By Scott Gillette
night, I spent an inordinate time thinking about Bill O’Reilly. Watched his
show, took out two of his books from the library, scoured the internet for
something about him. This project was unexpected, but when any prominent person
says something unexpected, one needs to know your subject inside and out.
O’Reilly’s success is based on his unfailingly straightforward approach,
coupled with his formidable communication and debating skills. When so much of
what we hear from political animals is obfuscation, he can connect with his
audience without pretense or cant.
does have a tendency for grandstanding and belligerence which I always have
found distracting. After all, it is a bit much to decry the influence of
Hollywood types on political discourse, and then to devote large portions of
your show to that very subject. But to each their own. That’s a part of the TV
business, as his high ratings demonstrate.
O’Reilly’s combination of brashness and certitude have led him to make
remarks that will not disappear, unless he adopts the same willingness to
apologize that he expects from his guests.
O’Reilly was emceeing an event on April 12th sponsored by the Best
Friends Foundation, a non-profit that provides a curriculum and resources for
children from 5th to 12th grade to make the proper
decisions outside of school. During the festivities, a capella group of 6th
to 8th grade boys called the Best Men was late making it back onto
the stage to perform. Trying to fill the time, O’Reilly quipped, “Does
anyone know where the Best Men are? I hope they’re not in the parking lot
stealing our hubcaps.”
6th to 8th graders are usually not associated with the
theft that O’Reilly is describing. Most adolescents who engage in criminal
activity do so later in adolescence. More importantly, the boys that were the
target of O’Reilly’s cheap joke were in a singing group. Anyone with a
cursory understanding of the “gangsta” culture that embodies most teenage
delinquency today (regardless of race) would agree that 12 year olds in doo-wop
bands are not trying to make their mark through criminal activity.
why did O’Reilly make this off-the-cuff remark? No kidding…the kids in the
Best Men are black. O’Reilly stereotyped young black men with criminal
activity, even though the majority of black boys under the age of 18 do not
engage in criminal activity.
members of the crowd, according to Lloyd Grove of the Washington Post, did not
hear the remark. However, Bo Derek was in attendance and acknowledged hearing
the remark, although provided no additional comment. Washington news anchor
Andrea Roane, after hearing the remark, was purported to have muttered,
“Unbelievable.” An anonymous source added, “The well-known Republican
politicians and their spouses seated at or near my table were appalled.”
is true that O’Reilly has given tens of thousands of dollars to the Best
Friends Foundation. It’s also true that he donated $5,000 that night to Best
Friends. Clearly, O’Reilly wishes for these black children, like all children,
to succeed in life.
said that, O’Reilly’s comments are unacceptable. They perpetuated an unfair
stereotype, and they were nasty in tone. O’Reilly should apologize. One does
not have to worship at the temple of political correctness to share this
would expect the same for the guests on his show. Time and time again,
O’Reilly takes people to task for their own unacceptable remarks, and demands
that they apologize. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
of this article, O’Reilly does not agree. He told the Washington Post, “This
is ridiculous and foolish. No good deed goes unpunished. If you guys want to
snipe at me, then snipe at me. This thing raised a lot of money for a good
charity. Everybody was happy. I don’t want to comment on anything else.”
Well, Mr. O’Reilly, you should comment, and you should apologize. Your statement, even in the context of a charity event, cannot be explained away. You should know that words have consequences, as your entire career is based on that belief. It’s time to own up to these remarks, so you can put them behind you. But if you don’t, it would demonstrate a failure of character. Remember, Mr. O’Reilly, you’re in a no-spin zone.
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