History of Bill O'Reilly's Scandals
Once the biggest man in news broadcasting, Bill O'Reilly's long history of scandals have (finally) cost him his career.
Bill O'Reilly is one of Fox's most well-known anchors. He has been a mainstay in the news industry since the 80s. He has hosted the O'Reilly Factor, one of the most widely watched news commentary shows, on Fox News since 1996. He has published several best-selling works of nonfiction, most notably Killing Lincoln, Killing Jesus, and Killing Kennedy. (I'm noticing a pattern here.)
He has also been accused of being a hot head, a sex offender, an abusive husband and father, and an all-around bully.
In light of his 2017 accusations of being a sex offender, shortly followed by his contract for Fox being renewed, it is important to remember that O'Reilly has always been a subject of scandals. Many, many, many people have either filed lawsuits or made accusations against the news superstar that would have destroyed the career for anyone not named Bill O'Reilly.
O'Reilly will never live this down.
Early on his career, while still working on CBS's Inside Edition, O'Reilly had a bit of an issue with the teleprompter. Frustrated by the inability to understand what the director meant by writing "Play us out," in the teleprompter, he went into a bit of a temper tantrum, culminating in the now legendary declaration "F*** it, we'll do it live!"
This footage would leak online in the year 2008, and was watched by millions. O'Reilly tried to brush off the video, but it was too late by then. The internet got a taste of O'Reilly's hot-headed nature.
But, for O'Reilly, this was more a minor scandal, one that was overlooked when it happened and a joke when people found out. Not all of O'Reilly's antics were nearly this funny.
Ludacris and Pepsi
In August 2002, popular rapper Ludacris featured in a series of Pepsi ads. The endorsement deal was pretty standard, as Ludacris was and still is a very popular artist. It made absolute business sense.
Until Bill O'Reilly got involved.
O'Reilly used his platform as host of The O'Reilly Factor to declare a boycott of Pepsi products, due entirely to Ludacris featuring on their ads. According to O'Reilly, Ludacris glamorized a "life of guns, violence, drugs, and disrespect of women." (That last one is pretty ironic, considering O'Reilly's later sex scandals.)
Facing a potential boycott of O'Reilly's millions of viewers, Pepsi let Ludacris go the next day.
Let's break down why this was awful. For one, O'Reilly used his authority to affect the policies of an unrelated company. Second, he misrepresented Ludacris' music to his audience, who probably were not the target audience of Pepsi's ad campaign. And three, there is something racially problematic about a powerful white male authoritarian using broad stereotypes of rap music (which originated in the African-American community) to bully a man of color out of a job.
While Ludacris and O'Reilly later "made up," Ludacris did later respond to this with his song "Number One Spot," where he made reference to O'Reilly's infidelity. Respect for women, remember. O'Reilly is supposed to have that.
O'Reilly's news broadcasts have never been known for being racially sensitive. He is not a beacon of political correctness, and has never made any illusion about this.
But, in 2004, O'Reilly pushed the wrong button with his prejudice language. On his radio show, The Radio Factor, he received a call from a Jewish listener who felt upset by how public schools celebrated Christmas, but other holidays like Hanukkah or Passover were consistently either marginalized or ignored.
Overwhelmingly, America is Christian. And the holiday is a federal holiday honoring the philosopher Jesus. So you don't wanna hear about it? Impossible … if you are really offended you gotta go to Israel, then.
This angered many groups, most notably the Anti-Defamation League, for O'Reilly ignoring the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights in order to bully a Jewish man's legitimate concerns about separation of church and state.
For an American news caster, O'Reilly didn't seem to acknowledge the fact that, while America does have a large Christian population, America is NOT a Christian nation. The First Amendment protects America's varied religions... and protects others from religion.
O'Reilly, it seems, does not care. In O'Reilly's America, if you don't like what he likes, then you should go away.
2004 was a bad year for O'Reilly.
Andrea Mackris was O'Reilly's producer at the time. Within one day, both O'Reilly and Mackris sued one another, though O'Reilly filed the paperwork just a little faster. O'Reilly claimed that Mackris had used her position in order to extort money from O'Reilly ($60 million).
Mackris had a different story.
She claimed that O'Reilly had sexually harassed her over the phone, telling her to use a vibrator while he told her his sexual fantasies of her. To keep her compliant, O'Reilly would threaten to tell Fox News boss Roger Ailes to "go after [her]...Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes, and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what's coming to them but never sees it coming." She demanded $60 million in damages.
Fox legally tried to fire Mackris after this, but the courts denied them. Mackris then expanded her lawsuit to include Roger Ailes, Fox News, and The New York Post (also owned by News Corporation, the organization that owned Fox News). The lawsuit became a struggle of women against the patriarchal business models that had kept harassed women quiet for decades – or, at least, that is how feminist groups framed it. They deemed it as a progressive strike against the notoriously conservative Fox News.
It culminated in a settlement out of court, where all parties dropped the lawsuit. Mackris, according to The New York Times in 2017, walked away with $9 million.
By the way, Ailes himself became the subject of a sexual harassment scandal in 2016. While Bill O'Reilly went to his side, Ailes was fired from the network, and Fox News settled out of court.
O'Reilly Talks Down to Every Black Person Ever
In 2007, Bill O'Reilly went to a restaurant with noted activist Al Sharpton. The restaurant was run by African-American people. When talking about his experience, Bill O'Reilly tried to say that the restaurant was like any other restaurant, that black people actuallt are, in essence, just like everyone else.
At least, one can only hope that's what he tried saying... because what he actually said was the following:
I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship.
Already, this wreaks of condescension, implying that it was surprising that a restaurant run by African-Americans would be any different than one run by white Americans. That would already be problematic enough. But any hope O'Reilly had at just saying "Oh, I misspoke," is eradicated by the rest of his statement.
There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was -- it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all... I think black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves. They're getting away from the Sharptons and the [Rev. Jesse] Jacksons and the people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out. 'Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it.
I'm sure that O'Reilly thought he was being "progressive" with that statement, when, in actuality, by saying that these things he expected to be in the restaurant was not present in said restaurant, he is only exposing how completely racist he is. In that single statement, he spouts out countless racial stereotypes that he was "surprised" wasn't real.
However, rather than say "I am realizing that my racist philosophies are nonsense," he goes on to say that, rather than realizing that he was wrong after seeing things from their level, African-Americans are rising up to his level by only then, in 2007, are they acting responsible. Yes, only now. All the decades during the Abolitionist Movement? The Civil Rights Movement? Countless achievements made by African Americans in the centuries before that moment? Not at all.
Naturally, anyone wth any sense of social awareness criticized O'Reilly over this. But O'Reilly, rather than admit that he misspoke, called the people calling him out for "distorting his statement." While it can be argued that O'Reilly misspoke, he should have realized he needed to apologize.
O'Reilly versus Jon Stewart
Many news outlets have butted heads with O'Reilly over the years. The View, for example, argued with O'Reilly in 2010 over O'Reilly's claim that the Muslim community caused 9/11 (they felt it was irresponsible to blur the distinction between radical terrorists and average Islamic people, given the number of hate crimes committed against innocent Muslims).
But none fought O'Reilly harder and more effectively than Jon Stewart, former host of Comedy Central's The Daily Show.
Jon Stewart would often call O'Reilly out on his show for many either strongly misleading or outright wrong statements he made on The O'Reilly Factor. O'Reilly, at first, retorted with dismissal... but, over time, something happened.
O'Reilly and Jon Stewart decided to debate it out man-to-man, face-to-face. Perhaps O'Reilly hoped he could bully John Stewart into a hole, to destroy him in front of everyone else.
The event was televised on Fox News. O'Reilly had the event filmed beforehand, and showed it on Fox News. However, and O'Reilly was upfront about this, the debate proved too long for his show, and, thus, he admitted to cutting parts of the show out for time. The full, uncut debate would be on his website.
As Jon Stewart noted on his show, O'Reilly cut out all of Jon Stewart's good retorts... of which, there were several.
While most of O'Reilly's fanbase saw the condensed version of the debate, most of Jon Stewart's fans saw the full thing.
Yet, even so, an overwhelming majority of O'Reilly's fans thought Jon Stewart won the debate.
O'Reilly - Abusive Husband and Father
It surprised no one when this news came out, yet, at the same time, no one really wanted to hear it.
Bill O'Reilly married Maureen E. McPhilmey in 1992. They had a daughter and a son together, but the couple ended up filing for divorce in 2011. For many, the news was forgotten pretty quickly.
Until 2015, when O'Reilly's daughter's testimony at her custody hearing became public knowledge. O'Reilly's daughter claimed that she saw her father choke her mother violently, and drag her down flights of stairs by her hair.
Though O'Reilly insisted that these claims were false, O'Reilly lost custody of his children in 2016.
This sort of behavior is downright sickening. Domestic abuse is one of the most egregious crimes a person can commit, and, for many, confirmed their suspicions about O'Reilly: he is an abusive bully.
But, in the end, he lost his children. He lost his wife. For the first time in his life, he lost something he could never recover, all because of his own behavior. The bullying behavior that had helped rise him to his peaks, in the end, hurt him in the places it hurt the most.
Or maybe he's just upset he lost for once.
2017 Sex Scandal
Which leads us to the present day. The sex scandals.
In April 2017, The New York Times reported that, since 2002, O'Reilly had settled five sex scandals. He had paid out over $12 million to women to settle out of court. They were other hosts, employees of Fox News, or people hoping to promote material on O'Reilly's show.
Over night, almost half of O'Reilly's advertisers dropped The O'Reilly Factor. Viewership plummeted.
And, despite this, Fox News renewed his contract.
...at least, at first.
Though the company apparently stood by him, as more and more sponsers made it clear they did not support a serial sex offender (or the company standing by his side), they did, on April 19th, terminate his contract.
While many stand by O'Reilly's side (like President Donald Trump), you have to take a step back and ask yourself this: is it that hard to believe that a man who like O'Reilly, a confirmed bully who has made countless prejudice comments, bullied people out of work, and lost his children in custody hearings over his beastly behavior, did all these terrible things?
Or do you still stand by him, despite it all?