Fox News host Bill O’Reilly appeared on “CBS This Morning” to pitch a new children’s book that he has written with James Patterson, “Give Please a Chance.” Along the way, he managed to declare his irremediable allergy to accountability and his continuing commitment to Roger Ailes-style denialism.
After concluding the discussion of childhood civility, co-host Norah O’Donnell pressed O’Reilly on whether he’d read “Settle for More,” the memoir by Fox News host Megyn Kelly in which she recounts experiencing sexual harassment at Fox News at the hands of Ailes, who lost his job over the summer following a plume of such allegations. Kelly writes that he tried to grab and kiss her, then asked her when her contract was up — an “ominous” question, in Kelly’s tale. (Ailes has denied all of this.) Another accuser, former host Gretchen Carlson, received a $20 million settlement from Fox News’s parent company, and former host Andrea Tantaros’s litigation — also for sexual harassment allegedly from Ailes — remains active.
Fox News binds its personnel to burdensome, almost totalitarian book guidelines that, in the past, have crushed any level of candor or self-examination at Fox News. Anchors tend to write happy and one-dimensional accounts of their workplace. Carlson, for example, praised Ailes in her own memoir, “Getting Real,” even as she was preparing to sue the guy. “Settle for More” provides a refreshing departure from this regimented and false sense of placidity. Clearly unafraid of exposing the long-clouded inner workings of Fox News, Kelly writes that loyalty to Ailes was an absolute imperative: “So was saying nice things about Roger (indeed, failing to compliment him enthusiastically in any press interview would always result in a rebuke),” she notes.
Had O’Reilly been the editor of “Settle for More,” however, readers would have had to settle for less. “I want to be very candid here: I’m not that interested in this,” said O’Reilly in his “CBS This Morning” interview. Pressed on whether he was saying he wasn’t interested in sexual harassment, O’Reilly made plain, “I’m not interested in basically litigating something that is finished that makes my network look bad, okay, I’m not interested in making my network look bad at all. That doesn’t interest me one bit. I’m not going to even bother with it. I’ve got a country that’s in a political transition. I’ve got a kids book that I want millions of kids to look at. That’s what I’m interested in, not making my network look bad.”
A few points here:
*O’Reilly, your network already looks bad. A full-on sexual harassment crisis swept through its halls this past summer. More than a dozen women who’d allegedly been harassed or demeaned by Ailes came forward to tell their stories. Nothing that Kelly puts in her book will exacerbate that set of facts.
*This very mentality enabled Ailes for decades. The message from O’Reilly here is this: Shut the heck up, colleagues. Don’t discuss in public unsavory matters that could lead to internal reform. Suppress dissent. Over his two decades atop Fox News, Ailes enforced just those rules, keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public. Though Ailes is gone from Fox News, O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik. A loyal soldier to the end.
*In his rant on the set of “CBS This Morning,” O’Reilly got very heated about this matter. See the video at the top. So incensed was he that O’Donnell mocked fanning herself off. “I felt the Irish heat, Bill O’Reilly.” Consider, though: O’Reilly wasn’t all irate because his longtime colleague Kelly had allegedly been treated like a piece of meat instead of a smart and hardworking journalist. He wasn’t irate because many of his other colleagues reportedly also had to endure such grabby and abusive impulses. He was worried because the whole thing was making his network “look bad.” It’s an image problem! And it’s also consistent with his previous proclamations, like when he told the “Today” show that he felt bad for Ailes’s family but couldn’t be bothered to express sympathy for his alleged victims.
*In wrapping up, O’Reilly said this: “Look, it’s open season, let’s whack the Fox News Channel. I’ve had enough of it. It’s a good place to work, all right.” Indeed it is, especially if you’re an old white guy whose ass the boss doesn’t want to grab.