December 11, 2012

“I’m calling ‘em all out,” declared Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly on his show last night. He was referring to the alleged haters of Christmas and the “race hustlers” who in O’Reilly’s estimation make meaningful dialogue so difficult. “Rules of civility are pretty much finished,” says the man who likes nothing quite so much as to jab his finger in the face of some pinhead.

And “unacceptable” is the approach of FoxSports.com columnist Jason Whitlock, argued O’Reilly. Whitlock is the guy who was quoted extensively in Bob Costas’s halftime editorial against U.S. gun culture two Sundays ago.
Amid all the post-game chatter about that Costas moment, Whitlock appeared on the Tom Joyner radio show and said this, among other things: “I believe the NRA is the new KKK.”

In light of such provocations, “The O’Reilly Factor” has sought out Whitlock for a chat on the much-watched program. Whitlock hasn’t surfaced. He explained why in a Dec. 7 column:

But it appears I was summoned to testify before Speaker of The Big House Bill O’Reilly, the FOX News entertainer. O’Reilly is fixated on the mistake I made…O’Reilly spent part of his Tuesday show telling his viewers that I was afraid to come on “The Factor” and discuss my views on the NRA, the Second Amendment and gun culture.

I’m a grown-*** man and it’s 2012. I don’t have to shuffle off to the Big House when summoned. O’Reilly is not Boehner, Pelosi or Obama. He’s a TV entertainer who has spent the weeks after the election crying about the end of “white establishment” America, the end of the days when an upstanding white man felt entitled to summon whomever he wanted whenever he wanted to the Big House to dance.

I don’t dance.

Many folks turn down O’Reilly. Just last week, the host described to Jay Leno his attempts to book Barack Obama and Mitt Romney before the election. Yet how often do such folks frame their refusals-to-appear with such loaded racial language?

Well, at least Whitlock is standing on principle. He’s got convictions behind his refusal to go on the “Factor.” It’s all about the issues.

Or is it about logistics? In that same column, Whitlock goes on to say this:

Beginning with my defense of Don Imus during the Rutgers controversy, I’ve appeared on O’Reilly’s program several times. You typically sacrifice two hours of time for an eight-minute segment that accomplishes very little. It’s not the deep end of the pool. There’s no room for someone like me to splash around.

If O’Reilly wants to talk, he’s more than welcome at my little house. I’d love to tape a podcast with him discussing the Second Amendment, gun culture and his fears about the end of white establishment America.

Whatever O’Reilly’s views on white America—and we’ve tilted at the topic—let this much be said: In those eight-minute O’Reilly segments, guests often grow frustrated with the host, angered by him. But through the commonly heated exchanges, they get to make their points. Even atheists.

That Whitlock would invoke the language of racism to cast an invitation to appear on the “O’Reilly Factor” raises doubts about ability to conjure analogies. So, come to think of it, does the whole NRA-KKK thing. Toward the top of his action-packed Dec. 7 piece, the writer issues a mea culpa:

I analogized the National Rifle Association to the KKK. Big mistake.

Nineteen rambling paragraphs later, Whitlock…analogizes the National Rifle Association to the KKK: “The NRA, like the KKK, has brainwashed us through fear and division.” Two paragraphs after that, and 21 paragraphs after saying that analogizing the NRA to the KKK was a “big mistake,” Whitlock writes, “The NRA traffics in fear, division and the seductive power of guns — the same tools used by the KKK.”

Who ever said consistency and logical cohesion were necessary components of a good sports column?

I’ve reached out to Whitlock for an phone interview but haven’t scored one yet.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.