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Political Animal

Foul and Unbalanced

By Brian Morton | Posted 9/3/2003

Bill O'Reilly, Bill O'Reilly, Bill O'Reilly. (There--that should get his attention on a Lexis/Nexis search.)

We here at Animal Control always used to laugh at CNN's Larry King. When King was the overnight talk-radio host whose show was syndicated back in the 1980s by the Mutual Broadcasting System, you were guaranteed a few good laughs listening to him opine about subjects he knew absolutely nothing about. For example, King practically boasts about being a Luddite, and during one show about computers a kid called in to tell King's guest, computer writer John C. Dvorak, a joke.

"John, you know what OS/2 stands for?" the kid asked. "Half an operating system! Hahahahahahaha!"

King said ponderously, "I have no idea what he just said."

The major annoyance about Larry King is that, although he claims not to be a journalist, he still accepts all the journalism prizes when they are bestowed upon him. That the major journalism-award organizations still give them to him says as much about journalism prizes as it does about King.

Fox News Channel pundit Bill O'Reilly, unlike King, has become legendary not for the awards he has received, but for an award he hasn't. O'Reilly is now notorious for publicly bragging about a journalism prize he never won on a program that aired after he left. What's worse, now he's on a rampage to either insist that he never made the original claim--but it's a bitch when transcripts are all over the Internet--or to admit the truth while modestly correcting what he says was an error. Except there was no error--O'Reilly made a blanket claim that his show, Inside Edition, won the prestigious George Foster Peabody award for broadcast journalism, even though that claim was a flat-out lie. Inside Edition did win a George Polk award--but not until a year after O'Reilly left his spot as host of the show.

In case you haven't heard about the cable shouter's self-obsessed logorrhea (and who can blame you for trying to tune him out?), the latest news on him since a U.S. District Court tossed out an O'Reilly-instigated lawsuit against Al Franken is that a Portland columnist got a personal phone call from the bully two weeks ago, demanding a correction over a column about the O'Reilly/Inside Edition flap. The Oregonian's Peter Ames Carlin wrote that O'Reilly argued with TV host Arthel Neville on May 19, 2000, when she challenged his journalism credentials and called him a "sellout."

Carlin quotes from the transcript:

"'We won Peabody Awards!' he retorted.

'You got a lot of money, and you sold out!'

'We won Peabody Awards! We won--'"

Carlin says O'Reilly now claims that his use of "we" was similar to the way a football player might talk about his former team. Riiiiight.

Animal Control has personally seen O'Reilly in action--on the very first day of his very first Fox broadcast back in 1996. He spent the better part of his show browbeating and condescending to his first guest, a Clinton cabinet official, who later said that during the commercial break he wanted to ask, "Are you going to cut this shit out?"

Of course, no one dares use the bully's favorite phrase back at him--that phrase would be "shut up." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Michael McGough heard it from O'Reilly in November 2002, when he went on O'Reilly's nationally syndicated radio show to debate his paper's editorial in favor of allowing prisoners to form musical groups and be filmed for a documentary. The writer ended up having to defend himself from a crime victim the show brought out, whom O'Reilly worked up to the point of tears. Afterward, when McGough told O'Reilly that the show exploited the woman, O'Reilly responded with, "Mike, shut up. I resent the fact that you said that we exploited this woman. We gave this woman a voice. That's something that you and your stupid newspaper would never do, you pinhead."

Or, as the New Yorker's Ben McGrath pointed out in the magazine's "Jurispru-dence" column this month, O'Reilly yelled "shut up" at Jeremy Glick, the son of a victim of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack. McGrath wrote that Glick, "on The O'Reilly Factor in February, questioned the U.S. decision to wage war in Afghanistan ('Get out of my studio before I tear you to fucking pieces!' Glick recalls O'Reilly shouting after the microphones were turned off)."

At the start of the Iraq war O'Reilly made clear his views on dissenters: "Once the war against Saddam Hussein begins, we expect every American to support our military, and if you can't do that, just shut up." And, of course, his tirade against Franken at the Los Angeles Book Expo back in May was punctuated by O'Reilly yelling "shut up" any number of times.

Of course, when this so-called spokes-man for the common man (who went to Harvard's Kennedy School of Govern-ment) makes a racist quip, he declares any protest of his actions are "ridiculous and foolish." Which was O'Reilly's response when he was criticized for his thigh-slapper about when a group of black grade-school boys scheduled to entertain at a charity ball in Washington back in April couldn't be found: "I hope they're not in the parking lot stealing our hubcaps," O'Reilly remarked.

And this is the man who made Fox News sue Franken for being, among other things, "shrill and unstable," possibly "deranged," and "increasingly unfunny."

So, class, remember: If Larry King is now a journalist and Al Franken is not funny, what does that make Bill O'Reilly?

Oh, right. He would be non-irrelevant.

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Funny Business (6/9/2010)

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