Monday, March 30, 2009

Factoring in Bill O'Reilly

I am not a big fan of the cable news shout fests, like The O'Reilly Factor, Hardball with Chris Matthews, or Keith Olbermann's program. Once in a while, via the constant news feed at work, when I am there in the early evening, I'll catch a few minutes of one of these programs. However, I do think that these folks perform a service, the kind of service Jon Stewart was urging Jim Cramer to perform in his now famous Daily Show interview. This service consists of asking the tough questions that we all want to ask and pressing interviewees hard for answers, not letting them off the hook in the easy manner in which they are let off on, say, ABC's This Week, and other more convivial shows.

I have to admit that at least Bill O'Reilly has a sense of humor about himself and appears on The Colbert Report, on which he is known as Papa Bear, and has also appeared on the Daily Show. Even though he and Jon Stewart could not have a more different political frame of reference, I think Stewart respects O'Reilly, at least as much as he respects anyone, though not to the point of not criticizing him, as when he lambasted O'Reilly's two-faced take on women running for high political office, depending on whether he was talking about Hilary Clinton or Sarah Palin.

For some odd reason, I linked to an interview with O'Reilly off the Yahoo home page this morning because I really had to find out who the actor was that O'Reilly would not even go see his movies- Sean Penn. I actually found the interview interesting and O'Reilly's answers to be refreshingly straightforward and candid. He has a lot of very complimentary things to say about a lot people. It was nice to read about this side of a guy whose on-air persona is gruff and often angry. On his Hollywood A-List? Clint Eastwood. His favorite Eastwood film? Unforgiven. I can't fault him for taste on that!

The part of the interview I liked the most and to which I found myself saying Yeah! to was this:

O'Reilly: My job is to watch the powerful. A performer has a forum that other people do not, and all we ask is that they be fair. If they believe something and use their TV show, movie or concert to spout off about it, that's fine. But if we have some questions about their beliefs, I think they should answer them -- and not be drive-by people.


O'Reilly: I take it case by case. We took on George Clooney over the 9/11 charities, and we were absolutely right, but Clooney does a good job with Darfur. We took on Bruce Springsteen for things he has done at concerts because we want to know what his frame of reference is. These are powerful people, and we're not going to give them a free ride. If there was somebody screaming right-wing stuff, we'd do the same thing. But there is no one like that because if they do that in Hollywood, they're not going to work, which is an interesting story in and of itself.
After all, how many drive-by attacks has the Holy Father endured both with regard to his largely misunderstand and misinterpreted lifting of the SSPX excommunications and his all too accurate statement that condoms are not the answer to HIV/AIDs in Africa?

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