O'Reilly opens new front in "war" on Christmas

Video ››› ››› ANNA DIMOND

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On the November 9 broadcast of his television show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly said "I don't believe most people who aren't Christian are offended by the words 'Merry Christmas.' I think those people are nuts." Later, when guest Philip Nulman, an advertising and marketing executive, said that using the phrases "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays" does not offend Christians, O'Reilly disagreed. "It absolutely does," he said. "And I know that for a fact."

O'Reilly's comments occurred during a discussion about his "decision to look at some retail policies this year" in light of the purported fact that "some department stores even tell employees to avoid saying 'Merry Christmas.' " Introducing the segment, he described various retailers' policies on using the term:

O'REILLY: Here's what we found out: Sears/Kmart would not answer our questions. Spokesman Chris Braithwaite simply ducked the issue. Their website banners: "Wish Book Holiday 2005." They were the worst we had to deal with. OK? Sears/Kmart. JCPenney says its catalog is always called "Christmas catalog." Federated Department Stores -- Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Burdines -- says the words "Merry Christmas" will be used in most advertising. Same thing at May, Filene's, Lord & Taylor, and Marshall Field's. But Kohl's refused to define how the company will deal with Christmas. Dillard's, however, will use the slogan "Discover Christmas, Discover Dillard's." So there you go. Shop where you like the atmosphere. Just remember, Kohl's and Sears/Kmart, basically, not all right.

The segment was part of an ongoing series of reports on Fox News highlighting a purported "Christmas Under Siege" by "secular progressives," which O'Reilly promoted along with Fox News host Sean Hannity before Christmas 2004. In recent weeks, O'Reilly has renewed the campaign, including, for example, an October 20 discussion on his TV show in which he blamed the "loony left" for the "war" on Christmas while promoting Fox News host John Gibson's new book, The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought (Sentinel, October 2005). In addition, during the November 1 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, he claimed that, like the country's Founding Fathers, Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr. does not "want all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena."

From the November 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: "Factor Investigation" segment tonight: As you know, Christmas has become controversial in America. Public displays of the federal holiday are under attack by the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union], and some department stores even tell employees to avoid saying "Merry Christmas." So we decided to look at some retail policies this year, and here's what we found out: Sears/Kmart would not answer our questions. Spokesman Chris Braithwaite simply ducked the issue. Their website banners: "Wish Book Holiday 2005." They were the worst we had to deal with. OK? Sears/Kmart. JCPenney says its catalog is always called "Christmas catalog." Federated Department Stores -- Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Burdines -- says the words "Merry Christmas" will be used in most advertising. Same thing at May, Filene's, Lord & Taylor, and Marshall Field's. But Kohl's refused to define how the company will deal with Christmas. Dillard's, however, will use the slogan "Discover Christmas, Discover Dillard's." So there you go. Shop where you like the atmosphere. Just remember, Kohl's and Sears/Kmart, basically, not all right.

With us now, Philip Nulman, author of the book Just Say Yes!: Extreme Customer Service [Career Press, 2000]. That's what I like, extreme customer service. All right, 85 percent of Americans say they're Christians. Christmas is a federal holiday, signed into law by [President] U.S. Grant. And we're living in a time where some retail outlets will not say "Merry Christmas." Insane?

NULMAN: No, no, I don't think it's insane. I think that it's good business practice, actually. And many organizations are trying desperately to be inclusionary. They feel that the use of "Merry Christmas" in their packaging, their bags, their messages, their environment is just the opposite. It's exclusionary to the 15 or 20 percent of the customer base that is not Christian.

O'REILLY: And you agree with that?

NULMAN: I do, from a marketing standpoint.

O'REILLY: See, I think you're, I think you're crazy. And here's why. I think the backlash against stores that don't say "Merry Christmas" is enormous because now people are aware of the issue. There's going to be -- it's like the third or fourth year that we've reported it. I know everybody's hypersensitive about are they going to say "Merry Christmas"? Are they going to say "Happy Holidays"? What are they going to say? Are there decorations that say "Merry Christmas"? They're hypersensitive. And when you walk into a secular environment, most Christians are looking around, and they're really aware of it. Now, the other thing is, I don't believe most people who aren't Christian are offended by the words "Merry Christmas." I think those people are nuts. I think you're crazy if you're offended by the words "Merry Christmas."

NULMAN: Well --

O'REILLY: So you're basically only knocking out your nutty customers. And why do you want them anyway?

NULMAN: When businesses make decisions to be inclusionary as opposed to exclusionary, they do it on the basis of wanting to invite all customers in.

O'REILLY: But what --

NULMAN: They don't want to exclude customers --

O'REILLY: They are inviting all customers in --

NULMAN: What happens very often is that the message gets through to the customer that -- who is not Christian --

O'REILLY: Yes.

NULMAN: -- who is Muslim, who is Jewish, who's, who follows another faith, Buddhist, that they are not being invited in or catered to. When we counsel businesses, what we want to do is invite everyone in.

O'REILLY: Well, they --

NULMAN: "Season's Greetings" and "Happy Holidays," Bill, does not offend Christians.

O'REILLY: Yes, it does. It absolutely does. And I know that for a fact. But the smart way to do it is "Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Season's Greetings, Happy Kwanzaa."

NULMAN: It's a long list.

O'REILLY: It's OK, you've got a big store. You've got a big store.

Stories/Interests
Religion, War on Christmas, Separation of Church and State
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