FOX News host Bill O'Reilly frequently accuses the "left-wing media" of launching "personal attacks" on him and other conservatives with whom they disagree. But O'Reilly's accusations of "personal attacks" and "character assassination" from the "left" are often baseless, while his own attacks on liberals and Democrats are both personal and frequent.
On January 7, O'Reilly devoted the "Talking Points Memo" on FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor and an entire hour of the nationally syndicated Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly to discussing these "personal attacks." Here's how he opened the Radio Factor:
O'REILLY: The topic in the first hour is character assassination. Is it okay with you? We're seeing it now on a daily basis in the newspapers -- mostly left-wing newspapers -- practicing character assassination as routine business.
O'Reilly rarely provides specific examples of such attacks. Discussing White House counsel and attorney general nominee Alberto R. Gonzales on January 7, O'Reilly referred to "a smear on Gonzales by the left-wing newspaper industry in America"; he also mentioned efforts by the "left" to "smash Gonzales, embarrass Gonzales, demean and marginalize Gonzales" but provided no specific examples of such treatment. On The O'Reilly Factor the following evening, O'Reilly referenced articles from that day's New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Boston Globe as part of a "coordinated effort" to "attack" Gonzales but did not provide specific examples of unfair attacks in those articles.
On the January 7 broadcast of The Radio Factor, O'Reilly did cite examples of what he claimed were "personal attacks" on him -- but these were actually arguments with O'Reilly about political issues. O'Reilly accused Boston Globe editors of writing an editorial in response to one of its regular conservative columnists, Jeff Jacoby, whose December 30, 2004, column chronicled "liberal hate speech." O'Reilly claimed that the Globe's editors gathered examples of right-wing hate speech, including one from O'Reilly, and published them in response to Jacoby and that the quotation of him telling a Jewish caller concerned about Christmas celebrations in school, "If you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel" was "totally out of context and false." In fact, the January 3 Globe piece O'Reilly referenced (which echoed Media Matters for America's "Top 10 Most Outrageous Statements of 2004") was a single reader's letter to the editor.
During the same show, O'Reilly claimed that a University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey R. Stone, who appeared as a guest on the December 17 O'Reilly Factor, called him "all kinds of names" and labeled him "the meanest guy" because O'Reilly "destroyed him on The Factor." O'Reilly explained that Stone had resorted to personal attacks in a December 24, 2004, op-ed because "he knew he got his butt kicked" in debate.
In fact, Stone's op-ed did not include name-calling or personal attacks but addressed the substance of questions he and O'Reilly had debated. Stone did accuse O'Reilly of "demagoguery" and deliberately inciting hatred against people who oppose the Iraq war, but he did so based on his interpretation of specific statements by O'Reilly. There were no baseless attacks on O'Reilly's character or personal life.
Perhaps O'Reilly considers terms like "irresponsible," "opportunistic" and "demagoguery," which Stone used, to be "personal attacks," but by this standard O'Reilly is far guiltier of engaging in such attacks than those he criticizes, though he has repeatedly insisted that he doesn't engage in "personal attacks." "I don't get up every day and personally attack people. I don't," he said on the December 10, 2004, Radio Factor.
Apart from attacking Media Matters, as Media Matters president and CEO David Brock reviewed in a December 16, 2004, letter, O'Reilly has launched personal attacks on other public figures and institutions. Here are a few examples:
- O'REILLY: "You can understand how people like me, and maybe a lot of people watching, think you are a loony lefty when your book, Fanatics & Fools, which -- I like the title, but I hope you are not in that group -- is endorsed by the following: Molly Ivins; Bill Maher, Bill Moyers; and Larry David. Why don't you get Che Guevara on that? Oh, he's dead. How about Fidel Castro? Come on, they are the far-left fringe. That's who you're hanging with, Arianna. ... You don't think Molly Ivins is a socialist? Read her books. She even admitted it.
- "Anyway, he reviews a book by Eric Alterman -- another Fidel Castro confidant -- What Liberal Media?" [O'Reilly Factor, 5/3/04]
- "[Y]ou know [French President Jacques] Chirac is a really nasty SOB." [Radio Factor, 10/8/04]
- "No, now you're absolutely right I mean the man [former Vermont Governor Howard Dean] has got this thing inside him that he is a real vitriolic kind of guy." [Radio Factor, 10/15/04]
- "And unlike Jimmy Carter -- who remains clueless to this day about the presidency and everything else, I mean, the guy is just in the ozone -- [Bill] Clinton isn't." [Radio Factor, 10/25/04]
- "Well, I mean you have a strain of fanatical women like -- what was this? Cameron Diaz? Remember her on Oprah? Saying if you vote for Bush they're gonna take away our bodies - or, what are they gonna do?" [Radio Factor, 11/3/04]
- I mean if she [Senator Hillary Clinton] continues to be this left-wing nut, what [caller's name] says is absolutely true, you know? [Radio Factor, 11/4/04]
- And the reason that it hasn't been done is because the big oil companies and the big car manufacturers don't want it done. You know, this is one thing I agree with Ralph Nader on, that loon. [Radio Factor, 11/4/04]
- So, you basically break this down to the fact that the Democrats, at this point, have no leadership at all. None. There's no leadership in the party. The most visible spokespeople for the secular left liberal movement are loons. Howard Dean -- Howard Dean? Who would cut and run from Iraq? Howard Dean? I mean, this is a guy who has absolutely no conception of the evil America faces. None. And these are the standard-bearers? The New York Times? Which would drive quickly in a rain storm by you, splashing mud on your clothing, and then laugh? That's who's over there. I know those people. That's who's over there. [Radio Factor, 11/4/04]
- Carter is a fool. Jimmy Carter -- a fool. [Radio Factor, 11/15/04]
- Okay? Do the math. [paraphrasing Senator John Kerry] "FOX News attacked me" -- aw, you're a -- he's a sissy. He's a sissy. I knew it when he couldn't throw the ball at Fenway Park -- he's a sissy. You're a sissy. [Radio Factor, 11/29/04]
- But it doesn't seem like the community's rallied behind you because, if they did, these two cowards who we mentioned, the principal and the superintendent, Parks and the other guy, would have to -- they couldn't do it if everybody -- if all the parents felt the way that did you, went down and pulled the kids out. [O'Reilly Factor, 11/29/04]
- Now, here's what the director of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, says. And, he's a coward, this Romero. He's a moral coward. Because he does stuff all the time and then won't explain it -- hides. Never answers questions. [Radio Factor, 12/10/04]
- This guy, [Los Angeles Times columnist] Tim Rutten, we've invited him on many times. He's a coward in addition to being a liar. [Radio Factor, 12/20/04]
- But, that doesn't matter because [former PBS host] Bill Moyers is a fanatic. A secular, far left fanatic. ... Moyers is a coward. [Radio Factor, 12/20/04]
- Snide, snide, snide -- but that's [Los Angeles Times editorial page editor and Washington Post columnist Michael] Kinsley's MO. He's a snide SOB and he always has been. And, I'm just reporting -- I know the guy. He's just awful. [Radio Factor, 12/21/04]
- Because [Newsweek contributing editor] Anna Quindlen, as nutty as they come -- with all due respect. Okay. [Radio Factor, 1/3]
- "So, I'm sending you [actor George Clooney] a message now, pal. I'm not impressed with your pot-bellied pig. I don't care about Oceans 19. The way you conducted yourself in the last 9-11 telethon was wrong. You were wrong, what you said was wrong, attacking me was wrong. We straightened it out -- we, The Factor, and you were an idiot -- okay? Now, we say that with all due respect. [Radio Factor, 1/5]
- I mean, this Joe Lockhart -- he was Clinton's press secretary. He was Kerry's -- at the end, head honcho adviser. Lockhart's a bad guy -- he's just a bad guy all around. And I know this guy. I've dealt with this guy -- bad guy, top to bottom. [Radio Factor, 1/10]
UPDATE: O'Reilly's statement about Lockhart was added to this item after its initial posting. Two dates were also corrected.