The O’Reilly Spectacle

Bill O'Reilly in undated photo from NBC News.

There are so many unfortunate things about this rising scandal:

Three weeks ago, a Nassau County Supreme Court justice ended a bitter three-year custody dispute between Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and his ex-wife, Maureen McPhilmy, by granting custody of the couple’s two minor children to McPhilmy. Though nearly all documents pertaining to New York family court cases are sealed, Gawker has learned that the justice in the case heard testimony accusing O’Reilly of physically assaulting his wife in the couple’s Manhasset home.

According to a source familiar with the facts of the case, a court-appointed forensic examiner testified at a closed hearing that O’Reilly’s daughter claimed to have witnessed her father dragging McPhilmy down a staircase by her neck, apparently unaware that the daughter was watching. The precise date of the alleged incident is unclear, but appears to have occurred before the couple separated in 2010. The same source indicated that the daughter, who is 16 years old, told the forensic examiner about the incident within the past year.

As J. K. Trotter explains for Gawker, this is the latest sordid chapter exposed in an ongoing ugly dispute between FOX News host Bill O’Reilly and his ex-wife.

This is the part in which we begin counting the misfortunes about this case, starting with the fact that it is happening at all. Yet, as we know, not all marriages work out. Still, though, Mr. O’Reilly is also accused of meddling with a policeman’s job for revenge, a bizarre circumstance in which he allegedly hired the family arbitrator as a nanny―which resulted in Maureen McPhilmy, his ex-wife, gaining sole custody of their children―and apparently seeking to have the mother of his children excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

But not only is this a particularly ugly battle, it is also one in which a participant is famous in no small part for his cyclopean moralism.

And has been accused in the past of sexual belligerence.

And his notoriety is such that many will simply nod and accept the charges as true because, well, it’s Bill O’Reilly, and let’s face it, the idea that he smacked his wife around isn’t the sort of thing that will actually surprise anyone.

We were able corroborate the fact that the justice issued a decision in the case, and that O’Reilly has appealed it, at the Nassau County Clerk’s office in Mineola. Neither O’Reilly nor McPhilmy responded to requests for comment. A representative for Fox News Channel did not return messages.

O’Reilly’s lack of response is especially worth noting. The anchor has spent his highly remunerated career obsessing over patterns of violence among racial minorities, particularly black people, and the apparently unique effect of violence on the integrity of black families. As he fulminated on-air in December 2014: “The astronomical crime rate among young black men—violent crime—drives suspicion and hostility. … No supervision, kids with no fathers—the black neighborhoods are devastated by the drug gangs who prey upon their own. That’s the problem!”

Or, as O’Reilly claimed in August: “The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African-American family.”

In other words, this could get so spectacularly ugly that it will be hard to not forget what remains at the heart of the issue, a man accused of beating his wife in front of his child.

This is an important thing to remember. This is a terrible accusation, and those who wonder what further blows Bill O’Reilly’s career can endure might well be witnessing the opening lines of his last chapter with FOX News. But while we might wonder if this is finally the episode that does him in, we might also acknowledge that he will, most likely, land on his feet. And for all that might mean to us or not, we cannot forget the heart of the issue―a man accused of beating his wife in front of his child.


Trotter, J. K. “Bill O’Reilly Accused of Domestic Violence in Custody Battle”. Gawker. 18 May 2015.

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