I’ve always liked Bill O’Reilly–which is weird, because I don’t agree with the majority of his political views at all. His bombastic style is definitely not “real journalism”, but I’ve always found it entertaining–a lot like John McLaughlin. People say he’s a bully, and I can’t really disagree, but his manner reminds me of my Irish family members–they’ll yell and swear and browbeat somebody in an argument, and then afterwards shake hands and say “great to see you”.
Yeah, I guess I’m probably in a tiny minority as a liberal who likes O’Reilly and can’t stand Olbermann. I like to be different. I once read that Robert Frost said “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”
Anyway, so O’Reilly has been caught misrepresenting his role in various events–saying he was present in “a war zone” during the Falklands conflict, when in fact he was not; saying he was knocking at George de Mohrenschildt‘s door as de Mohrenschildt committed suicide, when O’Reilly was not even in the state at the time. Coming so soon on the heels of the Brian Williams scandal, people are calling on Fox News to suspend him, just as NBC suspended Williams. Of course, Fox has not done that.
The reason for this discrepancy is that O’Reilly is an entertainer, whereas Brian Williams is a news reporter. People who watched Williams expected to get factual information, and when he didn’t deliver, they got mad. People who watch O’Reilly just want to be entertained. Some love him, some hate him, but they all just want to see what he’s going to do next. Whether any of it resembles truth is not relevant. This was proven quite conclusively when O’Reilly totally screwed up the history of the Malmedy massacre, saying the Americans committed the atrocity against the German SS prisoners, when actually it was the Germans committing it against the Americans. That’s a pretty pathetic error to make.
But who cares if O’Reilly doesn’t know history? He’s an entertainer. Hence the comparison to McLaughlin–no one knows what he’s talking about half the time, even the other panelists, but it’s fun to watch, by golly!
That’s why NBC had to punish Williams, but Fox doesn’t need to punish O’Reilly: they’re not really in the same business. In NBC’s business, credibility matters.