Bill O’Reilly last night ripped Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his racist comments. “Racists pay a huge price. For the rest of his life, Donald Sterling will be a pariah. He will not be celebrated anywhere or welcomed anywhere other than the lunatic fringe precincts,” said O’Reilly, who rolled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy into his condemnation.
Yet any good O’Reilly monologue must throw elbows in more than one direction, and on that front O’Reilly delivered. So in addition to hammering Sterling and Bundy, he hammered Al Sharpton, a host on MSNBC. Sharpton’s offense? Calling for action against the NBA if the league doesn’t suspend Sterling immediately. The reverend told TMZ on Sunday, “What is there to investigate? He should be suspended immediately. Let’s quit stalling, let’s quit copping out, NBA. Let him go.”
Should the NBA fail to take quick and decisive action, Sharpton said he’d take to the phones, pushing advertisers to abandon the Clippers. “You cannot run a major business in this country and expect people to buy from you if you . . . sponsor a bigot. . . . First thing tomorrow morning I’ll be in action working on the phone with CEOs of major advertisers. . . . That’s how we got rid of [Don] Imus, with advertisers.”
In an MSNBC appearance, Sharpton spoke of his experience in fighting former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott as well as people in broadcasting. “I know what you can do if you want to do it. And I also know what to do if you don’t want to do it. We start with the pocket.”
Here’s O’Reilly’s take on all of that: “Right away, Al Sharpton began threatening to boycott if Sterling wasn’t dealt with the way he, Sharpton, thinks he should be. Instead of allowing the National Basketball Association to investigate, then issue a ruling, which it will tomorrow, Sharpton exploited the situation immediately, trying to bring attention to himself. Really sad.”
Did O’Reilly forget that Sharpton is an activist? As reported previously in this space, Sharpton’s contract with MSNBC includes a carve-out allowing the reverend to continue his work with his National Action Network. The arrangement allows Sharpton to serve as a broadcasting-activizing double threat, as in the Trayvon Martin case, in which he whipped up outrage over the how the authorities handled the killing.
Another way of viewing the setup is that it opens the door to a corrupting conflict of interest for Sharpton’s work on MSNBC, where he anchors the 6 p.m. show “Politics Nation.”
As far as the charge of bringing “attention to himself,” however — that’s a charge to which just about every prominent personality on cable television would have to plead guilty. Especially O’Reilly himself, who seeds his broadcasts with boasts about his fabulous journalism, his bestselling books and his glorious early years.