Do we live in Idiocracy or Anchorman?
The fall of Ron Burgundy Bill O’Reilly suggests the latter movie. His stiletto-heeled pursuers shocked, shocked — yet another movie analogy — reaction to cable the talker noticing them for their appearance indicates that we live in the former.
The headlines — “New Bill O’Reilly Accuser Said He Called Her ‘Hot Chocolate’ and Leered” and “Ex-Fox Guest: He Teased Blondes” — say something disturbing. Whether O’Reilly’s comments disturb or the vast commentary on the comments disturb says something about us, namely whether we fall under the “snowflake” or “old school” category. What say you?
Some women land lucrative jobs in cable news because someone noticed their looks. Then they land lucrative legal settlements because someone noticed their looks. Fox News Channel, which benefited from sexed-up presentations, now suffers because of that emphasis.
Whoever said “Don’t kiss where you eat” — or something like that — never said it to Bill O’Reilly. And he’s a talking head, not a listening head, after all.
Bill O’Reilly is about to enter the no-win zone. A guy paid $25 million a year for his opinions apparently offers them for free off camera. Like the views that he shares on The O’Reilly Factor, his oversharing in public settings bothers some, and so the two-minutes hate, which he periodically indulged in on his wildly successful program, turned on him. Every Robespierre gets his turn at the guillotine.
“I met him at a party,” Judd Apatow relays on Twitter, “and he looked at Halle Berry and said ‘beautiful woman. I bet she’s not the sharpest crayon in the box.’ A horrid man.”
More, to borrow an O’Reillyism, pinhead than pithy, the boorish remark merely colors the speaker as a jerk. Don’t jerks rate jobs too? One might even call “pompous” a requirement in his job description. Alas, the nightmare of media types becoming the story fits here. O’Reilly either returned to the airwaves to talk about himself — his two decades at Fox show no aversion to this — or ignore one of the year’s most pervasive media narratives. This is the no-win zone.
Former O’Reilly Factor guest Wendy Walsh alleged a thwarted attempt by the host to host her in his hotel room. “I could feel him getting colder and more distant,” she explained at a press conference this week, “and with every appearance my job opportunities at Fox getting further and further away from me.” But the rating juggernaut invited her back on his program thirteen times, and repeatedly promoted her book, subsequent to that unwelcome invitation. At the presser with lawyer Lisa Bloom, Walsh, who stressed she does not seek remuneration, contended that after rebuffing O’Reilly’s advances: “He got very hostile very quickly.”
When does the poor staffer on the receiving end of the S&M command “We’ll do it live!” launch his sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill O’Reilly?
The senior citizen’s saga represents not so much a battle of the sexes as a clash of generations. Telling two yellow-haired guests “thank you for your blondeness” strikes many older people as innocuous; complaining about it, as Kirsten Powers did to multiple layers of the Fox News Channel’s bureaucracy, seems over the top. For some younger people, the reverse is true.
The smoke seems copious enough for the host to choke on. But the fire, which excludes any mention of pinches, aggressive passes, or other terribly obnoxious (as opposed to mildly obnoxious) behavior powerful men sometimes inflict on women dependent on them, looks relatively small if unquestionably inappropriate. But with Fourth Estate colleagues feverishly blowing it into a conflagration, it consumed O’Reilly’s career.
Reports say O’Reilly remained on vacation during his firing. My sources tell me they spotted him on the streets of San Diego (founded by the Germans) muttering “milk was a bad choice.”
But as Ron Burgundy’s example shows, comebacks do happen. Authoring Killing O’Reilly — no ghostwriter needed on this one — seems like a sound first step on the redemption trail.