Bill O’Reilly

The Moralist, the Moralizing, and the Moral of the Story

Fight: Mikasa awakens ― Detail of frame from Attack on Titan episode 6, 'The World the Girl Saw: The Struggle for Trost, Part 2'.

There is no moral to the story; it is convenient word play in an age of professional moralists and societal resentment toward morals of stories.

A personal moment: Something strange occurred by which a blog accustomed to calling thirty hits an outstanding day pulled about sixty for two in a row. The phenomenon on this occasion is one of a scant few posts written directly about the infamous former FOX News personality Bill O’Reilly, on an occasion he appeared to throw his own mother under the bus.

One of those weird curses of privilege: Since people are reading it, do I deliberately write a follow-up? Great, who wants to read that much of me crowing about the demise of Bill O’Reilly’s tenure at FOX News? And can I really muster the will to wallow in such sordid tales when it means putting Bill O’Reilly’s face on a protracted discussion of sexual harassment and belligerence? And how much should I really complain about the world when this is the question I’m nibbling through lunch time?

Maybe it’s these conundra, even more than the low ethics, that we come to disdain about conservatives. I can still remember a Doonesbury episode from the Time of the Blue Dress, and the idea that Mike was relieved that his twelve year-old daughter already understood enough about fellatio that he need not explain that aspect of the headlines. The idea of putting Bill O’Reilly‘s face on any discussion of sexual harassment almost feels like harassing belligerence of its own.

To the other, it is not so much a question of passing on opportunity; rather, well, damn it, the smartest thing to do would be to stop now.

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An Unfinished Sketch (Trumping the Polls)

[An unfinished sketch of a post; the text file says 13 October. This is just how it goes sometimes; it’s exhausting trying to keep up―you might have noticed we haven’t. Still, herein we find a glimpse of the moment, recorded for the sake of the historical record, and, you know, not really so much my ego, since this could have afforded some better planning and writing.] (more…)

The Donald Trump Show (Telltale Taxes)

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

This is one of those things that has just been bugging me, even though it’s kind of moot. Well, okay, work with me, here. Let us, first, rewind.

It was arguably one of the most important moments of this week’s presidential debate. Hillary Clinton was speculating about why Donald Trump would choose to be the first modern American presidential candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. “Maybe,” she said, “he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Unprompted, Trump interrupted to say, “That makes me smart.”

A Washington Post reporter, watching the debate with undecided voters in North Carolina, noted there were “gasps” in the room after the exchange. “That’s offensive. I pay taxes,” one said. “Another person would be in jail for that,” another voter added.

Steve Benen’s telling of the tale is not unfamiliar; indeed, his formulation of the moment is not unique, because it reads a little better that way, like a one-two. But it is also inaccurate, as is any telling in which Hillary Clinton sets up Donald Trump by saying, “Maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes.”

Hillary Clinton did say that. And as part of the setup. But this telling gives Donald Trump a bit of wiggle room, which Benen, in turn, aims to debunk:

Perhaps now would be a good time to note that “That makes me smart” and “That would make me smart” are not the same sentences.

Indeed, let’s also not forget that in the same debate, Trump talked about how the government doesn’t have the necessary resources for public needs. “Maybe because you haven’t paid any federal income tax for a lot of years,” Clinton interjected. Trump fired back, “It would be squandered, too.”

As we discussed the other day, the comment was striking because of its apparent acceptance of the underlying premise. By saying his tax money would have been “squandered,” Trump seemed to be conceding that Clinton’s argument was correct: he hasn’t paid taxes.

That analysis responds to Donald Trump’s appearance on FOX News two days after the debate:

O’REILLY: Okay. And those of us in Manhattan know that’s true. Now, they are going to come after you, they being the Clinton campaign, on the statement that you made that you were as smart for paying as few taxes as you could possibly pay. You know it’s going to be in the next debate, it’s going to be on campaign ads. Do you have any defense for that right now?

TRUMP: No. I didn’t say that. What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, well, that would make me very smart.

O’REILLY: Right.

Right there, you see Donald Trump lying and Bill O’Reilly helping him: “I didn’t say that”, Donald Trump explained of saying he was smart to not pay taxes. “What she said is maybe you paid no taxes. I said, well, that would make me very smart.” And this is what Benen picked out, and he is exactly correct insofar as the point goes: “Perhaps now would be a good time to note that ‘That makes me smart’ and ‘That would make me smart’ are not the same sentences.”

O’Reilly teed the point up again:

O’REILLY: All right. I’m Hillary Clinton in the next debate. And I say to you what she said yesterday in North Carolina. Hey, if is he not going to pay any taxes and he thinks that’s smart, what does that make us? We pay taxes. Are we stupid? How are you going to answer that?

TRUMP: Well, first of all―first of all, I never said I didn’t pay taxes. She said maybe you didn’t pay taxes and I said well, that would make me smart because tax is a big payment. But I think a lot of people say that’s the kind of thinking that I want running this nation.

O’REILLY: Okay.

Note they are using the same narrative Benen did. So, here’s the thing about stylistics and narrative: Sometimes tailoring for the punch actually weakens the narrative. And this time, the tailoring hands Donald Trump his talking point.

What Hillary Clinton actually said, and how Donald Trump actually responded:

CLINTON: Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told through investigative reporting that he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

TRUMP: That makes me smart.

(Washington Post)

The thing is that Hillary Clinton really did say, “maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes”. And then she said, “because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax”. And that is when Donald Trump said, “That makes me smart.”

Telling the story the way Steve Benen and Donald Trump alike tell it overlooks a specific point: Certes, there is a difference ‘twixt, “That makes me smart” and, “That would make me smart”. But what did Donald Trump actually respond to?

CLINTON: … the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.

TRUMP: That makes me smart.

In this telling, Donald Trump doesn’t get to rely on “maybe”. He acknowledged Secretary Clinton’s argument. Despite his protestations and Mr. O’Reilly’s agreement, Donald Trump really did say paying no federal income tax makes him smart.

And while the latest absurd chapter illuminated by the New York Times pretty much renders last week’s maybe moot it still seems worth pointing out.

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Image note: Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Barstow, David, et al. “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades, The Times Found”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.

Benen, Steve. “Has Donald Trump paid federal taxes or not?”. msnbc. 29 September 2016.

Blake, Aaron. “The first Trump-Clinton presidential debate transcript, annotated”. The Washington Post. 26 September 2016.

O’Reilly, Bill. “Interview with Donald Trump”. The O’Reilly Factor. Transcript. FOX News. 28 September 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Trolling the Gap)

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This is your reminder―

Since launching his presidential campaign, however, Trump has largely ignored what used to be his signature issue. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly broached the subject last night:

O’REILLY: Do you think your birther position has hurt you among African Americans?

TRUMP: I don’t know. I have no idea. I don’t even talk about it anymore, Bill…. I guess with, maybe some. I don’t know why. I really don’t know why. But I don’t think―very few people, you are the first one that’s brought that up in a while.

For the record, Trump fielded a question about this as recently as Monday―the day before this O’Reilly interview. When the candidate said no one has brought up this issue “in a while,” that clearly wasn’t true.

(Benen)

―that Donald Trump is the candidate of the internet troll. The whole pro wrestling metaphor really is tempting, all things considered, but let’s just file that under some manner of reality television. You know, to some degree we’re supposed to believe pro wrestling, too.

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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.

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Bill O’Reilly on His Mother

Bill O'Reilly appears on NBC News' "Today" show, 6 June 2014.  (Photo: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

One of the infamous jokes of the nineties was the occasion when President Bill Clinton, back to the wall in a scandal that was itself scandalous for having come about, decided to parse the meaning of the word “is”.

Bill O’Reilly of FOX News is taking so much damage in the rising scandal of just how much he lies that he has resorted to trying to argue what it means “to see”.

While in El Salvador, reporters were shown horrendous images of violence that were never broadcast, including depictions of nuns who were murdered. The mention of the nuns on my program came the day of the Newtown massacre. The segment was about evil and how hard it is for folks to comprehend it. I used the murder nuns as an example of that evil. That’s what I was referring to when I say, ‘I saw nuns get shot in the back of head.’ No one could possibly take that segment as reporting on El Salvador.

(qtd. in Benen)

This is the latest response from the FOX News host best known for inflammatory exaggeration lies. But compare his explanation with the statement in question:

Soon after the Sandy Hook massacre in Newtown, O’Reilly spoke on the air about the nature of evil. “I don’t think a lot of people understand,” he said. “My mother, for example, doesn’t understand evil. When I would tell her, ‘Hey, mom, I was in El Salvador and I saw nuns get shot in the back of the head,’ she almost couldn’t process it. She couldn’t process it.”

(Emphasis added)

One strange aspect of O’Reilly’s explanation: By his own standard, his mother likely saw the nuns get shot in the back of the head, too. So did I. So did anyone who was alive and aware enough of the news in December, 1980.

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Another O’Reilly Scandal, Can You Imagine?

Bill O'Reilly appeared on 'CBS This Morning' in 2012 to promote his book, 'Killing Kennedy'.  The infamous FOX News host received much criticism in the wake of accusations that he lied about his coverage of the Falkland Islands war.  Now, former colleagues accuse that O'Reilly fabricated an account of his witness to the suicide of Kennedy assassination witness George de Mohrenschildt.  (Image credit: CBS/Media Matters for America)

“Bill O’Reilly’s a phony, there’s no other way to put it.”

Tracy Rowlett

So, you know, like, if I told you Bill O’Reilly has been called out for another famous falsehood in his reportage, would you be all, like, “O … M … G … I mean, really?” or would you be all, like, you know, like, “And?”

Bill O’Reilly has repeatedly claimed he personally “heard” a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into President John F. Kennedy’s assassination while reporting for a Dallas television station in 1977. O’Reilly’s claim is implausible and contradicted by his former newsroom colleagues who denied the tale in interviews with Media Matters. A police report, contemporaneous reporting, and a congressional investigator who was probing Kennedy’s death further undermine O’Reilly’s story.

(Dimiero, Hananoki and Strupp)

‘Cause, you know, like, what, are we supposed to be freakin’ surprised or something?

Totally.

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Dimiero, Ben, Eric Hananoki and Joe Strupp. “O’Reilly Lied About Suicide Of JFK Assassination Figure, Former Colleagues Say”. Media Matters for America. 24 February 2015.

Bull O’Reilly

Detail of 'Animal Nuz 239 - Bull O'Reilly Edition' by Eric Lewis; via Daily Kos Comics, 21 February 2015.Right. This is going to go on for a while.

Move over, Brian Williams. You have company.

Sort of.

What?

I mean, we all knew this was coming, right?

No, seriously, name one news anchor you flat-out trust. If you can, I’ll bet it’s a pundit-show host. Or else you attend public broadcasting ....

Anyway, never mind. This is really happening.

A matter of inevitability, really, and regardless of how stupid it seems.

But come on. This was going to happen, and we all knew it.

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Lewis, Eric. “Animal Nuz #239: Bull O’Reilly Edition”. Daily Kos Comics. 21 February 2015.