Monday, January 16, 2006

O'Reilly Sucks

O'Reilly can't take us for another spin

January 8, 2006

Talkmeister David Letterman is but the latest opponent to prick the balloon that is Bill O'Reilly. "I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap," the comedian told O'Reilly to wild laughter on the Letterman show the other night.

Despite all, the hot air from this "No Spin Zone" dirigible continues to hiss out endlessly over syndicated radio stations, Fox television and via a weekly newspaper column that is almost indecipherable. O'Reilly's remarkable success, however, demonstrates once again that no one goes broke in America underestimating the taste of the public. After the Letterman encounter, it's a sure bet that O'Reilly dashed off to the bank, laughing at the suckers who take him seriously.

Swaddled in his patriotic frock, O'Reilly, who supports the Iraq war, called for "robust debate" but denounced Cindy Sheehan, the Texas mother who lost a son in the battle zone. This crack seemed to freeze the usually lighthearted Letterman in combative mood.

"How can you possibly take exception with the motivation and the position of someone like Cindy Sheehan?" he asked. O'Reilly replied that "she's run by far-left elements in this country. I feel bad for the woman."

"Have you lost family members in armed conflict?"

"No, I have not," said O'Reilly.

"Well, then, you can hardly speak for her, can you?"

Herein lies the problem with this saintly chat-show host. O'Reilly sets himself up as the voice of the working man without checking with the working man. "Cindy Sheehan lost a son," O'Reilly continued, "a professional soldier in Iraq. ... She has a right to grieve any way she wants. ... When she says to the public that the insurgents and terrorists are 'freedom fighters,' how do you think, David Letterman, that makes people who lost loved ones, by these people blowing the hell out of them, how do you think they feel?"

"What about why are we there in the first place?" asked the comedian.

The likes of O'Reilly exploit the quirk in the national character that longs for the wisdom of the common man. Neither common nor wise, O'Reilly manages to fake both qualities and thus reduce himself to something of a fraud. He seems to strive in constant fear of being found out. This dread seemed even more pronounced when Howard Stern appeared on "The O'Reilly Factor." The tension was palpable.

Here was the professional foul-mouthed Long Islander who entertains his TV audience with his fears and sexual fantasies confronting a repressed Catholic homeboy who closets these self-same fantasies - except, apparently, when cornering unwitting women who work for him. Stern was on a mission to promote his new satellite show and thus had bigger fish to fry than attacking the repressed O'Reilly. Throughout the encounter, O'Reilly remained wary of the shock jock.

Stern launched into a rap about lesbians. O'Reilly appeared to engage every milligram of restraint to maintain his television persona. He faked surprise, bemused shock, then settled for trying to recruit Stern to join his supposed charity.

"You can join Habitat for Humanity and build houses ... for poor lesbians."

"Now you're thinking like a degenerate," Stern told O'Reilly, whose expression revealed more than a thousand words. Such moments of revelation must constitute a nagging fright for the poster-board O'Reilly who, like every storefront charlatan he's criticized, is more given to the con than he'd dare let on to his customers.

"I'm the street guy at the front making loud noises about the issues," is how Andrea Mackris remembers O'Reilly describing his role as talk show host on the Fox network. His book's claims to a "working-class" background have been disproved as the convenient spin of a huckster targeting an audience. Instead, O'Reilly is the son of an oil company accountant, comfortably middle class. Knocking around regional TV jobs instructed O'Reilly that it's more lucrative standing up for the working man on TV if you can pass yourself off as one yourself.

Misrepresentation is the key to viewing O'Reilly, who is nothing if not a spinmeister.

Mackris' statement came from her 22-page, juicy, detailed legal complaint filed against O'Reilly for sexual harassment. She accused her boss of conducting lewd and threatening talk - talk she considered "paranoid, rambling, strange and alarming." O'Reilly settled the case for a sum one newspaper estimated as high as $10 million.

In his post-Letterman column, O'Reilly once again paints himself as an upright, patriotic American "traditionalist" who believes the country was well-founded - adhering to "Judeo-Christian principles like generosity, justice and self-sacrifice." Letterman was far too generous in describing as "crap" only 60 percent of what O'Reilly says on the air. It's a lot closer to 90 percent.

So much for the "No Spin Zone."

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