If there is anyone in the media whose experience and integrity has earned them the respect of their peers and the right to provide guidance to others – well, it isn’t this guy:
Indeed, Bill O’Reilly is proof that journalistic standards have waned. It’s nice of him to admit it. He is perhaps best known for telling guests to “Shut up,” and for declaring imaginary wars against holidays. Last night on his Fox News program he decided that he would promote himself to professor and lecture a guest on the standards of journalistic conduct, a field he has studiously avoided.
The guest was liberal commentator Leslie Marshall. In response to O’Reilly’s diatribe against Occupy Wall Street protesters, Marshall noted that the Tea Party had many of the same problems that O’Reilly assigned to the Occupiers. Specifically she raised the issue of the Koch brothers and their role in creating and promoting the Tea party.
Incensed, O’Reilly demanded to know whether Marshall had any direct evidence that the Koch brothers had bankrolled the Tea Party:
“Leslie, you are a Fox News contributor, you have a responsibility. Can you prove that the Koch brothers are tied into the Tea Party financially? Can you? […] I want to remind you not to make statements you can’t back up on this network. We don’t do that on this network. Other networks do. We don’t.”
The involvement of the Koch brothers in the Tea Party is not a secret. They flaunt it. Their Americans for Prosperity pays the expenses for speakers like Sarah Palin to travel the country on buses painted with Tea Party logos. Unfortunately, Marshall was ill-prepared to respond. She stumbled and conceded that she had no “check in hand.” That led O’Reilly to declare his hollow victory and tell her, in effect, to shut up as he turned to another guest with whom he agrees.
More interesting is O’Reilly’s arrogant scolding that making statements that cannot be backed up is not permitted at Fox News. Of course, there are warehouses full of documentation that reveal the absurdity of that assertion. From death panels to birth certificates to global cooling to monkey mercenaries (I’m not kidding), the list is too long to condense here. However, for convenient evidence to the contrary, all you would have to do is rewind your DVR to watch O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo” delivered at the top of this program. In it he castigated the Occupy movement as pawns of nefarious behind the scenes power brokers:
“These people are being exploited by powerful radical organizations. They are being used in the hopes of embarrassing the USA. The Occupy Wall Street movement is not – is not – a spontaneous protest against inequality. It is a well thought out campaign to bring down the infrastructure of this country. To turn us into a Western European type entitlement state. That’s what George Soros, MoveOn, the SEIC (sic), and many far-left journalists want. And they are using the protest to that end.”
And what did O’Reilly have to back up any of that? Not a dang thing. MoveOn and some unions (including SEIU) have expressed support for the movement, but they were not involved in organizing or directing it. Soros has no association with it whatsoever. And the allegation that the the goal of these clandestine conspirators is to “bring down the infrastructure of this country,” must be O’Reilly’s attempt to fill Glenn Beck’s shoes now that Beck has descended into Internet purgatory.
It’s rather astonishing to watch O’Reilly pivot from hurling a load of nonsense like this in a prepared segment, without backing it up, to chastising a guest for not having reference materials to affirm comments made extemporaneously in a live debate. But that’s not even the worst of it. O’Reilly’s opening segment also attacked MoveOn for producing a video to solicit support for a Marine who was seriously injured by police at the Occupy Oakland demonstration.
“Enter the radical MoveOn organization which is funding some of the occupiers. It took just hours for them to produce this video. [MoveOn Video] Now it’s obvious that MoveOn was ready to exploit any violence so that they could portray the USA as a police state. That is part two of the Occupy movement. First demonize capitalism, tell the world how unfair the U.S. economic system is. Then show the world the cops are fascists. Disgracefully the mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan, caved into the radical left. [Quan Video] Nice job Mayor. Throwing your entire police department under the bus. That’s what real leadership is all about.”
For some reason O’Reilly is surprised that MoveOn was able to post a one minute long video within a few hours of a breaking news event. That shows how little O’Reilly knows about the news business. But in telling this story, O’Reilly criticizes the video only after cutting out 22 critical seconds – the entire portion that showed Scott Olsen, the injured Marine, and the police assault on the demonstrators who tried to help him. (See the whole MoveOn video here). Removing that footage distorts the context of Mayor Quan’s statement. She was not apologizing for the police behavior, or throwing them under the bus. She was expressing regret for the grievous harm suffered by a veteran who was demonstrating peacefully.
O’Reilly’s objective here is to characterize the Occupy protesters as violent thugs itching to incite a riot. Rush Limbaugh posited the same theory on his radio show:
“They are hoping some sort of Kent State type massacre is gonna take place. They are hoping that there’s gonna be some kind of civil disobedience. They are hoping that general unrest is gonna take place, a riot is gonna start, the cops are gonna go in there to try to quell the riot, and I think that’s what they’re hoping for. This is the chaos that everybody is looking for.”
The irony of Limbaugh articulating such a devious plot is sublime. A few years ago he expressed his hopes for the Democratic National Convention in Denver saying “Screw the World! Riot in Denver!”
“[T]he dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”
Let’s face it, it’s miscreants like Limbaugh and O’Reilly who are hoping for chaos and violence. The protesters of the Occupy movement have been consistent in their insistence on peaceful behavior. That contrasts with Tea Partiers who carried guns to rallies or signs saying that “We came unarmed THIS time.”
Bill O’Reilly does not have the moral standing to criticize other people’s intentions or behavior. His personal history is rife with examples of low character and shamelessness. And so far as lecturing others on making statements that are not backed up, he really needs to shut up. In fact, that would hold true for everyone on Fox News.