More From the No-Spin Zone
When the judgment of history is written about the Trump Years, one of the great moments—up there with his big bromance with Putin and his remarks about how being a star means you can grab pussy—will be the president’s defense of Bill O’Reilly’s having paid millions to settle sexual harassment claims by five women.
It seemed a little crazy the way the president interrupted a serious discussion with the press about foreign and domestic issues to speak up for the beleaguered newsman who was under attack for his usual dirty phone calls and attempts to make his staff take him seriously as a love-object.
What made it even more bizarre for the president to come to the aid of this alleged pervert and dirty middle-aged man was his having proclaimed April “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month” and his declaring “we must develop meaningful strategies to eliminate these crimes” and “protect vulnerable groups.”
None of which prevented the president from delivering a ringing endorsement for the allegedly slimy newsman, appending a good character report. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” he told the startled press. “He is a good person.”
Well, what are friends for, anyway?
One of the great friendships in history, like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or Octavian and Agrippa, the two iconic figures are in a battle for Hypocrite of the Year.
I’m betting on O’Reilly with the publication of his latest best seller, “ Old School,” several hundred pages enunciating and codifying his support for wholesome values and principles as a family values warrior since 1969 on “The O’Reilly Factor.” It could make both the Non-Fiction and Fiction bestseller lists, given the allegations of those who spurned his advances in the work place.
What is fascinating about the friendship between these two low lives is they are the two sides of a coin.
Intellectually, our president is a man of no fixed convictions. What is laughingly called his principles are flexible, capable of change by time of day, the last person spoken to, or what he reads in his journal of record, Breitbart.
O’Reilly hasn’t changed an opinion since 1996. And I speak here as a leading O’Reillyologist – the “Boswell to his Johnson,” according to the New York Times review of my definitive biography, “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up.”
No matter how complex, even smart readers of these e-columns might find issues with two— or even three—sides, O’Reilly never takes a bye.
He reminded me of the words of William Lamb (later to be Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne) about Macaulay, the famous British historian): “I wish I was as cocksure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything.”
Billo is one of those people of whom it can be said, ”Often wrong, but never in doubt.”
What surprises me about the latest kink in the rise of Bill O’Reilly as the most loved and loathed journalist in the nation is how many supposedly smart hip people consider the allegations about work place behavior, as they say in cablenetworkeese, “breaking news.” Especially at Fox News.
Whatever you think of Roger Ailes politics, he understood TV is a visual medium. Towards fulfilling this mandate, he is said to have personally had a hand in selecting staff.
It didn’t matter how much a job applicant knew about the great Brest-Litovsk Treaty of 1918 or what Lord Palmerston said about Schleswig-Holstein*.
Without meaning disrespect, blondes and long legs trumped other qualifications for casting directors, usually middle-aged balding executives, none of whom would ever win a Jack Nicholson or Warren Beatty, or even a Donald Trump look-a-like contest.
Remember Kitman’s first law of TV journalism:
Sex makes strange bedfellows.
How could a man of such high principles do the things alleged in the disgruntled employees settlement cases?
Roger Ailes once explained it to me: “Bill has two sets of principles. One for himself and one for others.”
* The British statesman Lord Palmerston is reported to have said: “Only three people have ever really understood the Schleswig-Holstein business –the Prince Consort, who is dead –a German professor who has gone mad—and I, who have forgotten all about it.”
April 11, 2017