Former Fox News chief Roger Ailes once called his star host, Bill O’Reilly, “a book salesman with a TV show.” Though Ailes has been disgraced, he got that one right. On his nightly show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” O’Reilly uses all manner of gimmickry and happenstance to come up with overlaps between the day’s news and some book that he’s written — commonly one of the several titles in his “Killing” series. The pitches are usually transparent and harmless.
As opposed to the shamelessness with which O’Reilly is now promoting “Killing the Rising Sun: How America Vanquished World War II Japan.” It’s about MacArthur and FDR and Emperor Hirohito and J. Robert Oppenheimer and . . . Colin Kaepernick, at least indirectly. He’s the San Francisco 49er who has taken a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustice. “There’s a lot of things that need to change. One specifically is police brutality, there’s people being murdered unjustly and not being held accountable,” said Kaepernick in August.
Disrespect! cries O’Reilly. “Here’s my message to Mr. Kaepernick and his sympathizers: No nation is perfect, but American police officers very rarely shoot civilians. The statistics prove it. Also, while there is social injustice and blacks have suffered in this country, most Americans deplore bias and we have seen tremendous improvements in that area. To overhype the few police shootings that do occur and to create hostility toward your own country should be put in a basket of deplorables. Perspective is everything in life. Now, I am going to send Kaepernick a copy of ‘Killing the Rising Sun.’ I am not confident he will read it. But if he does, he might understand that millions of Americans have given their lives for the cause of freedom. Freedom for blacks in the Civil War. Freedom for everybody in the Revolutionary War. Freedom for Asians and freedom for Europe in World War II and World War I. I do not respect Colin Kaepernick’s actions. . . . I think his frame of reference about his own country is scant. S-C-A-N-T, scant.” Which is to say: Hey, Kaepernick, if you want to learn about America, listen to the millionaire broadcaster who goes to sporting events with Donald Trump.
O’Reilly also promoted the Great Kaepernick Book Giveaway on NBC’s “Today,” where he was interviewed about “Killing the Rising Sun” and other topics. “I want Colin Kaepernick to read this book. I want the guy who won’t stand up during the national anthem to read ‘Killing the Rising Sun.’ And to understand how much brave Americans sacrificed to free millions of people all over the world. . . . I want Colin Kaepernick, and I’m sending him a copy, to read every single word of this book and tell me he shouldn’t be standing up during the national anthem.” Ever the stentorian broadcaster, O’Reilly’s voice thundered with emotion as he said those words.
Wednesday night, on this “Tip of the Day” segment, the host tried to brush it all off. “It’s fine. Robust debate about the nobility of the USA is necessary. I’m not angry that some Americans believe their country is oppressive. I don’t despise Bernie Sanders or Mr. Kaepernick. But actively disrespecting the nation will be confronted by me with facts, not emotion. Again, America is a country that has freed hundreds of millions of people all over the world, and individual Americans lost their lives doing that,” said O’Reilly.
Trouble is, Kaepernick has addressed the sacrifices highlighted by O’Reilly: “I have great respect for men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. They fight for freedom. They fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice for everyone. And that’s not happening,” the quarterback said.
Asked and answered, in other words. But hey, O’Reilly’s got a book to sell, bestseller lists to mount.