Bill O'Reilly (political commentator)

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For the political consultant also known as Bill O'Reilly, see William F. B. O'Reilly.
Bill O'Reilly
BillOReillySept2010.jpg
Bill O'Reilly at a Hudson Union Society event in September 2010
Born William James O'Reilly, Jr.
(1949-09-10) September 10, 1949 (age 65)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Queen Mary University of London
Marist College (B.A.)
Boston University (M.A.)
Harvard University (M.P.A.)
Occupation Political commentator
Years active 1975–present
Religion Catholicism
Spouse(s) Maureen McPhilmy (1996–2012;
separated 2011)
[1]
Children 2
Website
Official website

William James "Bill" O'Reilly, Jr. (born September 10, 1949) is an American television host, author, syndicated columnist and political commentator.[2] He is the host of the political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel.[3][4][5] During the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked as a news reporter for various local television stations in the United States and eventually for CBS News and ABC News. From 1989 to 1995, he was anchor of the entertainment news program Inside Edition.

O'Reilly is widely considered a conservative commentator,[6][7][8] though some of his positions diverge from conservative orthodoxy.[9][10] O'Reilly is a registered "Independent" (See: Political views of Bill O'Reilly) and characterizes himself as a "traditionalist".[11][12] O'Reilly is the author of over a dozen books, and hosted The Radio Factor until early 2009.[13]

Early life

O'Reilly was born on September 10, 1949, at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, to parents William James, Sr., (deceased) and Winifred Angela Drake O'Reilly, from Brooklyn and Teaneck, New Jersey, respectively.[14] Bill O'Reilly's ancestors on his father's side lived in County Cavan, Ireland, since the early eighteenth century, and those on his mother's side were from Northern Ireland.[15] The O'Reilly family lived in a small apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey, when their son was born.[16] In 1951 his family moved to Levittown, on Long Island.[17] O'Reilly has a sister, Janet.

He attended St. Brigid parochial school in Westbury, and Chaminade High School, a private Catholic boys high school in Mineola. His father wanted him to attend Chaminade, but Bill wanted to attend W. Tresper Clarke High School, the public school most of his closest friends would attend.[18] Bill O'Reilly played Little League baseball and was the goalie on the Chaminade varsity hockey team.[19] During his high school years, O'Reilly met future pop-singer icon Billy Joel, whom O'Reilly described as a "hoodlum". O'Reilly recollected in an interview with Michael Kay on the YES Network show CenterStage that Joel "was in the Hicksville section—the same age as me—and he was a hood. He used to slick it [his hair] back like this. And we knew him, because his guys would smoke and this and that, and we were more jocks."[20]

After graduating from high school in 1967, O'Reilly attended Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, his father's choice.[21] While at Marist, O'Reilly played punter in the National Club Football Association[22] and was also a writer for the school's newspaper, The Circle. An honors student, he majored in history. He spent his junior year of college abroad, attending Queen Mary College at the University of London.[23] O'Reilly received his bachelor of arts degree in history in 1971.[24] He played semi-professional baseball during this time as a pitcher for the New York Monarchs.[25] After graduating from Marist College, O'Reilly moved to Miami, where he taught English and history at Monsignor Pace High School from 1970 to 1972.[26] O'Reilly returned to school in 1973[27] and earned a master of arts degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University.[24] While attending Boston University, he was a reporter and columnist for various local newspapers and alternative news weeklies, including the Boston Phoenix, and did an internship in the newsroom of WBZ-TV.[28] During his time at BU, O'Reilly also was a classmate of future radio talk show host Howard Stern, whom O'Reilly noticed because Stern was the only student on campus taller than he was.[20] In 1995, having established himself as a national media personality, O'Reilly was accepted to Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government; he received a master of public administration degree in 1996.[24] At Harvard, he was a student of Marvin Kalb.[29]

Broadcasting career

O'Reilly's early television news career included reporting and anchoring positions at WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he also reported the weather. At WFAA-TV in Dallas, O'Reilly was awarded the Dallas Press Club Award for excellence in investigative reporting. He then moved to KMGH-TV in Denver, where he won a local Emmy Award for his coverage of a skyjacking.[30] O'Reilly also worked for KATU in Portland, Oregon, WFSB in Hartford, Connecticut, and WNEV-TV (now WHDH-TV) in Boston.

In 1980 O'Reilly anchored the local news-feature program 7:30 Magazine at WCBS-TV in New York. Soon after, as a WCBS News anchor and correspondent, he won his second local Emmy, for an investigation of corrupt city marshals. In 1982 he was promoted to the network as a CBS News correspondent and covered the wars in El Salvador and the Falkland Islands from his base in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He later left CBS over a dispute concerning the uncredited use in a report by Bob Schieffer of riot footage shot by O'Reilly's crew in Buenos Aires during the Falklands conflict.[31]

O'Reilly joined ABC News as a correspondent in 1986. He delivered a eulogy for his friend Joe Spencer, an ABC News correspondent who died in a helicopter crash on January 22, 1986, en route to covering the Hormel meatpacker strike that day. ABC News president Roone Arledge, who attended Spencer's funeral, decided to hire O'Reilly after hearing his eulogy.[32] At ABC, O'Reilly hosted daytime news briefs that previewed stories to be reported on the day's World News Tonight and worked as a general assignment reporter for ABC News programs, including Good Morning America, Nightline, and World News Tonight.[33]

O'Reilly has stated that his interest and style in media came from several CBS and ABC personalities, including Mike Wallace, Howard Cosell, Dick Snyder and Peter Jennings.

Inside Edition

In 1989 O'Reilly joined the nationally syndicated King World (now CBS Television Distribution)-produced Inside Edition, a tabloid/gossip television program in competition with A Current Affair.[24] He became the program's anchor three weeks into its run, after the termination of original anchor David Frost.[34] In addition to being one of the first American broadcasters to cover the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, O'Reilly also obtained the first exclusive interview with murderer Joel Steinberg and was the first television host from a national current affairs program on the scene of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

Former NBC News and CBS News anchor Deborah Norville replaced O'Reilly on Inside Edition in 1995; O'Reilly had expressed a desire to quit the show in July 1994.[35] He then enrolled in September 1995 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University,[36] where he received a master's degree in public administration.[24] His graduate thesis, which he researched in Singapore, was titled Theory of Coerced Drug Rehabilitation. In his thesis, O'Reilly asserted that supervised mandatory drug rehabilitation would reduce crime, based on the rate of prison return for criminals in Alabama who enrolled in such a program.[37]

The O'Reilly Factor

Main article: The O'Reilly Factor

After Harvard, he was hired by Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of the then startup Fox News Channel, to anchor The O'Reilly Report in October 1996.[38] The show was renamed The O'Reilly Factor, after O'Reilly's friend and branding expert John Tantillo's remarks upon the "O'Reilly Factor" in any of the stories O'Reilly told.[38][39][40] The program is routinely the highest-rated show of the three major U.S. 24-hour cable news television channels and began the trend toward more opinion-oriented prime-time cable news programming.[41] The show is taped late in the afternoon at a studio in New York City and airs every weekday on the Fox News Channel at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time and is rebroadcast at 11:00 p.m.

Until early 2009, O'Reilly hosted a radio program that had more than 3.26 million listeners and was carried by more than 400 radio stations.[42] According to the talk radio industry publication Talkers Magazine, O'Reilly was No. 11 on the "Heavy Hundred", a list of the 100 most important talk show hosts in America.[43] Conservative Internet news site NewsMax '​s "Top 25 Talk Radio Host" list selected O'Reilly to the No. 2 spot as most influential host in the nation.[44]

O'Reilly's life and career have not been without controversy. Progressive media watchdog organizations such as Media Matters and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have criticized O'Reilly's reporting on a variety of issues, accusing him of distorting facts and using misleading or erroneous statistics.[45]

After the September 11 attacks, O'Reilly accused the United Way of America and American Red Cross of failing to deliver millions of dollars in donated money, raised by the organizations in the name of the disaster, to the families of those killed in the attacks.[46] O'Reilly reported that the organizations misrepresented their intentions for the money being raised by not distributing all of the 9/11 relief fund to the victims. Actor George Clooney responded, accusing O'Reilly of misstating facts and harming the relief effort by inciting "panic" among potential donors.[47]

Beginning in 2005, O'Reilly periodically denounced George Tiller, a Kansas-based physician who specialized in second- and third-trimester abortions,[48] often referring to him as "Tiller the baby killer".[49] Tiller was murdered on May 31, 2009, by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion activist.[50] Critics such as Salon.com's Gabriel Winant have asserted that O'Reilly's anti-Tiller rhetoric helped to create an atmosphere of violence around the doctor.[51] Jay Bookman of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that O'Reilly "clearly went overboard in his condemnation and demonization of Tiller", but added that it was "irresponsible to link O'Reilly" to Tiller's murder.[52] O'Reilly has responded to the criticism by saying "no backpedaling here ... every single thing we said about Tiller was true."[53]

In early 2007, researchers from the Indiana University School of Journalism published a report that analyzed O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" segment. Using analysis techniques developed in the 1930s by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, the study concluded that O'Reilly used propaganda, frequently engaged in name calling, and consistently cast non-Americans as threats and never "in the role of victim or hero."[54][dead link][55] O'Reilly responded, asserting that "the terms 'conservative', 'liberal', 'left', 'right', 'progressive', 'traditional' and 'centrist' were considered name-calling if they were associated with a problem or social ill." The study's authors said that those terms were only considered name-calling when linked to derogatory qualifiers.[56] Fox News producer Ron Mitchell wrote an op-ed in which he accused the study's authors of seeking to manipulate their research to fit a predetermined outcome. Mitchell argued that by using tools developed for examining propaganda, the researchers presupposed that O'Reilly propagandized.[57]

O'Reilly is the main inspiration for comedian Stephen Colbert's satirical character on the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, which features Colbert in a "full-dress parody" of The O'Reilly Factor. On the show, Colbert refers to O'Reilly as "Papa Bear".[58] O'Reilly and Colbert exchanged appearances on each other's shows in January 2007.[59]

Speaking on ABC's Good Morning America on March 18, 2003, O'Reilly promised that "[i]f the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean [of weapons of mass destruction] ... I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again."[60] In another appearance on the same program on February 10, 2004, O'Reilly responded to repeated requests for him to honor his pledge: "My analysis was wrong and I'm sorry. I was wrong. I'm not pleased about it at all."[61] With regard to never again trusting the current U.S. government, he said, "I am much more skeptical of the Bush administration now than I was at that time."

On May 10, 2008, O'Reilly was presented with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Governors' Award at an Emmy awards show dinner.[62]

Other work

O'Reilly wrote a weekly syndicated newspaper column through Creators Syndicate[63] that appeared in numerous newspapers, including the New York Post and the Chicago Sun-Times.[64] He discontinued the column at the end of 2013.

O'Reilly made cameo appearances in the films An American Carol, Iron Man 2 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.[65][66][67]

Political views and public perception

O'Reilly in Philadelphia, 2010

On The O'Reilly Factor and on his former talk-radio program, Bill O'Reilly has focused on news and commentary related to politics and culture.[68] O'Reilly has long said that he does not identify with any political ideology, writing in his book The O'Reilly Factor that the reader "might be wondering whether I'm conservative, liberal, libertarian, or exactly what ... See, I don't want to fit any of those labels, because I believe that the truth doesn't have labels. When I see corruption, I try to expose it. When I see exploitation, I try to fight it. That's my political position."[69] On December 6, 2000, the Daily News in New York reported, however, that he had been registered with the Republican Party in the state of New York since 1994. When questioned about this, he said that he was not aware of it and says he registered as an independent after the interview.[70] During a broadcast of The Radio Factor, O'Reilly said that there was no option to register as an independent voter; however, there was in fact a box marked "I do not wish to enroll in party."[71] Despite his being registered as an Independent, many view him as a conservative figure.[68] A February 2009 Pew Research poll found that 66% of his television viewers identify themselves as conservative, 24% moderate, and 3% liberal.[72] A November 2008 poll by Zogby International found that O'Reilly was the second most trusted news personality, after Rush Limbaugh.[73]

In a 2003 interview with Terry Gross on National Public Radio, O'Reilly said:

I'm not a political guy in the sense that I embrace an ideology. To this day I'm an independent thinker, an independent voter, I'm a registered independent ... [T]here are certain fundamental things that this country was founded upon that I respect and don't want changed. That separates me from the secularists who want a complete overhaul of how the country is run.[11]

On a September 2007 edition of The Radio Factor, while having a discussion about race with fellow Fox News commentator and author Juan Williams about a meal he shared with Al Sharpton, O'Reilly said "You know when Sharpton and I walked in, it was like... big commotion and everything. But everybody was very nice. And I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship." He commented that no one in Sylvia's was "screaming 'M'Fer, I want more iced tea.'" He further added, "I think that black Americans are starting to think more and more for themselves, getting away from the Sharptons and the Jacksons and people trying to lead them into a race-based culture. They're just trying to figure it out. 'Look, I can make it. If I work hard and get educated, I can make it.'"[74] The statement drew criticism from a number of places. Roland S. Martin of CNN said that the notion that black people are just now starting to value education is "ridiculous" and that the notion that black people let Sharpton or Jackson think for them is "nuts".[75] and Media Matters for America covered the story on a number of occasions.[76][77] O'Reilly responded, saying, "It was an attempt to tell the radio audience that there is no difference—black, white, we're all Americans. The stereotypes they see on television are not true" and also called out Media Matters, claiming that "Media Matters distorted the entire conversation and implied I was racist for condemning racism."[78] Juan Williams said the criticism of O'Reilly was "rank dishonesty" and that the original comments "had nothing to do with racist ranting by anybody except by these idiots at CNN." Williams went on to say it was "frustrating" that the media try to criticize anyone who wanted to have an honest discussion about race.[79]

O'Reilly has long said that his inspiration for speaking up for average Americans is his working-class roots. He has pointed to his boyhood home in Levittown, New York, as a credential. In an interview with The Washington Post, O'Reilly's mother said that her family lived in Westbury,[80] which is a few miles from Levittown. Citing this interview, then liberal talk-show pundit Al Franken accused O'Reilly of distorting his background to create a more working-class image. O'Reilly countered that The Washington Post misquoted his mother[81] and that his mother still lives in his childhood home, which was built by William Levitt. O'Reilly placed a copy of the house's mortgage on his website; the mortgage shows a Levittown postal address.[82] O'Reilly has also said, "You don't come from any lower than I came from on an economic scale"[83] and that his father, a currency accountant for an oil company,[84] "never earned more than $35,000 a year in his life." O'Reilly responded that his father's $35,000 income only came at the end of his long career.[85]

Personal life

O'Reilly was married to Maureen E. McPhilmy, a public relations executive. They met in 1992, and their wedding took place in St. Brigid Parish of Westbury on November 2, 1996.[86] They have a daughter, Madeline (born 1998), and a son, Spencer (born 2003).[87]

The couple separated in April 2, 2010, and were divorced on September 1, 2011.[88] Each currently resides in suburban Manhasset, New York.

Controversy

Ludacris

On August 27, 2002, O'Reilly called for all Americans to boycott Pepsi products,[89] saying that Ludacris' lyrics glamorize a "life of guns, violence, drugs and disrespect of women."[90] The next day, O'Reilly reported that Pepsi had fired Ludacris.[89]

Three years later, Ludacris referenced O'Reilly in the song "Number One Spot." In an interview with RadarOnline.com in 2010, Ludacris stated that the two had made amends after a conversation at a charity event.[91]

Sexual harassment lawsuit

On October 13, 2004, O'Reilly sued Andrea Mackris, a former producer for The O'Reilly Factor, with extortion charges, alleging that she had threatened a lawsuit unless he paid her more than $60 million. Subsequently that day, Mackris sued O'Reilly for sexual harassment, seeking $60 million in damages. Her lawsuit alleged two types of legally-cognizable sexual harassment claims that are not based upon physical contact: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. In her lawsuit, she filed a 22-page complaint with the Supreme Court of the State of New York,[92] including quotations from alleged explicit phone conversations between herself and O'Reilly in which he "advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her",[93] and an allegation that he threatened that if she reported his behavior, "Roger Ailes...will go after you...Ailes operates behind the scenes, strategizes, and makes things happen so that one day BAM! The person gets what's coming to them but never sees it coming." On October 15, 2004, Fox sought judicial permission to fire Mackris, but she was never dismissed. On October 19, 2004, Mackris filed an amended complaint seeking further damages for illegal retaliatory actions by O'Reilly, Fox News, and the News Corporation-owned newspaper the New York Post.[94] On October 28, 2004, O'Reilly and Mackris reached an out-of-court settlement and dropped all charges against each other. According to several published reports, as part of the settlement O'Reilly likely paid Mackris millions of dollars, but the terms of the agreement are confidential.[95]

Joy Behar/Whoopi Goldberg

On October 14, 2010, Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg walked off the set of The View after they both disagreed with statements made by O'Reilly, specifically O'Reilly's statement "Muslims killed us on 9/11."[96] Goldberg stated O'Reilly should be more specific than just labeling Muslims. O'Reilly defended his statement citing the lack of specificity when describing attacks by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II. O'Reilly later explained on his show that the statement was valid when he said "Of course, what I said is absolutely true, but is insensitive to some. In a perfect world you always say Muslim terrorists killed us, but at this point I thought that was common knowledge. I guess I was wrong."[97] Barbara Walters disagreed with O'Reilly's defense of the World War II comparison stating that describing a religion is not the same as describing a country. Walters would go on to say, "We should be able to have discussion without ... walking off stage."[98] Former host and progressive commentator Rosie O'Donnell stated on her radio program that the incident was an example of what she viewed as regular hateful statements. O'Reilly responded by citing O'Donnell's earlier statement about claiming the threat from radical Christianity is similar to that of radical Islam.

Anti-Defamation League

On December 8, 2004, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) sent O'Reilly a letter criticizing him for making remarks offensive towards Jews on his radio talk show The Radio Factor.[99] Specifically, they found issue with his response to the call of a Jewish listener named "Joel", who complained of Christian proselytizing through the celebration of Christmas in public schools, which included O'Reilly stating that:

You have a predominantly Christian nation. You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don't wanna hear about it? Come on, [caller] … if you are really offended you gotta go to Israel then. I mean because we live in a country founded on Judeo … and that's your guys'… Christian, that's my guys' philosophy. But overwhelmingly, America is Christian.[100]

To which the ADL responded in their 2004 letter, stating that:

American Jews are Americans. Jews and other religious minorities are part of America's great tradition of religious freedom. The discomfort with proselytizing, or the intrusion of Christian teachings in public schools, is a very legitimate concern.

Books by O'Reilly

O'Reilly has authored a number of books:

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