Irking Bill O’Reilly, Rule No. 1: Don’t Do His Show

The only thing that makes Bill O’Reilly angrier than arguing
with him, it turns out, is refusing to argue with him.

The Fox News host lashed out Monday at Jason Whitlock, a columnist, who declined to appear on his show. O’Reilly took
umbrage at the racially tinged language the writer used — which was unnecessary and provocative — but my guess is he was
equally irked by Whitlock dismissing him as “a TV entertainer.”

Because here’s a newsflash: O’Reilly’s program, and indeed a
lot of cable news, is theater, built on conflict. And if O’Reilly can’t get
people who have angered him to come on the show so he can confront them, he’s
stuck talking to Bernie Goldberg, Juan Williams, and the other Fox talent he
regularly brings on to talk for as long as he can endure the sound of their voices.

Whitlock didn’t state all of his column very artfully, but he was spot-on regarding one key point: “The O’Reilly
Factor” isn’t a courtroom, and there’s nothing that says its host has a
God-given right to confront his critics. Moreover, if you do venture into the
lion’s den, the game is rigged, since O’Reilly and his producers control
every aspect of the appearance.

I say all this as someone who has been on “The Factor,” and
more recently turned down an invitation (or a “summons,” if you prefer) because it seemed so utterly pointless. You’re not there for your insights, but rather as a prop. (Another disclaimer: Although I wrote a
column in the past for, I have never met Jason Whitlock, and
don’t share much with him other than our apparent fondness for food.)

Frankly, whatever the motivation, I wish more people would
adopt a “Just say ‘No’” policy when it comes to such shows. Trust me, the five
minutes on air are seldom worth the aggravation. Nobody’s mind will be changed.
I doubt your book sales will go through the roof. And about all you usually have to show for it is the moment when a neighbor
says, “Hey, I saw you on TV,” and then inevitably struggles to remember what
you were brought on to discuss.

Although Glenn Beck nearly got away with it, cable talk is
hard to sustain as a monologue. So racial language aside, Whitlock hit O’Reilly
right where he lives by telling him to go it alone, with no one to talk to
except a monitor. And that’s why in this latest mini-fracas, the person
O’Reilly is looking out for, at least in part, is himself.


Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 1

Leave a Reply

1 Comment

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. bbg95 says:

    You have misread why O’Reilly was so upset. Yeah, it annoys him when people won’t go on his show, but he’s usually content to just call them cowards or say they’re “hiding under his desk” (the actual quote he used when describing Whitlock) and move on.
    Whitlock’s mistake was that ridiculous “response” in which he essentially accused O’Reilly of being a racist. Needless to say, O’Reilly did *not* like that at all, and rightfully so. Trust me. I watched O’Reilly every day for almost five years (roughly from January 2008 through November 2012), and he never said anything like what Whitlock accused him of saying (and if he had, he would have been fired).
    *That’s* why he’s upset, not because Whitlock wouldn’t do his show (though he is correct that Whitlock comes off as cowardly by not doing it when Bob Costas had no trouble defending himself on the show). I understand why Whitlock didn’t want to do the show (he knew that O’Reilly would probably demolish him if for no other reason than that it’s his show, and that gives him a major advantage in almost all debates in that venue).
    I’m fairly certain that if Whitlock had just declined the invite and left all the race stuff out of it, O’Reilly would have just moved on, perhaps taking one more potshot at Whitlock before he did. He would not have declared war on Whitlock, just as I’m almost certain he did not declare war on you when you declined his an invitation. He probably didn’t even mention you.
    But what Whitlock didn’t realize is that he is essentially a nobody in the grand scheme of things (this is why it was absurd that he offered to have O’Reilly come on his little podcast that has a miniscule fraction of the reach that O’Reilly’s TV show does), and he just picked a fight he can’t win. He better hope that O’Reilly is going to get bored (though I kind of doubt that since Whitlock just did a podcast on the subject), or there won’t be much left of him before too long.

More Voices News from Variety