just the way he ”reported” his belief that Mitt Romney should call President Obama a “socialist ... to get people’s attention,” just the way he “reported” his disapproval that a Virginia newspaper didn’t make more of an incident in which a group of black people allegedly assaulted white people.
The point here: O’Reilly “just reports” nothing. Everything he says is laced with judgment. Suggesting that a growing group of voters “want stuff” is tantamount to condemning them. It’s the same allegation of gum-on-shoe freeloading that Fox News all-star Sarah Palin likes to heap on the Democratic constituency. It’s a vile suggestion, and even a theatrical rebuttal won’t change it. Great TV, though.