Bill O’Reilly is a Fox News host, a best-selling author many times over, a columnist, a former radio guy and a close friend of Donald Trump via vanilla milkshakes. Now, another role: consigliere, Trump for president.
In a chat on last night’s show with Trump, O’Reilly took up the efforts of the “radical left” to “attack” Trump and disrupt his events. “They want to bait you into doing something and then the press … it’s personal against you. … They don’t like you because you stand for border, deportations of immigrants, stopping Muslims temporarily from coming here — all of these things your opposition feels are human rights violations. They don’t like you. That’s why they’re doing it.” Trump vowed that he wouldn’t “be provoked” and noted that he needed to “take action.”
O’Reilly helped out his friend: “It’s a tight rope you have to walk but let your security do it. And be the peacemaker, that’s what I would do. Be the peacemaker.”
“Okay, I’ll do it. I’ll do it,” responded Trump.
Hey, credit O’Reilly here. He gave his advice to his friend on national television, as opposed to in a private email or phone conversation. That’s transparency.
Also transparent was O’Reilly’s enduring genius in making Trump, the biggest bully to enter politics in modern memory, appear to be a victim. Addressing protesters at Trump events, O’Reilly said, “You get in trouble when you react. So the proactive forces are coming at you, and then you react and you’ve said some very questionable things like maybe we punch them in the face or something like that.” Poor Trump. Last December, after the candidate talked about barring Muslims from entering the United States, O’Reilly also turned the glare of accountability on Trump detractors: “They’re trying to brand you as a fascist, all right, as a person who would violate human rights, as a bigot, as a Nazi. And they’re hoping that brand will stick, at least in some people’s minds,” said the host.
And the notion that Trump needs to be “baited” into doing anything offensive or distasteful is a hoot. Just who was baiting him to call Mexicans “rapists”? Who was baiting him to attack Fox News host Megyn Kelly as “Crazy Megyn”? Who was baiting him to exaggerate black-on-white crime? Who is baiting him to, well, the list is getting too long at this point.
The thrust of O’Reilly’s interview with Trump last night related not to the noxious and bigoted substance of Trump’s campaign-trail antics, but rather to his tone. “Do you have to become more statesmanlike,” asked O’Reilly, as if Trump was already statesmanlike to any degree. “Will Donald Trump change his confrontational style?” reads the online headline for the segment. “Would it be wise for you to kind of come back from the confrontational style and be more statesmanlike?”
“O’Reilly Factor” viewers could see this friendly line of questioning in the pipeline. Earlier in the week, O’Reilly trotted out his suggestion that Trump “readjust the rhetoric.” Fox News mainstay Charles Krauthammer ripped back, “Come on, Bill, ‘readjust the rhetoric’? What kind of weaselly words are those? ‘Readjust the rhetoric.’”
Enabling Donald Trump: It’s tempting to suppose that such misfeasance would carry serious consequences, like a loss of viewers or national disrepute. Or something. It’s a poor bet, though, considering O’Reilly’s record of un-accountability.