If you clear away all the schadenfreude and chaos around Bill O’Reilly’s defenestration from the heights of the Fox News tower in midtown Manhattan, there’s a fascinating little detail. You’ve no doubt seen O’Reilly’s claims that he’d been forced out because of a liberal smear campaign against him. Everyone with half a sense has responded that O’Reilly got booted because of his years of abusive behavior, because his behavior finally became too public and because his bosses decided that the financial and reputational impact of his behavior was more than they could tolerate. What is notable though is this day after revelation that shows how in a very mendacious, embittered and embattled way he actually thought this was true.
In the emails one of his lawyers accidentally sent to a Politico reporter, O’Reilly revealed that he thought he had one final shot at saving his job: evidence of an actual liberal conspiracy aimed at getting him fired. The evidence was an email from a Democratic fundraiser named Mary Pat Bonner setting up conference calls with Media Matters President Angelo Carusone to discuss “the success of the campaign so far, and our plans moving forward.”
It sounds like the smoking gun. Trump/Russia researchers on Twitter would die for something like it.
This was in fact a very deliberate and organized campaign to get O’Reilly fired by driving media coverage of his behavior and harassment lawsuits and specifically getting advertisers to pull out of his show. Of course, this revelation is hardly a revelation since the campaign was not only well-known but its publicity was the nature of the campaign itself. It’s not like the word got out. The campaign was, is and had to be a publicity campaign. It amounted to taking the original Times story about the multiple lawsuits, blaring it as far and as wide as possible and organizing or threatening boycotts against advertisers who didn’t end their relationship with O’Reilly’s show.
So let’s stipulate. There was an organized campaign. It was run largely by liberal activists. And everybody f’ing knew about it! The campaign amounted to these organized liberals being as loud as they could publicizing their campaign to drive away O’Reilly’s advertisers. And publicly taking credit for their success!
I can imagine being on some panel and arguing with some conservative pundit about whether this proves liberal bias or that O’Reilly is a victim or something about free speech or a million other things. There’s no end of ridiculous arguments floating around the public square. The key though is that O’Reilly thought this was true but thought it could be effective in saving his job.
In other words, he thought there was a chance that the people deciding his fate would see this email and think “Hey, wait a second! We were going to fire O’Reilly. But now it turns out we’re just being set up, used as pawns by liberals like Mary Pat Bonner to get us to fire O’Reilly, who’s really the victim in all this!”
In many ways, there’s a much, much more important story going forward about the fact that the people deciding O’Reilly’s fate had known for many years about his behavior and happily tolerated it. But why would O’Reilly think that this email amounted to anything? I would submit that in this final moment, O’Reilly was duped by the ‘war on christmas’, liberal media bias dumbshit victimology racket he had been selling on his show for two decades: comically melodramatic, victim-preening nonsense aimed at whipping up feelings of resentment and rage. In other words, he was deluded in these final moments of his cable TV existence by his own racket! His goose had long been cooked. But this was his final undoing.
As a minor addenda, this is one reason I’m not sure Tucker Carlson will ever be able to succeed in O’Reilly’s place. Whatever you think of O’Reilly, he was a master at a certain kind of early 21st century rage and nonsense based public theater. There are numerous other careers which have been launched just by imitating, mocking and exploring the numerous intricacies and dimensions of the O’Reilly character and shtick. I do not think Tucker has the born-before-1950 outer boroughs rage gland that made O’Reilly and his real estate doppelgänger Donald Trump such Fox stars. No one can replace the master.