Bill O’Reilly‘s attorney issued a statement earlier this week, saying the Fox News host was the victim of “a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” which, he has “irrefutable” evidence, is being “orchestrated by far-left organizations” for their own gain. It’s not clear if that evidence will be forthcoming, now that O’Reilly is out of his spot at the top of Fox‘s roster.
It was, of course, the far-left New York Times (1/10/17) that ran the story that appears to have started the snowball rolling, reporting earlier this month that Fox had paid some $13 million to settle at least five lawsuits from women staffers, who charged the host with things like verbal abuse, sexual comments, unwanted advances and phone calls better left undescribed. Corporate advertisers, undeterred by O’Reilly’s years of on-air racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, outright lying and hate-mongering, evidently decided that was a bridge too far. OK.
It’s hard not to celebrate the end of the sheer toxicity O’Reilly’s show put out. But activist groups like UltraViolet and Color of Change who worked for his ouster underscore that the problem is bigger than him. Fox News executives gave cover for harassment and abuse for years; there’s no reason to believe that culture has changed, particularly as the network won’t make the results of their investigation public.
The group Media Matters, who would also assuredly have been cited by O’Reilly’s lawyer, reminded that calling for boycotts of institutions he doesn’t like was part of O’Reilly’s stock in trade. His website still maintains a list of “Media Outlets that Traffic in Defamation,” and urges readers not to “patronize or advertise with” them. On the list is pretty much any outlet that makes any reference to his harassment history.
The Dayton Daily News had the temerity to mention it, leading to a threatening call from O’Reilly’s producer demanding it run an apology. When it didn’t, O’Reilly told his audience that the paper had “sympathy for child rapists.”
A Roanoke Times editor named Daniel Radmacher mentioned harassment charges and poked fun at O’Reilly’s “War on Christmas” thing. For which he and the paper were targeted on the host’s TV and radio shows, with O’Reilly complaining to millions about
extremely mean-spirited, personal attacks on me by a guy named Dan Radmacher, a left-wing loon. We did some research on him, and it’s disgraceful. And they go on our “don’t buy, don’t advertise” list, Roanoke Times. Because anybody would employ a guy like that—and you know, and we did, we walked back and looked at what he did—is irresponsible. It’s just horrible.
Who does that sound like?
At FAIR, we have mixed feelings about advertiser boycotts—which draw on the power corporate sponsors have to control content. But for that to be the thing that freed the airwaves of Bill O’Reilly…. Well, that’s just karma.
Janine Jackson is the program director of FAIR, and the producer and host of CounterSpin.