During the past several months, it seems like the liberal media has been the predominant, mainstream force that has dominated the public sphere for the past several months. But at the same time, the conservative side was manned by fierce, conservative stalwarts who held their ground, countering the views put forth by leftists with their own. Indeed, the conservative scene has been thriving and is still thriving behind high-profile commentators. Bill O’Reilly happens to be one of these commentators who has been the right-steady candidate that has also helped right-leaning Fox News gain viewership throughout his tenure. However, Bill O’Reilly’s former show on Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, ended last month after being on air for 20 years amid controversy revolving around Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements.
When Lingering Popularity Excuses Deplorable Behavior
When I first heard about O’Reilly’s settlements, I wanted to see how people would react to this reprehensible behavior. As I expected, many people would be critical of Bill O’Reilly’s permission (from Fox News) to continue running his show, but I was not surprised that O’Reilly was going to recover from this fiasco that would have otherwise ended any low-profile figure’s career.
Despite his departure from Fox News, Bill O’Reilly’s substantial popularity and fame as a political commentator has allowed him to remain appreciated by some conservatives. While he is out of the public sphere, his internet podcast, No Spin News, is aired four times a week on his website. And requires a paid subscription; and while the exact statistics about the viewership on this program are not publicly known, many of his private videos receive hundreds of comments, indicating that his O’Reilly’s viewership is still strong.
It is abominable that people would be willing to pay, watch, and support someone who lacks appreciable dignity and is also unwilling to admit this. But this is a prominent case of human nature: irrational loyalty, sympathy, and respect to an influential figure whom people feel they cannot abandon.
The current turbulence in society is testing many of the values we hold dearly. And now, more than ever, we need to stay firmly about our values, which can include: Civil rights, respect for each other, and supporting factual-based evidence over rhetoric. Anyone who tries to help Bill O’Reilly to thrive in any way—regardless of their intention— is also deciding that Bill O’Reilly’s political analysis is far more important than his inappropriate behavior during his time at Fox News. In other words, someone who currently supports O’Reilly might not be concerned with O’Reilly’s history of sexual harassment, which also means that they might not completely agree with women’s rights or even the “Golden Rule”. As we confront the rise of values that contradict our moral concept—science skepticism, mistreatment of minorities and women, and dishonesty—we must be strictly abide by the values that would contribute to the greater good of our society. Of course, we must also continue to denounce those who choose not to contribute to greater good. And therefore, Bill O’Reilly, an individual who made choices counter to human values, should not be given a second chance to remain as an influential figure in the media.
If you would like to follow up with the writer with any comments about this article, you may reach him by email at Omair_Ali@ben.edu.