Just yesterday in this space, we highlighted a golden rule of the cable news industry: When Comedy Central skewers you, milk it!
Which is precisely what Fox News host Bill O’Reilly did last night. Some background: In a much-discussed monologue last week on “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart ripped Fox News’s coverage of the August events in Ferguson, Mo. A prime target was O’Reilly himself, who had said the following in an Aug. 20 show:
I came back from vacation because I am furious. Furious about how the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown is being reported and how various people are reacting to it. So let’s run it down. Mr. Brown is a victim, shot six times Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson who up until August 9th had a very good record.
In his send-up, Stewart wondered why O’Reilly wasn’t furious about the “shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown” itself.
The “Daily Show” treatment, alleged O’Reilly last night, “distorts” the issue. Here’s his defense: On that same Aug. 20 show, O’Reilly points out, he had said this: “What happened to Michael Brown should never happen to any American.” He also points to comments from an Aug. 25 show in which he said, “18-year-olds make mistakes . . . so if Michael Brown did something wrong, it doesn’t mean you wind up dead in the street.”
Failure to include such contextual remarks, suggested O’Reilly in last night’s program, amounted to a big inaccuracy: “When you hear something on a partisan-driven program, do not believe it . . . Distortions are how some people make a living. Stewart’s going for the laugh. He doesn’t really care if it’s true or not.”
The only true part about O’Reilly’s rebuttal is that Stewart is indeed “going for the laugh.” He’s a comedian. Yet in the segment attacking O’Reilly, Stewart struck his own furious tone. He ripped O’Reilly for stating that the reaction to the killing of Michael Brown inspired him to abandon his late-August leisure. That’s one heck of a statement, and it came at the top of the Aug. 20 program. It’s also a statement highly amenable to satire — and no, Stewart was under no obligation, either as a comedian or journalist or TV personality or citizen or whatever, to also highlight whatever other remarks O’Reilly may have made regarding Michael Brown.