The O'Reilly Factor

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  • What Would It Take For Bill O’Reilly To Get Fired?

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Over the past two years, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has drawn attention to President Barack Obama's clothing at a Muslim wedding and claimed Rep. Maxine Waters’  (D-CA) was wearing a “James Brown wig,” called “many” African-Americans “ill-educated” with “tattoos on their foreheads,” and praised the workplace conditions of the slaves who built the White House. A co-worker accused him of reducing her on-air time on his show after she turned down his repeated sexual advances. His yarns about heroically covering conflicts in the Falkland Islands, El Salvador, and Northern Ireland were exposed as fiction. His latest biography was rejected as "a disservice to history” written by "an opportunistic interloper" who "debases the historian's craft." This fall marks the 10th anniversary of O’Reilly’s shocked declaration that African-American patrons at a famous Harlem restaurant weren’t screaming expletives at the waitstaff.

    Given this track record, what would it take for Fox News to fire Bill?

    The reason O’Reilly has been untouchable is simple: He makes Fox News a lot of money. His show anchors Fox’s prime-time programming, bringing in the most viewers in cable news for 17 years, according to the network.

    There is no heir apparent. It’s difficult to imagine an Eric Bolling or Greg Gutfeld filling O’Reilly’s seat. If the network loses him, it’s screwed. And so Fox excuses offenses that would get talent at other networks -- or lesser lights at Fox -- kicked to the curb.

    Fox Does Damage Control For Fox’s Bigoted Commentary

    Don Imus, Juan Williams, Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, Curt Schilling, Pat Buchanan, and Laura Schlessinger were pushed out of CBS and MSNBC, NPR, CNN, ESPN, MSNBC, and her radio show, respectively, for making the sort of racially charged remarks that are a regular staple of O'Reilly's programming.

    Fox executives have a much higher tolerance for on-air bigotry (they hired Dobbs, Imus, and Williams after their scandals on other networks) but even they dropped E.D. Hill and Emily Austen after they made racially charged remarks.

    The latest controversy over O’Reilly’s casually racist attack on Waters is instructive. Seeking to stem the onslaught of criticism, a statement was released under O’Reilly’s name that minimized his comments but included the phrase “I apologize.” The statement circulated widely and was described by some journalists as O’Reilly “express[ing] regret.” Hours later, speaking to his own audience, the Fox host laughed his way through a similar statement before attacking Waters’ patriotism and dog-whistling some comments about her support for the “entitlement system.”

    Fox doesn’t appear to care about what O’Reilly says. It just does damage control.

    When O’Reilly’s Fabrications Were Exposed, Fox Attacked His Critics

    Journalists depend on the willingness of their audiences to believe them. That makes fabricating a story the profession’s greatest sin.

    When questions were raised about tales Brian Williams had told about his reporting exploits, NBC News convened an internal investigation of Williams’ claims that eventually led to his removal as anchor of Nightly News. Over the years, The New York TimesJayson Blair, The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke, and The New Republic’s Stephen Glass have all lost their jobs when stories they reported were exposed as inventions.

    O’Reilly spent much of 2015 trying to salvage his journalistic credibility after Mother Jones, Media Matters, and others dismantled a host of tall tales he had told about his journalism career. His incredible claims about reporting from the battlefield during the Falklands War, being present for the suicide of a key figure in the John F. Kennedy assassination, seeing “nuns get shot in the back of the head” during the civil war in El Salvador and “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast,” and getting “attacked by protesters” during the Los Angeles riots were all false.

    Rather than investigate the allegations, as a credible news network would, Fox sent O’Reilly out to deny the claims in interviews and on his program. As the fabrications mounted, the network released a statement attacking O’Reilly’s critics and saying they would no longer respond to the “accusation du jour.”

    For Fox, evidence that its top host had concocted stories about his past work was an attack to be deflected, not a serious allegation to be reviewed.

    Fox Paid Off A Former Employee Who Accused O’Reilly Of Sexual Harassment

    Fox spent much of last summer embroiled in a massive scandal over dozens of allegations of sexual harassment by its employees against its founder and CEO, Roger Ailes. After an internal review, Ailes resigned.

    But just weeks after Ailes’ termination, Fox’s parent company paid off former contributor Juliet Huddy to keep her from filing a lawsuit accusing O’Reilly of sexually harassing her for years and using his position to punish her when she rebuffed him (O’Reilly and the company denied the allegations).

    This was at least the second time O’Reilly had been accused of workplace sexual harassment; he settled a 2004 lawsuit by one of his show’s producers for millions of dollars. It’s unclear if the network has taken any steps to protect its employees from its star’s advances.

    What Would It Take?

    By Fox News’ own standards and the standards of the rest of journalism, O’Reilly should have been fired long ago.

    But O’Reilly seems to be worth more to Fox than its reputation with African-Americans offended by his comments, or its duty to other employees who might be subjected to his sexual entreaties, or its stature as an outlet that cares about journalism. Until the network’s executives start caring about something more than the bottom line, or O’Reilly’s ratings fall, or he finally does something so terrible that it offends the right stakeholders, his position at the network will remain secure.

    When Fox fired an executive just this week over racist remarks she allegedly made to African-American co-workers, the network put out a statement claiming, “There is no place for abhorrent behavior like this at Fox News.

    Apparently there is a place for that behavior: hosting the network’s highest-rated broadcast.

  • Media Matters President Angelo Carusone: Bill O’Reilly’s “Apology” Is Meaningless And He Should Be Fired

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone released the following statement after Fox News host Bill O’Reilly issued a statement apologizing to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comparing her hair to a “James Brown wig”:

    Bill O’Reilly’s apology ain’t shit. He should be fired.

    Don’t be fooled. O’Reilly’s apology is hollow. Immediately after O’Reilly’s spokesperson released the statement, he personally took to Twitter. Not to tweet an apology himself. But instead to decry ‘political correctness’ - a position that O’Reilly and his ilk usually retreat to when they are criticized for bigotry (or worse). You don’t need to be familiar with his long history of racially inflammatory attacks to know what he was trying to convey with this tweet.

    And yes, Bill O’Reilly should be fired. Not by my standards. I don’t think it would be fair to expect O’Reilly or Fox News to adhere to those. But instead, by Fox News’ own standard. Just four days ago, Fox News fired its longtime comptroller due to an extensive history of racially inflammatory attacks. Explaining the termination, Fox’s spokesperson said that there was ‘no place for abhorrent behavior’ like that at Fox News.

    O’Reilly didn’t get the message - and he of all people at Fox needed to hear it. Racism is just as much a fixture of O’Reilly's program as bluster is.

    Fox News set the standard for acting here. They said racism doesn’t have a place at Fox News. Now, four days later, the network has to decide: will they abandon their standard of not supporting racism in favor of their standard bearer, or will they hold O’Reilly accountable? They can’t have both.

    O’Reilly’s remarks drew a firestorm of criticism from commentators who called them racist and sexist. He will reportedly address his comments on tonight’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor. However, it is unlikely that any apology tonight will be sincere -- on Twitter, he has promised a "big political correctness" segment on the show.

    Media Matters has documented Bill O’Reilly’s extremely long history of not just making such comments but also of enabling and rewarding people like Jesse Watters who do the same.

    UPDATE:

    Media Matters President Angelo Carusone reiterated his call for Bill O’Reilly to be fired after The O’Reilly Factor host was forced to address comments he made on Fox & Friends about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA):

    “It was clear that the statement issued on Bill O’Reilly’s behalf earlier today apologizing for his remark about Rep. Waters’ hair was hollow. Its emptiness was confirmed when O’Reilly opened his show accusing the Congresswoman of being unpatriotic and attacking her over what O’Reilly characterized as a “love” of welfare (a textbook dog whistle).

    I’ll reiterate what I said earlier today: Bill O’Reilly’s apology ain’t shit. He should be fired.

    One other thing: What we witnessed from O’Reilly today is media manipulation 101. First, the host issued a generic hollow apology when he came under fire. Next, the media wrote up his apology -- largely treating it as sincere. But at the end of the day, O’Reilly came home to his audience, assailed his target and deployed a different racial attack.

    In this scenario, O’Reilly gets the benefits as if he apologized without any consequences or even needing to change his tune. I strongly encourage any reporter that uncritically wrote up his statement from earlier today to go back and update your story accordingly to expose its hollowness. Don’t let O’Reilly and his press flack play you for a fool.”

  • Bill O’Reilly’s History Of Racism

    ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was widely criticized for his racist remarks in which he mocked the hair of an African-American congresswoman, saying it looked like she was wearing a “James Brown wig.” This isn’t the first time O’Reilly has made such comments; in fact, he has a history of saying racist things.

  • Trump Tweets Congress Should Investigate Clintons After Hannity Promotes Uranium One Conspiracy

    Blog ››› ››› BOBBY LEWIS

    President Donald Trump tweeted that Congress should investigate Bill and Hillary Clinton for a “deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia,” hours after Fox News host Sean Hannity promoted the story on his radio show.

    On the March 27 edition of The Sean Hannity Show, Hannity revived the long-debunked conservative claim from discredited Clinton Cash author Peter Schweizer that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allegedly sold “20 percent” of American uranium to the Russian government in exchange for Clinton Foundation donations. Hannity and guest Pat Buchanan argued that the “whole Uranium One fiasco” involved Bill and Hillary Clinton, with the former president “giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid.” Hannity also mentioned “John Podesta’s connections to the Russians” as something that is a “bigger crime” than Trump and Russia:

    SEAN HANNITY (HOST): We already know a bigger crime, and what about John Podesta's connections to the Russians during the campaign, number one. Number two, look at this whole Uranium One fiasco, while Bill Clinton -- Hillary Clinton’s secretary of state, he's giving speeches in Russia, getting paid twice what he normally gets paid. They get -- for the Clinton Foundation -- literally millions and millions of dollars sent to the Clinton Foundation, Hillary herself has to sign off on the Uranium One deal, where Russia literally controls 20 percent of American uranium?

    PAT BUCHANAN: Well exactly, all of these things were revealed, but the question is who will investigate the investigators? I mean, I saw, I think it was in the Post this morning or one of the papers, they're said, "Look at these -- they're trying to divert the attention away from the Russia connection to the WikiLeaks and to the getting into the DNC and Podesta files to this other thing." But look, I’m not against doing that, going into the Russian connection, if it's fair, but after eight months of investigating and you’ve turned up -- you can't even say who talked to who?

    A few hours later, Trump, who has pushed the smear before, parroted Hannity’s comments on Twitter, asking, “Why isn't the House Intelligence Committee looking into the Bill & Hillary deal that allowed big Uranium to go to Russia.” Trump also said Congress should investigate the “Russian speech" and the "money to Bill,” as well as the “Podesta Russia Company.”

    This appears to be the latest public example of Trump responding to segments from Fox News figures. In January, Trump responded to a segment on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor about crime in Chicago, tweeting, “If Chicago doesn’t fix the horrible ‘carnage’ … I will send in the Feds!” Trump has also responded directly to Fox & Friends at least half a dozen times in March. On March 17, Trump blamed Fox News as the reason for his false claim that former President Barack Obama used British intelligence agencies to spy on him. Even after causing an international incident by citing a Fox figure, Trump continues to follow their lead, this time by resurrecting the repeatedly debunked Uranium One smear.

  • TV News Coverage Of Trump’s Policies Overwhelmed By His Wiretapping Lie

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Broadcast and cable news coverage of ruinous economic policies rolled out by the White House last week was overwhelmed by the president’s false accusation that his predecessor illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election.

    On March 13, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that up to 24 million Americans would lose access to health insurance over the next 10 years if the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare goes into effect. On that same day, the Trump administration unveiled an overlooked executive order that encourages cabinet secretaries and agency directors to create a plan to completely reshape a federal bureaucracy of over 2.8 million employees. And on March 16, the Trump administration unveiled its budget outline for the 2018 fiscal year, featuring proposed “massive cuts” to nondefense spending. The proposed cuts, which would offset an increase in spending on military programs and a border wall, would hit almost every facet of the federal government, but they would come down particularly hard on funding for small programs including Meals on Wheels, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.

    Yet according to Media Matters research, from March 13 to 17, President Donald Trump’s false wiretap claim dominated TV news coverage, overshadowing discussion of these important policy moves. While Trump’s lie certainly merits extensive media coverage, it’s also crucial to share details of his policymaking with the public.

    Trump ignited a media firestorm in early March when he repeatedly accused former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him in the midst of last year's election. Right-wing media, led by Fox News, sprang to his defense even though the president offered no evidence to support his claim. Meanwhile, legitimate reporters exposed the bizarre accusation’s source as “the right-wing fever swamps” of fringe media and reported that it was pushed by a Russian state-sponsored news network. During March 20 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, FBI Director James Comey put Trump’s wiretapping lie to rest, telling the committee, “I have no information that supports those tweets.”

    Yet nearly two weeks after Trump initially made the claim, his smear of Obama still had such an influence on television news coverage that it overshadowed every other discussion about Trump’s policy agenda last week. Media Matters identified 226 segments from March 13 through 17 that focused on Trump during evening programming on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC and major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Of those segments, 64 focused on Trump’s wiretapping allegations -- a figure that dwarfed every other major issue Media Matters identified. Coverage of Trump’s health care plan came in a distant second place, with 37 segments, and stories related to the portion of Trump’s 2005 tax returns obtained by Rachel Maddow ranked third (26 segments). Trump’s proposed budget outline was discussed in just 14 segments, and his executive order to reshape the federal workforce registered just four mentions.

    With television news forced to dissect and debunk Trump’s outrageous claims, coverage of pressing economic issues was eclipsed. Coverage of the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- which health care experts have said would be particularly harmful to low-income Americans, seniors, and people dealing with illnesses -- could not overtake that of Trump’s wiretapping tweet, even with the Trump administration attempting to smear the CBO numbers in the press. The executive order, which was described by CNN reporter Stephen Collinson as part of Trump’s larger goal to “dismember government one dollar at a time,” barely registered in news coverage at all. And Trump’s budget cuts, which would decimate social safety net programs, were discussed 14 times during evening news coverage on March 16 and 17, while Trump’s lie about wiretapping was discussed 35 times on those two days.

    Trump’s promotion of a discredited lie accusing his predecessor of illegal conduct while in office merits extensive media coverage, but the policies he has enacted or plans to enact can be just as destructive as the misinformation he spreads. Media cannot afford to let Trump's misleading claims dominate the news cycle, drowning out crucial coverage of the pain his policies may cause the United States.

    Methodology

    Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening news programming (defined as 6 p.m. through 11 p.m.) on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, as well as the major news programs on ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS, from March 13, 2017, through March 17, 2017. We identified and reviewed all segments that included any of the following keywords: Trump or executive order or federal government or federal employ! or federal worker or federal workers or civil service or government workers or government worker or federal government or budget.

    The following programs were included in the data: ABC's World News Tonight, CBS' Evening News, NBC's Nightly News, and PBS' NewsHour, as well as CNN's The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, and CNN Tonight, Fox News' Special Report, The First 100 Days, Tucker Carlson Tonight, The O'Reilly Factor, and Hannity, and MSNBC's For The Record, Hardball, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word With Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air reruns, only the first airing was included in data retrieval. This survey includes CNN’s second live hour of Anderson Cooper 360 during the 9 p.m. to 10 p.m. time slot.

    For this study, Media Matters included only those segments that contained substantial discussions of Donald Trump. We defined a "substantial discussion" as any segment where a host dedicates a monologue, or portion of a monologue, to Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States, or any segment where two or more guests discuss Trump, his activities, or the policies he is pursuing as president of the United States. We did not include teasers or clips of news events, or rebroadcasts of news packages that were already counted when they first aired in the 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. survey window.

  • Trump Rewards O'Reilly Minion Who Previously Aired Racist And Misogynist Reports

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT & CRISTINA LóPEZ G.

    Fox News host Jesse Watters will interview President Donald Trump for his show Watters World. Watters, who originally appeared on Fox as a correspondent for The O’Reilly Factor, has a track record of disparaging segments about immigrants, women, Asian-Americans and African-Americans. He has also produced reports in which he shamed homeless Americans, mocked members of the LGBTQ community, and “followed, harassed, and ambushed” a journalist.

  • Apparently The Jobs Report Is No Longer A Massive Conspiracy?

    ››› ››› CRAIG HARRINGTON

    President Donald Trump immediately retweeted right-wing media praise for a strong February 2017 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which showed above-average job creation and a steady unemployment rate last month. Trump’s willingness to embrace the BLS monthly jobs report is at odds with his past approach -- at least over the last four years -- of slamming the number as “phony” and as merely a political tool of the Obama administration.

  • STUDY: Women’s Voices Marginalized In 2016 News Coverage Of Foreign Affairs And National Security

    ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Women accounted for just one-quarter of total guests discussing foreign affairs and national security in 2016 during prime-time programming on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and on the five major Sunday political talk shows. This stark disparity between women and men is actually a slight improvement over previously established trends for 2015 and 2014, but more work remains to be done to better include perspectives from women. Over the last 3 years, Media Matters has partnered with Foreign Policy Interrupted to expose and address gender disparities in news coverage of foreign affairs and national security.