Bill O'Reilly, drunk or just awkward? An in-depth analysis of his slurry, bizarre GOP debate show

Several outlets called O'Reilly's performance "awkward," but was he drunk? And does it even matter?

Published March 4, 2016 8:17PM (EST)

After Thursday night's Fox News GOP debate, each candidate separately guested on a live "O'Reilly Factor." After a supposedly "awkward" leadoff interview with Trump and a few intermittent speech blips, some are positing host Bill O'Reilly went a little heavy on the pre-show sauce.

The speculation appears to have originated with Patton Oswalt's Twitter, and then spread thenceforth:

Be that as it may, until President Trump has something to do with it, we live in a democratic society with due process. It would be negligent not to presume O'Reilly sober until proven sloshed. So let's break it down.

Donald Trump:

O’Reilly keeps his composure quite well in the Trump spin-room interview. He interrupts Trump’s tired “(Mitt Romney’s) a failed candidate” spiel in typical fashion. He asks Trump why he thinks he "engender(s) so much loathing” from his own party. His posture is impeccable:

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He does get a little too friendly with Melania, but, to be fair, Trump initiates the exchange to ease the tension after suggesting that O’Reilly ask his therapist why his coverage of the Trump campaign has become increasingly negative.

“I think I’ve been fair,” O’Reilly reverses, even after Trump introduces “my boy Eric” so as to avoid a heated post-debate debate. To poke a bear like Trump, you’d have to be drunk, stupid, Mitt Romney, or a combination thereof.

O’Reilly will not stop: “You wanna give me an example?” And when Trump says no, “C’monnn!”

Thankfully for everyone’s sake, O’Reilly finally recognizes he’s hit a dead end and switches gears, this time looking ahead to the Convention this July in Cleveland. Unable to find the words “brokered convention,” O’Reilly settles for, “the under table thing.”

Marco Rubio: 

A little blip right off the bat: He calls it the "post-Factor" instead of the "post-debate Factor." Splitting hairs here; he still has the benefit of my doubt.

I don't know if this is the case, but I might start watching "The Factor" more if he treats all his interviewees like he did Rubio. After talking about Trump the entire time, O'Reilly gave Rubio the last 30-or-so seconds to explain how he'll win Florida. Then, squeezing in the last word, Bill says, "I don't think it's gonna work." And throws to commercial. Fuck objectivity; that was beautiful.

Ted Cruz:

O'Reilly messes up the name of his show again — a serious blow to his case for sobriety. Bill has a certain smug cadence, resting on the last word in a clause, which he's mastered over a century on-air. "Continuing nowww with The Factorrr" was what he was going for. At the last second, though, he tried to fit in "Special Edition of," then decommitted. In a vacuum, the stumble is a brain fart. But up against his shaky performance thus far, it's fair to get suspicious.

It looks like something silly made have happened or been said during the commercial break, because Cruz appears to be chuckling at the onset of his interview:

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Cruz looks like (is) a cocky shit whenever he's not orating, though. So I don't want to read too much into it. This is the same face he made when he passed Ben Carson in the hallway at the New Hampshire debate:

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Unless you're willing to argue Carson was hammered in New Hampshire (I kind of am) this evidence is circumstantial.

The defining moment in the Cruz interview is O'Reilly's battle with the word "durability." Five-syllable words with that many vowel-sounds are a drunk man's Rubik's Cube. And "durability" is a word no sober person could ever screw up. "Durable" is the go-to adjective for winter jackets, gutter guards, and GM trucks; you can't fall asleep with the TV on and not subconsciously learn the word.

O'Reilly's flub was the result of slurred speech, not a brain malfunction. And that's O.K. The campaign cycle is unbearably dragged out. It's bad enough just to be a mildly informed voter, much less a journalist or network pundit. I've never survived a whole GOP debate and been able to pronounce my own name by the end. Throw me in front of a camera afterwards and my meltdown would be far greater than a few mispronounced words. In this sense, O'Reilly is an icon.

John Kasich:

Now that we've come to terms with O'Reilly's buzz, it comes off as charming. And Kasich is a cute li'l non-factor, anyway. So loosen your tie, grab a nightcap, and enjoy.

Like Cruz, Kasich also starts off his interview giggling. And why not? When you've already lost, you've got nothing to lose.

“I’m gonna say this right out loud. I hope I don’t embarrass you," O'Reilly begins. "You’re far and away the best on policy in the field.” This is kind of the beltway equivalent of ‘You’re my best friend, man! No, seriously, I mean it! You are!’

Then Honesty Bill brings his friend John back down to earth with some sobering words, telling Kasich, "You're not exciting," and, "If you weren’t in Virginia, Rubio would’ve won.” Harsh, yes, but it's what Kasich needs to hear. It's called tough love. It's what this race needs and what only business-drunk Bill O'Reilly can provide.

Watch Bill O'Reilly do his thing and decide for yourself below, via Fox News:

By Brendan Gauthier

Brendan Gauthier is a freelance writer.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Bill O'reilly Donald Trump Elections 2016 John Kasich Marco Rubio Ted Cruz The O'reilly Factor