Bill O’Reilly is Bad for America

Dan Murphy

Cable news has set the bar pretty low for quality broadcasts. Political debate shows often end up being not much more than glorified shouting matches. Hosts like Sean Hannity, Chris Matthews and Tucker Carlson are more interested in hearing their own voices than exploring the issues facing the nation. When Americans complain about the putrid state of the news media, political debate shows must come to mind. The worst cable news show happens to be the highest rated. I’m referring to the O’Reilly Factor. I’ve been waiting for a while to do a column on Bill O’Reilly. Always viewing him as a no-talent egotistical moron, I figured he didn’t deserve my time and attention. However I feel the need to enlighten my peers on a horrendous hour of television programming known as The Factor.

The O’Reilly Factor is probably the most idiotic hour of television in America. If you currently watch it every week, please stop – you’re killing your brain cells. You’d probably grow more as an intellectual by drinking 15 Keystone Lights followed by six shots of Cuervo than watching an hour-long episode of The Factor.

For those of who haven’t been privileged to view it (good for you), the show begins with what is known as “The Talking Points Memo.” This serves as a vehicle for the host to articulate his views on a topic of interest. O’Reilly usually babbles on for about five to six minutes, promoting his views on the top stories of the day. In “Talking Points”, he vilifies some left-leaning group and bemoans the moral bankruptcy of organizations and individuals like the ACLU, liberals, The New York Times, George Soros and the “secular left”. To O’Reilly, these groups are undermining America in the War on Terror and should be eliminated immediately.

For the remainder of the show, O’Reilly welcomes various guests. Most political talk shows allow guests to articulate their opinions – but not on The O’Reilly Factor. O’Reilly’s guests don’t have a fighting chance. He consistently shouts them down and insults them.

Take this example. Last week, Phil Donohue was a guest on the show. He came to speak in support of Cindy Sheehan, the activist mother who lost her son in the Iraq War. Donohue criticized O’Reilly and the right wing media for trying to discredit Sheehan.

The exchanges up to this point were testy but cordial. Then the fireworks start. Donohue asks O’Reilly if his children would fight in the Iraq War. Immediately the host blows his stack. In a loud roar, O’Reilly informs Donohue that his nephew recently enlisted in the Army and tells Donohue not to “denigrate” his nephew’s service. Finally O’Reilly finishes the exchange by threatening to throw Donohue off the set.

What did Donohue say that infuriated Bill O’Reilly? In actuality, he posed a simple question. The bottom line is that Bill O’Reilly is a bully, and bullies are not used to being stood up to.

Episodes like these aren’t out of the ordinary. If the guest agrees with O’Reilly’s point of view, he is allowed to speak and is treated with respect. If his views differ from O’Reilly’s, he is shouted down, insulted and disrespected.

Bill O’Reilly is bad for America. In his 10 years as a cable news host, he has done nothing to elevate public discourse and debate in the United States. The O’Reilly Factor is merely a platform for a bully to ignorantly promote his world views and then yell and scream at the guests who dare to disagree.

Television news has an obligation to provide viewers with quality programs that stimulate thought and debate. Instead, Americans are bombarded with screaming matches and shout-fests. The only way for this trend to stop is for us to stop watching these shows. We, the viewing public deserve a lot better.