I’m by no means a fan of Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, but I’ll give him a small amount of credit for being one of the few people from the conservative entertainment channel who does interviews away from the safety of the Fox studios – although I’m sure his ego and need for attention have a lot to do with it.
O’Reilly went on with “Late Show” host David Letterman this week and got confronted about his past exaggerations and alleged lies, with Letterman asking why Brian Williams was suspended by NBC News for a lie but O’Reilly has escaped any kind of punishment from Fox News.
“It comes down to the same thing, with you and Brian,” Letterman said. “Trust is the residue of both positions. So people must trust you to the same degree, they might disagree with you, but they must trust you the same way they trust Brian Williams.”
“I’ve been on the air 19 seasons, 15 years at number one,” O’Reilly answered. “Our ratings now are as high as they’ve ever been, so I think they do trust me and I’m glad they do.”
First, Letterman is exactly right. The reason why Williams was suspended wasn’t just because he lied, but because as a news person he needs to be someone who people can trust to be honest with them. Clearly that’s far more difficult to do when you’re blatantly caught lying for over a decade about a story that never happened.
But that’s exactly what O’Reilly has apparently done – multiple times. Whether it’s been his apparent lies about what happened to him during the Falklands war, or his whereabouts when a key person in the JFK assassination investigation committed suicide, the Fox News host has apparently been fabricating more than a couple stories from his past.
Yet, he’s faced absolutely zero repercussions from Fox News.
It’s ridiculous to point to ratings as some sort of barometer on whether or not someone is or isn’t trustworthy. If you pander to a certain audience, almost always telling them exactly what they want to hear, your ratings are going to be fairly solid. The reality is Fox News does so well when it comes to ratings because they’re simply pandering to conservatives as opposed to objectively reporting the news. Not to mention, it’s about the only news channel that the majority of conservatives will watch.
The truth is, conservatives couldn’t care less if O’Reilly lied, no matter how egregious those lies may be. For many of them, they’ll either dismiss the truth as “a liberal plot” against the Fox News host, or they simply won’t care because O’Reilly will continue to tell them exactly what they want to hear.
Though I think Bill Maher summed up this entire situation the best when he said that the reason why Brian Williams was suspended and Bill O’Reilly was not is because O’Reilly isn’t a real journalist. Williams is someone who was held to a higher standard by not only the public at large, but by his peers as well. Meanwhile, everyone already knows what O’Reilly really is – nothing more than a conservative entertainer masquerading as a credible journalist.
Watch clips from the interview below via CBS:
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