The shady double life of Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly is the outspoken political pundit and host of The O'Reilly Factor, which is one of the most popular shows on Fox News. Since 1996, O'Reilly has used his nightly show to editorialize everything from politics to pop culture through the use of pointed monologues and at times, terse debate. A self-professed "straight-talker," O'Reilly claims to operate within a so-called "No-Spin Zone," which suggests he strives for an objective viewpoint.

As a result, O'Reilly has become somewhat of a polarizing figure, a routine target for the liberal left-wingers, and a de facto mouthpiece for the conservative right. He's also seen himself become the story several times, weathering both personal and professional scandals in the public eye. For a man who's built a brand on supposed truth-telling, he's certainly left a lot of questions unanswered. Here is the double life of Bill O'Reilly.

His muddled stance on media bias

One of Bill O'Reilly's favorite talking points is to slam the mainstream media for not being objective. In one example of his disgust with modern journalism, O'Reilly ranted on his show about how unbelievable it was that Rachel Maddow hugged 2016 Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton after moderating a debate between them. "So what I'm trying to get across is that we're living in an age where you say journalism, many of the press entities aren't that anymore. They're not. They're in another business. It's another business model," O'Reilly said.

Yet, O'Reilly's personal relationship with Donald Trump never seemed to present the journalistic hardliner with a conflict of interest when it came to the numerous times they shared a friendly banter on the air. In fact, O'Reilly and Trump are such BFFs, they even have a running gag about the number of vanilla milkshakes O'Reilly has bought for Trump, according to Erik Wemple of The Washington Post. O'Reilly even went so far as to leverage Trump's "milkshake debt" in an attempt to convince Trump to appear on the Fox News Republican debate he was boycotting at the time. While the mental image of O'Reilly and Trump drinking one milkshake with two straws is objectively adorable, isn't that exactly the kind of ethical dilemma O'Reilly was slamming Rachel Maddow for?

His defense of Donald Trump's crude remarks

If you thought Rachel Maddow hugging people got Bill O'Reilly steamed, that's nothing compared to the rage he seems to feel about the entertainment industry. When it comes to movies and music — rap music in particular — O'Reilly seems to think most of society's ills could be remedied if children weren't exposed to Kanye swearing or The Rock and Vin Diesel having a flying headbutt battle on a plane. O'Reilly even went so far as to boycott a Pepsi campaign starring rapper Ludacris, which he actually got fired from. O'Reilly referred to the company as "immoral," and called Ludacris "a bad influence on impressionable children."

Setting aside the fact that studies have proven violence in movies, music, and video games rarely, if ever, translates to real-world violence, O'Reilly's criticism of the profane becomes somewhat ironic when compared to his defense of Donald Trump's vulgarity. When explaining Trump's infamous "hot mic" remarks in the leaked Access Hollywood tape, O'Reilly eventually admitted it was an embarrassment for Trump, but minimized the grotesque language the president-elect used. He referred to it as "crude guy talk," and only aired a portion of the tape on The O'Reilly Factor. Also, during Trump's first "post-Access Hollywood leak" interview, O'Reilly barely questioned Trump about it before quickly talking about an upcoming segment he was going to air that would prove Trump had been "treated unfairly."

So it would seem that according to Bill O'Reilly's version of "fairness," Ludacris rapping about the many cities around the world in which he romances women disqualifies him from selling brown sugar water, but Donald Trump casually suggesting he's unable to control himself around beautiful women to the point where he may assault them somehow didn't take him out of the running for the presidency. Sounds logical, right?

His handling of the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal

Before his resignation amidst a massive sexual harassment scandal, Roger Ailes was the President of Fox News, as well as the man credited with molding the cable news channel into the conservative powerhouse it is today. He's also the man who gave Bill O'Reilly his start at the network all the way back in 1996. Aside from the women like Gretchen Carlson, Andrea Tantaros, Megyn Kelly, and others who joined the suit against Ailes, there weren't many Fox News employees who publicly commented on the scandal.

As a guest on CBS' Good Morning, Bill O'Reilly was asked to comment on Megyn Kelly's memoir, which details her own alleged harassment by Ailes. O'Reilly attempted the "no comment" route, but lost his cool and flipped out about even being asked. Later that night on his show, he elaborated. "I'm not interested in litigating something that is finished, that is making my network look bad. If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance. You don't like what's happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave. I've done that," he said.

Perhaps O'Reilly was miffed about that fact that in Andrea Tantaros' testimony, she claimed O'Reilly had propositioned her in an inappropriate way, or perhaps this whole Ailes scandal recalled the 2004 sexual harassment suit his former producer, Andrea Mackris, brought against him, ultimately winning a multi-million dollar settlement. Either way, it wasn't unusual for O'Reilly to be agitated — that's kind of his thing.

What is odd is that O'Reilly has spoken out about the abuse of women where he sees fit. For example, in this clip from his show, O'Reilly selects language from the Koran that seems to condone the subjugation and physical abuse of women, then challenges a Muslim community activist to defend the entire faith of Islam against this out-of-context passage. So, if a woman is abused because of religion, that's not cool, but if it happens at her job, she should just suck it up?

His own shady history of sexual harrassment

Though it makes sense that O'Reilly would be reluctant to publicly comment on a sexual harassment scandal involving his boss, perhaps there is a secondary reason for the normally outspoken personality to remain silent. And that reason could be his own secretive past dealing with the same kind of scandals. Yes, plural.

We already mentioned the quietly settled lawsuit brought by former producer, Andrea Mackris, but that's hardly where O'Reilly's sexual harassment troubles end. In a bombshell report, The New York Times disclosed three additional women who had lawsuits settled in the shadows, and claims paid out by either O'Reilly or Fox News parent company, 21st Century Fox. In addition, a fourth woman who did not file a suit, came forward with her story of how O'Reilly allegedly squashed her career prospects as a contributor for Fox News after she rebuffed his advances during a meeting at Los Angeles hotel.

In his defense, O'Reilly has claimed – through a statement issued by his "crisis communications expert Mark Fabiani" – that the only reason he's paid out settlements is to "spare his children" and employer from the harm that would be done should the details of the accusations come to light. He sure engages in plenty of backroom manipulation for a guy who has touted himself as a champion for "truth, common sense, and decency."

His family life

Bill O'Reilly is an outspoken proponent of family values, as well as a sharp critic of the eroding morality of America. One topic he supposedly takes very seriously is domestic violence. In a conversation with Dr. Ben Carson about NFL star Ray Rice, whose career went down the tubes after he viciously attacked his wife, O'Reilly called domestic violence a "plague," and suggested that Rice be "demonized" in order to "send a message that this can't happen in America."

But it's his book, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America's Families that really presents a serious conflict for the self-appointed moral champion. In a passage addressing family conflicts, O'Reilly gives a tip for when the argument reaches a point where "all of the rationality in the world will still not be enough to change the mind of someone close to you." The section is titled, 'But if nothing works…drop it.' Perhaps O'Reilly would have benefited from his own advice during an alleged confrontation with his wife in which he allegedly choked her and dragged her down the stairs, according to court records obtained by Gawker.

What's even worse is that the testimony indicates one of his children witnessed the alleged assault. O'Reilly denied the allegations and even sued his now ex-wife for $10 million dollars, alleging she "knowingly made false misrepresentations and material omissions of existing fact to [O'Reilly] … for the sole purpose of inducing [him] to agree to a consensual divorce and to obtain money and real property to finance an existing extra-marital relationship," according to Gawker. Wow. Granted, the break-up of a marriage is an especially huge kind of argument, but not only did he not "drop it" like he advocates, he took an extra step and sued his kids' mother for money he doesn't need just to accuse her of lying and cheating.

His children's book about politeness

While we're on the subject of O'Reilly's books, we should point out his most recent effort, at the time of this writing, is a collaboration with James Patterson called Give Please A Chance. It is a children's book aimed at reintroducing manners to young children, which O'Reilly apparently believes they no longer have. The "About This Book" passage, written by O'Reilly, reads in part, "James and I believe we can bring that civility and compassion back into the world." He's referencing a time when people "held doors for others and nodded and said hello."

While teaching children manners is admittedly a noble and worthy goal, is Bill O'Reilly the appropriate messenger for that? This would be like Charlie Sheen teaching a DARE class. After all, who can forget O'Reilly's classic, "F**k it! We'll do it live!" Inside Edition clip where he freaks out over issues with the teleprompter? And sure, maybe it's unfair to hold a clip from decades ago up as an example of this guy's demeanor, so here's O'Reilly in 2013 on his current nightly show losing control during an argument with Alan Colmes. And here is a clip from 2016 where O'Reilly goes ballistic on Washington Post reporter Jennifer Rubin over her scrutiny of his questionable coverage of then-candidate Trump. These are not an isolated incidents. O'Reilly is known for his aggressive nature and combative stance toward guests with opposing viewpoints, who he often yells at and interrupts. It is undeniably great entertainment if you're into re-living uncomfortable Thanksgiving table political discussions with your opinionated uncle, but it doesn't provide a great example for children, particularly in the areas of "civility and compassion," with which O'Reilly claims to be so concerned.

He's pretty confused about racism in America

Bill O'Reilly's controversial stance on race relations in America can basically be boiled down to the concept of personal responsibility. Time and again, O'Reilly has referenced the broken homes of minority families as the primary reason they are disproportionately affected by crime and poverty. In just a few instances of his many opinions on the topic, O'Reilly has called the experience of African-American slaves equal to that of Irish immigrants, as well as accused President Obama of participating in the corruption of children, because he invited Jay Z to the White House. In other words, O'Reilly believes negligent parents and authority figures are to blame for minority children growing up in poverty and becoming criminals.

But as a self-proclaimed crusader of objective journalism, O'Reilly has to ignore the mountainous data that exists which has proven America's institutional racism over the past few centuries. From the Jim Crow era to mortgage "redlining" to disproportionate prison sentencing for minorities to workplace discrimination, the long history of America's racial injustice is plain for anyone willing to look at it. O'Reilly, on the other hand, chooses to view the problem through the decidedly not-objective lens of his own personal experience. During an interview with documentarian Ken Burns, O'Reilly said of racism in America, "Yeah, see, I don't see that in my world. And my world is a fairly expansive one. I don't know any racists. I don't know anybody, on either black or white people, who don't like, like our staff here is integrated, and my assistant is black, she's been with me for 25 years. I just never see this." Hey minorities who feel like you've been dealt a crappy hand, good news! Bill O'Reilly's had a black assistant for 25 years, so hurray, racism is over!

He claims he's "an average guy"

Part of what attracts Bill O'Reilly's audience is his seemingly plain and matter-of-fact speech, a classic value held by working class Americans, as the 2016 US Presidential election proved. But it's not only a perception. O'Reilly has often touted his "humble beginnings" and "working class upbringing," as he did in his book, The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life. He wrote, "Whatever I have done or will do in this life, I'm working-class Irish American Bill O'Reilly." Well, "working-class" O'Reilly has been making millions per year as host of a popular TV show, so clearly that statement no longer applies. Also, in describing his hardscrabble life, O'Reilly referenced carpools, eating lunchmeat, and not taking extravagant vacations, which actually just sounds like a normal American upbringing to us.

Upon further investigation of the so-called up-jumped O'Reilly's past, The Washington Post interviewed his mother and found that Bill and his sister "attended private school, and the family sent Bill to Marist College, a private college in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as well as the University of London for a year, without financial aid." Also, O'Reilly himself admitted his father was earning $35,000/year when he retired in 1978, which was "equivalent to $92,000" at the time of the article in 2000. Call us crazy, but defining your childhood as "humble" when it included private schools and living in a household with an almost six-figure income is simply disingenuous — no matter how many bologna sandwiches got packed in your lunch.

His condemnation of Brian Williams' exaggerations

Bill O'Reilly seemed to come out in strong support of disgraced NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. He was all over the media claiming disgust with what he viewed was a gleeful teardown of a man's career based on a few mistakes. And setting aside the fact that O'Reilly has built a career on finding any slight discrepancies he can in the statements of people he doesn't like, there was an important caveat he inserted into his supposed defense of his embattled colleague. While on Jimmy Kimmel Live, O'Reilly said, "If he did it, like they said, a number of times, he has to leave that position." It was a quick addition to what seemed like a hearty argument against the outrage Williams was facing, but it was there, clear as day. O'Reilly said that Williams didn't deserve to keep his job if he made exaggerated claims about his reporting on multiple occasions.

So, why is that important? Well, Bill O'Reilly has his own checkered past when it comes to his own exaggerations about his reporting. There's his much disputed claim that he reported from the active war zone in The Falklands, as well as his retracted statement that he'd seen nuns get shot in the head in El Salvador. O'Reilly also claimed he was outside suspected JFK assassination co-conspirator, George de Mohrenschilt's, house in Florida when he killed himself, despite a colleague at the TV station where he was working claiming O'Reilly was in Dallas on the day of de Mohrenschit's death. These are the same kind of exaggerations that — rightfully, according to O'Reilly — brought down Brian Williams, so why is it that O'Reilly got to keep his job?

His strongly held belief in the importance of traditional marriage

Though his position has changed over the years from in 2005 when he said, "If gay marriage is legalized, then much chaos would follow," to in 2013 when he said, "I support civil unions I always have. All right, the gay marriage thing, I don't feel that strongly about it one way or the other," Bill O'Reilly has always maintained throughout that "traditional marriage" is a cornerstone of American society. So from a legal standpoint, O'Reilly was finally convinced that gays had right to marry. But he's never stopped harping on "secular progressives" and how they supposedly used the gay marriage issue to erode what he views as an essential part of the value system that built America, so it's clear that from philosophical standpoint, O'Reilly still disapproves.

Statistics regarding heterosexual marriage over the past few decades have shown that long before gay marriage was even being considered in a courtroom, "traditional," heterosexual marriage was doing just fine destroying itself on its own. According to the CDC's chart on National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends, close to one million marriages per year end in divorce or annulment. Curiously though, in 2013, the year the Supreme Court repealed DOMA, the congressional act that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, thus effectively lifting the federal ban on same-sex marriage, the number of divorces and annulments dropped by almost 19 thousand. In fact, the divorce rate, although counter to the common perception as perhaps emboldened by the likes of "traditionalist" pundits like O'Reilly, has been consistently dropping since 2000. It should also be said that O'Reilly's own traditional, straight marriage is among those statistics, since his divorce was finalized in 2011, so once again, it would seem that his outwardly professed values don't necessarily apply to his own life.

He claims he doesn't believe in personal smears

First of all — Ha! Second, perhaps the most glaring example of O'Reilly not practicing what he preaches is his claim that "Smearing anyone should be unacceptable." Surprisingly, O'Reilly said this while defending President Obama from unwarranted and baseless attacks, but there is actual science to prove that he does exactly this on a nightly basis, and at startling rate. According to an Indiana University study in which doctoral students "studied six months worth, or 115 episodes, of O'Reilly's 'Talking Points Memo' editorials," they "found that O'Reilly called a person or a group a derogatory name once every 6.8 seconds, on average, or nearly nine times every minute during the editorials that open his program each night." The study also demonstrates O'Reilly's common use of propaganda techniques—occurring at a rate of "nearly 13 times each minute in his editorials"— include "name calling," which they define as "giving something a bad label to make the audience reject it without examining the evidence."

Now, a lot of what we've previously discussed here, like O'Reilly's thoughts on marriage and his beliefs on what causes racial bias in America could possibly be chalked up to an evolution of thought. But this right here? This is cold, hard data-dropping mics all over his claim that he's not into personal smears. You can't argue with science, Bill. Well, we suppose a dude like you could and probably would.

His surprise ouster from Fox News

In the wake of The New York Times' revelation that Fox News and O'Reilly had secretly paid out around $13 million dollars to former employees and associates over complaints of sexual harassment, the reigning king of cable punditry announced he was "taking a vacation." Prior to his sudden trip announcement, advertisers began fleeing en masse, leaving O'Reilly's future at the network in question, since his "get out of jail free card" was always the fact that he brings in millions in ad revenue for the network. Several days into O'Reilly's vacation — and ironically on the same day as he met Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square — 21st Century Fox announced in a statement that "the company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel."

The statement would lead us to believe that O'Reilly decided to "fall on his sword" as it were, in an attempt to help Fox News save face from allegations that he categorized through his lawyer as "a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America." But a more cynical take on what happened has arisen. According to New York Magazine, the decision to cut O'Reilly loose was almost entirely based on the damage he could do to the $14 billion dollar potential merger of European TV giant, Sky, with 21st Century Fox, which already fell through once before in the wake of another scandal in 2011.

On top of all of that, O'Reilly had just signed a multi-year deal, meaning he's likely looking at a large payout for the early cancellation of his contract, like the $40 million that Roger Ailes received on his way out the door. So, was this whole episode about doing the right thing in the face of scandalous accusations, or was it just a way for everyone involved to make a ton of money and face no real consequences?

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