Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Bill O'Reilly's Non-Apology Tour is Trumpian in some ways, though not in others. O'Reilly is much better than Trump at remembering and reciting carefully crafted talking points: He's been in the news business 43 years and worked for 12 different companies and no one's ever lodged a sexual harassment claim against him; the number and cost of his sexual harassment settlements are reported incorrectly in The New York Times, though he's legally forbidden to correct the errors; and so on. I don't think Trump could sit down and work out talking points this well constructed, not even with expert help, nor could he remember them accurately. Trump's approach is to form a grudge, then tell the world about it repeatedly for days until something else irritates him and he's on to a new grudge. Occasionally he circles back to an old grudge and the cycle repeats. O'Reilly is much more calculating.

But the self-pity is similar, as is the narcissism. In the same way that Trump and his handlers have tried to make him the true victim of the Niger incident because his conversation with the wife of a slain soldier has been criticized, O'Reilly has declared himself the true victim of his own acts of sexual harassment.

He's sulky. He sounds wounded. Go listen to the episode of the New York Times podcast in which reporters Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt discuss their recent O'Reilly interview with host Michael Barbaro, and play clips from the interview. Steel and Schmidt wrote the two big Times stories about O'Reilly's harassment cases; O'Reilly asked to speak to them, then went into his sullen, menacing martyr act as soon as they arrived, as the reporters recount on the podcast:
SCHMIDT: It was pretty clear from the moment that he walked in the room that this was not going to be a normal interview. The handshake was sort of muted, it was a very sort of quick sort of handshake, and he quickly retreated back to the other side of the room and sat down.

STEEL: We -- Mike and I sat on one side of the table and he sits on the other, in between his two lawyers, and O'Reilly kind of leans back in his chair and crosses his legs and puts his hands -- he kind of clasps them on top of his stomach.

SCHMIDT: He had a very angry look on his face. He was staring directly at me. He wouldn't even look at Emily.

BARBARO: The entire time?

STEEL: At some points he did, but for most of the time he either wasn't looking at us or he would look at Mike.

SCHMIDT: So, we're sitting on one side, he's on the other, I look up to sort of start talking and he's staring directly at me as harshly or as strongly as anyone's ever looked at me.
You've got to listen to the podcast, because after all this drama, O'Reilly insists that the Times reports are erroneous, he just sound so hurt. He sounds traumatized. He's the one who's suffered abuse.

By the final O'Reilly clip played on the podcast, which came at the end of the interview, his self-pity and wrath were in full force, and he was using his teenage children as human shields, as he's done repeatedly in recent days:

"We have physical proof that this is bullshit. Bullshit. Okay? So it's on you if you want to destroy my children further," O'Reilly told Times reporters Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt in the interview last week, a few days before the story about the $32 million settlement came out.

In the interview, O'Reilly repeatedly brought up his children, who have been the subject of a long-running custody battle.

"Why don't you be human beings for once?" O'Reilly said to the Times reporters. "This is horrible. It's horrible what I went through. Horrible what my family went through."
He also tried to hide behind the family of a fellow Fox sex harasser, Eric Bolling:
Bolling was pushed out of Fox in September after HuffPo reported that he had sent “explicit photos” to female co-workers. Bolling’s 19-year-old son died shortly after his father left the network. The death was reportedly an accident, though O’Reilly seemed to suggest otherwise: “I urge you to think about what you put in your newspaper,” he told the Times. “Eric Bolling’s son is dead. He’s dead because of allegations made — in my opinion and I know this to be true — against Mr. Bolling.”
(Bolling strenuously objected to this and O'Reilly subsequently apologized.)

O'Reilly has also grumbled about God, and compared himself to the family of a murdered woman:
"You know, am I mad at God? Yeah, I'm mad at him," O'Reilly said on the latest episode of his web series, "No Spin News." "I wish I had more protection. I wish this stuff didn't happen. I can't explain it to you. Yeah, I'm mad at him."

He then said that he derives perspective from the tribulations of others, including Kate Steinle, a woman who was allegedly shot by an undocumented immigrant who has been the subject of numerous O'Reilly commentaries.
On Glenn Beck's radio show, O'Reilly talked as if his kids are at imminent risk of death:
“This is dishonest in the extreme and it's frustrating, but unless I want another seven or eight years of litigation that puts my children in the 'kill zone,' I have to maintain my discipline.”
This isn't Trumpian in its specifics -- Trump is too much of a solipsist to compare his suffering to other people's, and he's so indifferent to most members of his family that he never thinks of using them as human shields, even the kids he likes. But the self-pity is the same.

Why do conservatives like this kind of whining, from both O'Reilly and Trump? I think it's because it's epic whining -- it's whining by a large, consequential public figure who shares their views. (O'Reilly also said on Beck's show that he's the victim of a vast liberal media conspiracy to destroy his career.) I think conservatives look at O'Reilly or Trump and think: He's doing my whining for me. I watch TV all day and whine about all the enemies I have, in America and around the world. Now here's this guy with clout who's whining the same things I whine. Maybe he can get results!

O'Reilly and Trump are what rank-and-file conservatives think they could be if their complaints and self-pity had the attention of the world. On the right, that's what makes a hero.

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