The Kitman–O’Reilly Debate

Nobody likes to disagree with Bill O’Reilly. He speaks with such assertiveness. His judgments sound like they come from higher places. He does not think he is God, only God’s representative on cable.

His thunderous pronouncements from on high on political, social, and cultural issues, morality and ethical behavior, remind some of what William Lamb (later to be Prime Minister Lord Melbourne) said about Macaulay, the famous British historian: “I wish I was as cocksure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything.”

And I should know whereof I speak. As the author of the definitive biography on the nation’s leading opinionator (See “The Man Who Would Not Shut Up: The Rise of Bill O’Reilly”), I had 26 interviews with the man Himself and recorded 37 hours of his zeitgeist.

I had accomplished what some critics saw as a miracle as the Boswell to his Johnson. I had written, not to coin a phrase, a fair and balanced book. I actually found some good things to say about him. Mine was the first book to do that, other than the six he wrote about himself.

As a reward for my having the courage to refute the theory that he was wrong about everything but never in doubt, I found myself on O’Reilly’s Do Not Mention List and the book fell into the Sixth Dimension and disappeared.

I now write the book off as a youthful blunder.

Nevertheless, without malice, I must disagree with my former old friend regarding his analysis of Chris Christie’s chances in the coming 2016 Republican presidential nomination race.

Before a packed house of Factor fanatics and fellow travelers at the 92nd Street Y last week (6/18/14), the Omniscient One went out on the limb to say of my governor: “He’s done.”

O’Reilly’s morbid finality is based on the thesis that he has been undone by unpleasantness associated with last September’s politically orchestrated traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge. The Gasbag, as GQ called him, is not dissing our governor because he has developed a few blemishes since his party considered him the Man on the White Horse after his re-election in 2012, a campaign in which he claimed to be the man who can balance the budget, fix the roads and bridges that were falling down, solve the pension mess, end cronyism, bring back governance that was pure as the air of New Jersey, and whatever else Gov. Corzine neglected to do while speeding at 95 MPH on the Turnpike.

No, he is writing Christie off so prematurely because of the actions of staff members in closing the lanes, and not confessing right off the bat that he was the architect of the cock-up. Even if he didn’t do it. At worse, when all the indictments are in –four are said to be on the way from Federal investigators — the governor’s managerial abilities might be in question.

The Republican Party is no stranger to leaders whose associates failed to live up to his high standards.

Nobody likes to question a scholar like O’Reilly’s sense of history, but surely he can remember Dwight Eisenhower’s staff problems. As much as we all liked Ike, the distinguished President of Columbia University arrived in Washington on a white horse to clean up corruption and other messes, only to find the Panza to his Quixote— his chief of staff —was not as clean as a hound’s tooth. Sherman Adams, the fashionista, was caught wearing that most famous vicuna sports coat contributed by devoted lobbyists.

And then there was my favorite clean government Republican chief executive, Warren Harding. The Ohio newspaper publisher not only had a tootsie in the White House Closet (Nan Britton, who served as First Girl Friend) but smoked cigars, drank whisky, played poker with his cabinet members while they were robbing the nation blind in the Teapot Dome Scandal of 1923.

Space limitations prevent a further listing of Republican icons with a background of questionable employment decisions.

It’s time, Bill, you came down from your ivory tower, and smelled politics.

There will not be a single candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016, I predict, who will be coming into the GOP’s Run for the Roses without a reason to hold our noses. We may have reached the point in the evolution of the greatest democracy in the world since Athens that such shortcomings are part of the candidate’s portfolio today.

Chris Christie is not done yet, Bill. And I’m not done explaining why not, either. Don’t miss the next chapter of the Kitman Letters.

I’m telling you all of this now as an old friend in disrepute because I worry your reputation for infallibility is endangered.


Marvin Kitman
The Executive Producer
June 22, 2014

Marvin Kitman was the media critic at Newsday. His column, “The Marvin Kitman Show,” began on Dec. 7, 1969, a day that still lives in infamy, according to network executives. On April 1, 2005, he stepped down from his position of power. As he explained, “Newsday gave me a tryout, and after 35 years we decided it wasn’t working out.” He is the author of nine books.