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It’s His Job, Bill
by Tony Sarrecchia
3 July 2003 Bill O'Reilly

Certainly any cretin who would kill his parents based on the depth of Keanu Reeves’ acting ability deserves the full brunt of O’Reilly’s wrath.  But Robert Scheer's column in the Los Angeles Times did not deserve similar treatment.

Bill O’Reilly is confused.  Now, some of you are no more surprised by that statement than you would be if I said ‘Bill Clinton is an adulterer’ or  ‘Jerry Falwell is a myopic bible thumper.’ However, this is different.  For all of O’Reilly’s faults (or strengths, depending on your point of view), I thought O’Reilly could give a functional definition of his job and my job.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

While surfing the satellite the other night, I saw a commercial about a man who killed his parents because of the Matrix movie.  ‘Whoa,” I said, in my best Keanu Reeves voice, “this will be a good source of column material. ”  The lawyer of the killer was going to be on The O’Reilly Factor (Fox News Channel) defending his client.  “What an idiot.” I said.

“Who are you talking to,” my wife asked from the other room.

I had not watched The O’Reilly Factor in a while. The last time I saw it, I felt sorry for his guest—a bubble-headed blonde ex-Playboy centerfold vegetarian—and was of the general opinion that O’Reilly was a bully.  Then again, he had called George “I hate the USA” Clooney a weasel and was dead on about Dr. Sami al-Arian’s ties to terrorist groups.  Maybe I was too harsh.  Certainly any cretin who would kill his parents based on the depth of Keanu Reeves’ acting ability deserved the full brunt of O’Reilly’s wrath.

The O’Reilly Factor had just started, barely 30 seconds into it, when I knew the shouting at the television was about to begin.  At the start of his show there is a segment called Talking Points, an emotive editorial delivered by O’Reilly.  Tonight, it was about Robert Scheer, lead columnist of the Los Angeles Times.   The gist of O’Reilly’s argument was that Scheer called President Bush and the administration liars about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the seizure of Iraq’s oil, and the rescue of Jessica Lynch.  In his defense, O’Reilly said that, at the moment, we do not know the truth about Lynch’s rescue (or the WMDs), but that if the Pentagon is lying there will be a ‘terrible scandal’.  So far, so good.  Then O’Reilly asked if Bush and company are telling the truth, what will the L.A. Times do to Scheer.  Quoting from the official transcript of Talking Points, “…the L.A. Times could loose credibility if they’re [sic] lead columnist turns out to be a provable propagandist,” O’Reilly seared at the camera.  Ok, he did not sneer, but he certainly made his megalomanical condensing scowl.

Bill, Bill, Bill; you are crossing the fascism line that your opponents say you cross daily.  Nothing should happen to Scheer if he is wrong.  He is a columnist.  No one fires you when you misquote a statistic or show your lack of understanding of various historic events. Scheer's job is to share his interpretation of events.  That is what I do and that is what the writers on every editorial page in the country do: tell the readers what we think.  “Provable propagandist?”  It’s only propaganda if you disagree with it; otherwise it’s enlightenment.  For O’Reilly to call someone else a propagandist is like Michael Jackson complaining that Cher isn’t real because she has had too much plastic surgery.  O’Reilly, you’re right about many things—but you’re so far off the mark on this that you need to go back for recalibration.  For a columnist to suggest that another columnist loose his job because his opinion is different jeopardizes both writers’ jobs. Ultimately, that behavior jeopardizes all columnists everywhere as well as showing a frightening disregard for the first amendment.  Would O’Reilly prefer if we run our columns by him first—maybe then we could all be enlighteners rather than propagandists…

At this point, my wife came into the room asked me to stop shouting and turned off the television.

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