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What Bill O’Reilly (And Roger Ailes) Should Have Learned From A Mirror

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What Bill O’Reilly (And Roger Ailes) Should Have Learned From A Mirror


Whom the gods would destroy, they first make TV stars.  

A familiar kind of madness too often follows: Delusions of ratings-induced grandeur accompanied by the unmoderated sexual fantasies of 13-year-old boys. Unmoderated, that is, by that greatest of all male civilizing agents: fear of the laughter of beautiful women.

Soon enough, though, fame and money no longer suffice. Our hero takes to embroidering upon his personal myth. He transforms a comfortable suburban childhood into a Dickensian life of hardscrabble poverty. He begins fantasizing about athletic feats and martial glory. A successful Little League career becomes NCAA stardom; observing a distant war from a TV studio metamorphoses into a harrowing stint as a war correspondent.

But who cares? Because Bill O’Reilly is a gifted bullshit artist [faker], with a unique ability to embody the enthusiasms and resentments of his audience, the ratings and the money keep coming. It definitely takes a certain genius. Slate’s Justin Peters nailed it: “As a host, O’Reilly alternately channeled Mike Francesa, Mike Wallace, Krusty the Clown, and everyone’s blowhard Uncle Frank.”

 A “War on Christmas,” for heaven’s sake. This in a country where it’s impossible to venture into a public space after Thanksgiving without hearing a Muzak rendition of O Little Child of Bethlehem.

You could even call it a Horatio O’Reilly tale, as in Horatio Alger. But then came the women. Let The Daily Beast’s Pete Dexter and Jeff Nale deliver the punch line of the year: “O’Reilly became a very important man at Fox News, and this he took to heart. His show reached number one of cable news shows, and Mr. O started letting his penis do the thinking. It is not a smart penis.”

Putting aside the question of whether such a thing exists, the star began to act like an eighth grader prank-dialing the head cheerleader—talking dirty while emitting slapping and grunting noises suggestive of masturbation. In 2004, a Fox News producer named Andrea Mackris, whose “big boobs” he much admired, tape-recorded one of these calls and played it for Fox News lawyers.

They gave her a reported $9 million to go away.

Now me, I’d be reluctant to appear in public, much less on cable-TV after taking such a pratfall, but then I’m not star material. Also, my only direct encounter with sexual harassment came as a victim, rather than a perp.

Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who delighted in telling people at parties and receptions how I’d stood out among a rabble of otherwise undistinguished job applicants as a “hunk.” That is, my dashing good looks had gotten me the job. He particularly enjoyed narrating this tale in front of my “cute little wife”—as he invariably described her.

I never really thought it was about sex. I’m far too conventional and unimaginative to be mistaken for gay. Also, these humiliations always occurred in quasi-public settings. There was no physical intimidation. I was a rugby player in those days. Unlike a woman, I didn’t need to fear being cornered.

But I also knew that to complain would result in my being portrayed as crazy, homophobic, or both. (New England academia was way ahead of the cultural curve.) Also that my tormentor had many powerful allies, while I was expendable. So I did what women have always done: I found another job and quit before I got fired.

Without resorting to amateur psychoanalysis, I ended up thinking it had been all about power. Something about me irked my antagonist—maybe my boring conventionality and cute little wife—and he got off on making me squirm.

But here’s the thing: I never took him seriously.

See, that’s an unacknowledged aspect of the whole Fox News Dirty Old Man saga that nobody talks about. For all their power and notoriety, O’Reilly and recently deposed Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes are 67 and 76 years of age, respectively. Sure, money can buy you love. All you need to do is look at President and Mrs. Trump to know that’s true.

But there’s a limit. Granted the Fox News brand depends on old duffers in Barca-Loungers looking up women’s skirts and calling it news. But for a guy like Ailes, who looks like something that lives under a bridge in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, to be putting moves on women like former Miss America Gretchen Carlson or Megyn Kelly strikes me as less offensive than comical.

They’re out of your league, old man. Always were.

O’Reilly’s latest quasi-book is called Old School. It ought to be called Middle School. There he is, an aging adolescent with thinning hair making naughty phone calls, cornering women in elevators, calling the African-American secretary “Hot Chocolate” and grunting at her…

For heaven’s sake, O’Reilly, deal with reality and show some dignity.

Can’t you see they’re laughing at you?

IMAGE: Fox News Channel host Bill O’Reilly on the set of his show “The O’Reilly Factor” in New York March 17, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Gene Lyons

Gene Lyons is a political columnist and author. Lyons writes a column for the Arkansas Times that is nationally syndicated by United Media. He was previously a general editor at Newsweek as wells an associate editor at Texas Monthly where he won a National Magazine Award in 1980. He contributes to Salon.com and has written for such magazines as Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Review of Books, Entertainment Weekly, Washington Monthly, The Nation, Esquire, and Slate. A graduate of Rutgers University with a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia, Lyons taught at the Universities of Massachusetts, Arkansas and Texas before becoming a full-time writer in 1976. A native of New Jersey, Lyons has lived in Arkansas with his wife Diane since 1972. The Lyons live on a cattle farm near Houston, Ark., with a half-dozen dogs, several cats, three horses, and a growing herd of Fleckvieh Simmental cows. Lyons has written several books including The Higher Illiteracy (University of Arkansas, 1988), Widow's Web (Simon & Schuster, 1993), Fools for Scandal (Franklin Square, 1996) as well as The Hunting Of The President: The 10 Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton, which he co-authored with National Memo Editor-in-Chief Joe Conason.

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  1. Dapper Dan April 26, 2017

    Bill O’Reilly is old school just like his junk ????

  2. stcroixcarp April 26, 2017

    FUX News needs to be sold. It is old, tired and stupid. The talking heads, cleavage and butts need to get out and pound the pavement doing real journalism rather than sitting on couches making up stupid stuff.

    1. Eleanore Whitaker April 26, 2017

      It might not be out of the realm of possibility. Fox News is not really part of the Fox Corporation. And, the Murdoch dynasty is already in trouble in the UK for violations of privacy rights for tapping phones.

      Once you see “who” Fox News considers “top journalists” you see why none of them are Nobel Prize worthy.

      In reality, today’s most possible Nobel Prize in Journalism winner would be Rachel Maddow. She possesses that unusual journalism research talent some of the greats like Walter Cronkite had. Yet, she also has a bit of Edward R. Murrow’s one-to-one interviewing skills that made him a “must” on many Sunday nights.

      1. latebloomingrandma April 26, 2017

        That’s why you see so few Republicans agreeing to be interviewed by her. They’d actually have to answer a question.

        1. Eleanore Whitaker April 26, 2017

          It’s pretty much the same with Don Lemmon. He tries to put together a good bi partisan mix. Then, you see that the Republican supporters simply do not have facts they can prove.

          Worse now is that the Trump administration believes it doesn’t have to share information between foreign leaders. You can guess why.

          If Trump is anything, he is a wheeler dealer who tries to mix business with politics. Look at what happened with Canada, our nearest neighbor. He tweeted nasty remarks about Canadian women being disgraceful to their society. Then, his phone conversation with Justin Trudeau had him refusing to state publicly what they discussed.

          How stupid is this guy to think that his phone conversations will not be in the media from those he speaks with in foreign countries.

          But, if you watch the Korean cable news station, Trump is all but a South Korean comedy act they are getting tons of mileage from.

          Worse, Chinese leaders feel sorry for Americans are encouraging Americans, not TRUMP, to discuss international issues.

          When no one trusts Trump, how good can his leadership be?

          The very fact that he makes statements like so many right wingers off the cuff without any substantiation of facts, is proof that he and the right wing are mentally defective.

          1. dpaano April 26, 2017

            And the fact that the people he’s hired to be around him are just as uninformed as he is might say something! After all, look at all the jobs that he’s delegated to his son-in-law, Kushner…..if he gets ANY of them accomplished during this term, it’ll be a miracle! None of Trumps minions have any idea how to run a government and they continue to try to run it like a business, which it isn’t! It’s sad, but it’s sadder for those of us who have to deal with the consequences of these idiot’s ideas!

          2. Eleanore Whitaker April 27, 2017

            Kushner has a set of baggage all his own. The State of NY is looking into his dealings with foreign businesses and borrowing money from the Steinmetz banking family to invest $100 million in a business last year.

    2. idamag April 26, 2017

      It is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who was not allowed in his own country to destroy journalism, so he came to the country dumb enough to accept his kind of drivel.

      1. dpaano April 26, 2017

        And he found an equally dumb following that believes all the BS that FAUX News puts out there! Boy, talk about false news….they are the best at it (except maybe for Breitbart)!

  3. Eleanore Whitaker April 26, 2017

    The author of this article Gene Lyons must know his Latin pretty well. That’s the first time since my high school Latin course I’ve seen that “whom the gods would destroy….” It was posted in our Latin class above the blackboard, “Quos deus vult perdere, prius dementat.” Meaning, “Whom a god wishes to destroy, he first drives mad.”

    I always loved that one because in reality that is precisely what the intent of the Republican party has been: To be gods who want to destroy by driving all of us mad.” Too bad it is working in reverse.

    As for O’Reilly and Trump supporting his actions. This is nothing more than rich man’s entitlement at work. When you have more than you need, share it with no one and then demand more, more, more, sex and women become just another way to get your jollies.

    1. johninPCFL April 26, 2017

      Wow. Haven’t seen Latin written in a public forum in decades. Good on you!

      1. Eleanore Whitaker April 26, 2017

        From kindergarten to 8th grade, my Dominican nun teachers made sure we got sufficient command of Latin, mostly because back then Holy Mass was in Latin.

        However, by the time I attended public high school and Mr. Chickunas, our Latin teacher came along, the students in Latin class were quite adept at “bastardizing” some of it. rofl.

    2. latebloomingrandma April 26, 2017

      Good for you, Eleanor. I had four years of Latin and remember very little.

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  4. idamag April 26, 2017

    O’Reilly is a creepy old pervert. And that is his good points.

  5. dpaano April 26, 2017

    Actually, they think they can get away with it because, like Trump, they feel they are celebrities and, as such, they are entitled! Unfortunately, money really doesn’t impress most intelligent women and neither does celebrity status when you’re kinda “over the hill.”

  6. Aaron_of_Portsmouth April 26, 2017

    The FOX phenomenon is an inexhaustible fount of the decadence eating away at American society, and serves a s a constant reminder of the excesses and transgressions of first, Rupert Murdoch, then Ailes and O’Reilly, and then there is the flotsam of Breitbart, Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos(a self-serving spoiled privileged brat along with so many other chumps who wish to emulate him)—and followed by the grad-daddy of excesses with a Caligula-like attitude to boot, the apex of abnormality, Donald John Trump.

    The paradoxical and sad part is that so many in the UK showered Rupert and his media empire with enough money and attention despite his abominable behavior, which only has egged him own to continue his degenerate life-style. Bannon, Ailes, O’Reilly, Bannon, Milo, Trump, etc., have also been generously rewarded to the point of living soft and lavish lifestyles, and continuing their disdain for restraint and moderation—the very antithesis of Christianity in particular, and the ideals of Religion
    in general.

    The downfall of the Roman, Czarist, and Napoleonic France Empires was due to unrestrained sexual vices and becoming soft and careless as a result of lavish lifestyles and the parallel inattention to the moral restraints exhorted in the Religions sent to those different Eras—the same vices, and lack of attention to the counsels of Religious influences, overtook the Pharoahs, the denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Abbasids and Umayyads of the Muslim Empire. And are now influencing and destroying many ordinary people in American society, and its vast number of politicians, judges, entertainment figures, and media people. Drunk from an inordinate surfeit of material wealth, they are unaware of the webs of destruction being slowly weaved around them as a result of distractions and relaxed restraints from excessive attention to self-gratification, in private and in public. Ailes and O’Reilly suffered from seduction to wealth and their baser instincts, becoming closer to the animal world than to what was intended by the Creator—yet FOX fans are up in arms that their beloved and sordid Bill O’Reilly had to take a hike.

    But instead of reflecting of Bill’s depravity, they are happy to know that his bank account has been amply increased as a result of a reward for his adulterous behavior.
    What sort of bedevilment has mesmerized the generality of those who claim to be “Conservatives”—and to an extent, those who think of themselves as liberals and libertarians, and what not.

    The essence is that in both the East and in the West, and points in between, too much attention to material well-being, and refusal to pay attention to cultivate a strong moral character, have given rise to a vapid, shallow, and spiritually moribund societies. The West has elevated materialism to a god-like status, unfortunately, and FOX and Trump are the perfect icons of this repulsive distortion of human nature.

    “O Son of Being! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then to that for which thou wast created”.

    When we read and contemplate this quality incorporated in being human bequeathed by God, as cited by this “Hidden Word” by Baha’u’llah, one can’t help but think about how the particular individuals cited stack up to this inherent quality. Instead of polishing and enhancing their nobility, FOX, Murdoch, Trump, and others have spent a lifetime sullying this quality, without a hint of remorse. And no matter how much Trump and FOX are made aware of their epic error, they will steadfastly refuse to moderate their behavior.

    “O Son of Being! Free thyself from the fetters of this world, and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more”.

  7. stsintl April 26, 2017

    All advertisers want is to reach out to as many eyes and ears as possible. If pornography was allowed on Fox Channels and would attract viewers, they will jump in and advertise their drugs, cars, or whatever else they are peddling. And, that’s all Rupert Murdoch cares. He delivers his WMDs [Words of Mass Deception] through his media empire to poison the minds. No less devastating than chemical weapons. Look how he destroyed our democracy.

  8. Wayne Thorson April 28, 2017

    Where were these woman back when All In the Family with Archie Bunker was on T.V.? We need more shows like that. It made us laugh at ourselves. We had a sense of humor back then. I am not a Bill O’Reilly fan but I have to defend him on this. I have done a lot worse and said a lot worse than what he has been accused of. If a woman let me know she didn’t have a sense of humor I would tell them to stay away from me. They are just nothing but trouble and don’t think twice about causing you problems. After all us dirty old men have to stick together. We can’t let people think we are harmless. That is a bigger insult. Getting old is not easy to deal with. We haven’t experienced it before.


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