Big blowhards with outsize egos tend to have deficits in the self-awareness category, a drawback that unites presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
On his cable-news-conquering program last night, O’Reilly went after the two reporters — Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey — behind the front-page story in the New York Times under the headline “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private.” Barbaro’s disqualification? Some “snarky” tweets about Trump.
And Twohey’s disqualification? “She’s a feminist,” commented O’Reilly. And? The problem here? Let O’Reilly develop this argument: “Trump is a beauty contestant purveyor. Do you let a feminist report on a beauty contestant person who’s now turned politician?” In response to that question, guest Bob Woodward, a dean of U.S. investigative reporting, said, “Well, of course, that doesn’t condemn somebody and say they can’t report on X or Y.”
As per usual, Woodward was being polite. Even in the context of O’Reilly’s mindless program, the notion that reporters must prove their non-feminist credentials before reporting on Trump because he runs a beauty pageant — well, that would make a great amendment to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Whereas that code now reads:
Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
We propose this alteration:
Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived, especially when covering beauty pageant organizers. Only chauvinists should be selected for such assignments. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
For the record, the Erik Wemple Blog has no idea how Twohey aligns with feminism.
What we do know is that O’Reilly, again, is covering for Trump by exercising his grand capacity for hypocrisy. At the end of his segment with Woodward, he issued this stern warning: “What I’m saying to you is this … you as an editor, the editors of the New York Times, the editors of any newspaper, have to assign reporters who are as unbiased as they can be. Have to.”
Which is to say, the people who cover Trump — including on leading TV shows — shouldn’t have decades-long friendships with him. Shouldn’t enjoy multiple vanilla milkshakes with him. And shouldn’t use their personal experiences with him to protect him from attacks.