Bill O’Reilly was back from vacation and instantly in rare, midseason form on Monday. His hour included lamenting the blanket media coverage devoted to the Michael Jackson story — in a segment where, without a trace of irony, he devoted at least five minutes to talking about the Michael Jackson story.
The inevitable highlight that I tuned in to see, though, was O’Reilly’s reaction to Al Franken being sworn in as a U.S. senator from Minnesota. The host didn’t disappoint, calling Franken’s long-deferred election “a sad day for America.”
Franken, of course, built up his slim political resume by picking feuds with prominent conservative voices, writing the book “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot” and “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” Moreover, O’Reilly unintentionally helped promote the latter by prodding his bosses at Fox to file suit in an effort to legally block the second book’s publication — a bid that the judge dismissed as “wholly without merit, both factually and legally.”
Beyond the indignity of being pictured on Franken’s book, O’Reilly was still smarting over a joint appearance at the Los Angeles Book Expo in 2003. With each allotted time to speak, Franken pretty much filibustered for about a half-hour (C-SPAN covered the event) before an exasperated O’Reilly shouted, “Hey, shut up! You had your 35 minutes. Shut up!”
Conservatives in general are apoplectic about the phrase “Senator Franken,” but for O’Reilly — who has plenty of imagined enemies, never mind the real ones — seeing those words together is a much more personal affront and must be, indeed, a sad day. Still, for his viewers — or at least those fascinated by the host’s combustible nature — watching him fume whenever the former “Saturday Night Live” writer’s name gets mentioned is doubtless going to be extremely entertaining.