Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Weekly" Column #2: "The O'Rivalry Factor"

"The O'Rivalry Factor" by Joseph Kay
Bill O'Reilly of FOX News's "The O'Reilly Factor" and Westwood One's "The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly" has always claimed to stick up for "the folks" and to do what (at least he thought) was right. He's a noteworthy journalist with plenty of years experience. However, he has quite a few people who don't take too kindly to him.

Al Franken said his name should be "O'Lie-lly". Keith Olberman constantly awards him the "Worst Person in the World" on his show, Countdown. Media Matters for America named him the "2004 Misinformer of the Year". Peter Hart wrote a book called "The Oh Really? Factor". Joseph Minton Amann and Tom Breuer wrote a book called "Sweet Jesus, I HATE Bill O'Reilly" and operate the website

So why would so many left-leaning citizens have such a beef with the self proclaimed "centrist", O'Reilly?

They all have their reasons. Al Franken says that he is a "bully" and a "liar". David Brock, the President of Media Matters for America, accused O'Reilly for being a "coward". And Keith Olberman probably does not appreciate O'Reilly's significantly higher viewer ratings during the time slot they share. No matter what, I think it is time to analyze every feud here and try to make sense of it all. Does O'Reilly deserve this abuse? Or are the "liberal elites" out to get him?

To start, the feud with Al Franken began first. In 2003, Al Franken wrote his book, "Lies! And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right". In this book, he dedicated and entire chapter to Bill O'Reilly and included a very unflattering picture of O'Reilly on the cover. Franken ripped O'Reilly on points like O'Reilly was irresponsible in naming a Polk Award a Peabody, the fact that O'Reilly was, at one time, a registered Republican, the fact that O'Reilly had been misleading about where he grew up, amoung other things. He took O'Reilly to town and did a good job of it. O'Reilly, apparently, didn't appreciate it. On a BookTV Conference, both O'Reilly and Franken appeared to talk about their books. According to Franken, before the show, O'Reilly yelled at both Franken and Franken's editor regarding the unflattering photo of him on Franken's book cover. Franken claims that was the reason why the photo stayed. Franken then got up and gave his speech. When O'Reilly stood up to give his speech he started by accusing Franken for speaking for "35" minutes (Franken spoke for about 20) and started to play down Franken's accusations. Franken tried to interrupt, but O'Reilly refused to let him by saying, "Hey, shut up! You had your thirty-five minutes! SHUT UP!" Franken then stated that "this isn't your show, Bill". According to the transcripts, O'Reilly then spend a good amount of time bashing Franken and saying that he did not "attack" people. (He had, before, called Franken an "idiot".) Ever since that confrontation, O'Reilly refuses to talk about it and he refers to Franken as "Stuart Smalley" (A Franken SNL character). Even more surprising, he convinced FOX News to sue Al Franken for using their "Fair and Balanced" slogan. Needless to say, the lawsuit was thrown out of court.

Was O'Reilly justified in his actions? Or did he overreact? In my opinion, being in the public eye and being as outspoken as O'Reilly, there will be a lot of abuse directed at you and you have to be able to deal with it professionally. I do not believe this was the case. O'Reilly should have taken the abuse from Franken and he would of came out at least looking respectable.

The next feud was with MSNBC host of Countdown, Keith Olberman. O'Reilly and Olberman share a time slot and compete very blatanly. Olberman names O'Reilly the "Worst Person in the World" and, in response O'Reilly put a petition up on his website to get Olberman off the air. Olberman made great fun of this and had his entire staff sign it. When O'Reilly's sexual harassment scandal broke, Olberman celebrated it by poking fun at O'Reilly and still does it today. Last March, O’Reilly dropped a caller from his live radio show, seemingly for mentioning Olbermann's name. O'Reilly accused the caller of being part of a larger group of individuals which had been calling O'Reilly with the sole purpose of mentioning Olbermann. The caller said "I like to listen to you during the day. I think Keith Olbermann..." when O'Reilly cut in, responding to "Mike" as follows:

"We have your own phone number and we're going to turn it over to Fox security and you'll be getting a little visit. [...] When you call us, ladies and gentlemen, just so you know, we do have your phone number, and if you say anything untoward, obscene or anything like that, FOX security then will contact your local authorities and you will be held accountable. Fair?"

Not so fair - Olberman pointed out that Westwood One broadcasts "The Radio Factor" (not FOX News) and it is illegal for O'Reilly to even do what he threatened. Olberman also has nicknamed O'Reilly, "The Giant Head". O'Reilly's only response to most of this is just something along the lines of "Nobody watches MSNBC". This is not true, FOX News' ratings are down 28% from this time last year while MSNBC's ratings are up 8%.

So who is right? Personally, I think O'Reilly's taking this too seriously. They are competitors and Olberman is making fun of it. However, this clearly demonstrates that O'Reilly doesn't like to compete. Unless he wins.

Media Matters for America is a website dedicated to disproving "conservative misinformation" in the news. O'Reilly has become one their favorite targets. They awarded him the "2004 Misinformer of the Year". Media Matters also points out...

"O'Reilly frequently denounces 'cowards' who refuse to face him on-air, saying, for example, 'If you attack someone publicly, as these men did to me, you have an obligation to face the person you are smearing. If you don't, you are a coward.' But O'Reilly has repeatedly attacked Media Matters while refusing Media Matters President and CEO David Brock's request to appear on The O'Reilly Factor."

That is a very good point. O'Reilly responds to them much like he responds to Franken. He name calls. He has called Media Matters "dishonest", a "far left smear website", "loony", "oppressive", "smear merchants", "paid assassins", "morons", "despicable weasels", and "a creepy, little, left wing outfit".

I analyzed the Media Matters site and I can't say O'Reilly is justified. Media Matters is very good about quoting everything in context and pointing out "conservative misinformation". Of all the feuds, Bill O'Reilly loses the most to these guys.

Media Matters is not the only site like this.,,,, and even are all websites dedicated to the the FOX News Channel's conservative bias. They are all very good about documenting this. Robert Greenwald came out with a film called "OUTFOXED: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism". O'Reilly was one of the targets in that film. I do not believe he has commented on it. Featured on that documentary was Jeremy Glick who was know for O'Reilly's most notorious interview. I'm not going to recite those transcripts again because we all know them (if not Google "Jeremy Glick").

Now, the most recent feud (as of now) is not so much of a feud as it is an attack. Joseph Minton Amann and Tom Breuer wrote a book "Sweet Jesus, I HATE Bill O'Reilly" and operate a website of that domain. They have done pretty damn good about calling out O'Reilly's conservative bias and they are arguably the funniest of O'Reilly's rivals. Almost daily, they update their website to rip on O'Reilly. Although O'Reilly has not commented on them yet (as far as I know), this will be a very interesting feud to watch as time goes on.

So, in conclusion, the bottom line is that O'Reilly has many rivals and enemies -- that is fine, most media people do. However, I give little credit to O'Reilly for how he deals with these people. He claims to take a high road, but he calls them worse names then they him. If O'Reilly would meet with these people and try to settle things, he would gain much respect. But he won't, so he doesn't. And I guess that that truly is "The O'Rivalry Factor".

-Joseph Kay

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