Bill O’Reilly is discussing a comeback to the cable-news airwaves, according to the New York Post. There are “advanced discussions,” according to the report, between the fallen Fox News star and Newsmax, the conservative media empire of Trump ally Christopher Ruddy.
In its promotional materials, Newsmax boasts “one of the highest concentrations of Baby Boomer consumers on the web,” a signal that perhaps O’Reilly, whose former Fox News show had a median viewer in the septuagenarian range, is hovering around the proper demographic.
The idea is to place O’Reilly in his circadian comfort zone — the 8 p.m. slot on Newsmax TV — the better to position him to reclaim his kingship of cable news. The other elements are in place: Judging from the stuff coming out of his website and podcast, O’Reilly’s talking points — the media is corrupt, Trump is a valiant disrupter, O’Reilly plays it straight — are just as stale as they ever were; one year away from “The O’Reilly Factor” won’t diminish his technical brilliance as a broadcaster; and he’s surely as angry and nasty as he ever was on Fox News.
A stint at Newsmax TV, however, might do something salutary for the world, in right-sizing this man’s ego. His success at Fox News, after all, owed something to his style, but far more to the brand of Fox News. As this blog has argued before, Fox News is the plug-in network, a place with programming formulas and editorial decisions that have harnessed a sizable chunk of the country’s TV-news-viewing audience. It’s a TV-news operation that has crossed into the comfy territory of cultural destination.
Evidence: Following O’Reilly’s ouster from Fox News amid a sexual-harassment scandal, Tucker Carlson took over his time slot. Though Carlson isn’t as smooth as O’Reilly, and traffics in a different form of intellectual dishonesty, he has managed to hold on to an audience that O’Reilly spent two decades building. No one is indispensable at Fox News.
“The bad men are going to make their comebacks whether we like it or not,” wrote Katie J.M. Baker in a New York Times piece about the prospects of prominent sexual harassers. “It’s up to us to determine what it looks like when they do.” Or, it’s up to Newsmax.