BILLO THE LOTHARIO
I have been pummeled, battered, denounced and otherwise found fault with for not rushing into print with my usual pithy commentary on the greatest media story of the century. “I see that your buddy O’Reilly is in a bit of trouble,” noted one of the kinder noodges about my neglect of the continuing romantic adventures of the host of “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Normally, Internet sticks and stones can break my bones but not make me write about a subject that disgusts me. But as the “Boswell to his Johnson,”— as the critic in the New York Times Sunday Book Review called my amazing feat of having written, not to coin a phrase, a fair and balanced book about the journalist who was the most loved or loathed cable news star in history (“The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly,” St. Martin’s, 2007)— it behooves me to say a few words about his race to become the Casanova of the airwaves.
(BTW, by “fair and balanced,” what they meant, it was the only book that said anything good about the man, other than the first six he wrote about himself.)
As the world’s leading O’Reillyologist, people want to know, can I explain his alleged conduct in being accused of sexual harassment by five women who received payouts from Billo, as his fans call him, or his employer (Fox News), which the New York Times said now totals $13 million, and counting?
Can anyone explain Roger Ailes’ employee relations policies as the creator of Fox News and without whom “The O’Reilly Factor” wouldn’t have been possible.
Or our president, Donald the Groper? What made the groper –in-chief think it was okay for him to be grabbng the crotch of the 16 who thus far have come forward to attest to God’s gift to womenkind’s ideas about how to make friends and influence people?
It’s just something men of power seem to abuse. As Lord Acton, who was not thinking about sex, put it, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men..."
It’s the sort of thing that has been going on since biblical times, if not earlier.
I was reminded of how it all worked while reading the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Solomon the other morning.
David, as you recall, was on the roof of his palace, while working on his tan. Happening to notice Bathsheba taking a shower on a nearby roof, the king sent his emissary to invite his neighbor up to his palace for drinks and conversation. And the rest is biblical history.
I did not dwell on the love life of my subject any more than Boswell did on Samuel Johnson’s. So I was surprised as anyone at the first of Billo the lothario’s efforts to establish his credentials as a lady-killer that made headlines.
The Great Phone Sex Caper of 2004 told the story of the super star anchor plying a young producer with late night dinners, unwanted sex chatter. You remember, it was the one about the loofah, Carribean shower fantasies, Thailand sex shows.
At the time, the lurid story had hit The Internet faster than a Lindsay Lohan video.
It turned out O’Reilly was hypersensitive about the subject. In his opinion, his sex problems did not belong in what the Times had called “a definitive biography.” I disagreed. Omitting it would be like not mentioning Monica in a definitive biography of Bill Clinton or omitting Watergate from a book about Nixon.
To his credit, O’Reilly had second thoughts. “Marv, I realize as a journalist you have to deal with the subject,” he told me on the phone back in the days when he was still talking to me. He even gave me advice on how it should be handled.
“Three sentences,” he said. Sentence one: O’Reilly had a problem. Sentence two: O’Reilly dealt with the problem. Sentence three: It’s history.”
I had written three chapters, proving that he was being blackmailed. A champion of family values would never do any of those things his producer had taped.
I cut it down to one chapter. But he still hated the book.
O’Reilly was so eager to flush the incident down the sewer he paid the plaintiff off. Keith Olbermann on “Countdown” (MSNBC) claimed it took ten million to make it disappear down the memory hole.(The Times now claims it was nine million).
“And he didn’t even get a kiss,” Olbermann said.
In retrospect, given the latest news about his exploits, it’s no wonder he didn’t want me to write at greater length about his early attempts at becoming the Rudolph Valentino of cable news.
What a piece of work!
I’ll have more to say about cable network news’ most beloved and loathed champion of morality and family values when the spirit moves me.
And right now it don’t.
The Marvin Kitman Show
April 9, 2017