Bill O'Reilly's sick cop fetish: In Fox News land, white cops are always right, black men always to blame

After Baltimore verdicts, Fox host defends police and maligns black men again. How about a look at police culture?

By Chauncey DeVega
May 26, 2016 1:58PM (UTC)
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Bill O'Reilly (Credit: Fox News)

Bill O’Reilly has rarely found a case of police thuggery and abuse against black and brown Americans that he does not condone or defend. On Monday’s edition of "The O’Reilly Factor," he continued with this habit in his comments on the exoneration of Baltimore police officer Edward Nero for the latter’s role in the “rough ride” death of Freddie Gray.

O’Reilly observed:


I think all Americans, no matter when a citizen dies like Freddie Gray did, it's never the citizen's fault in the sense that Freddie Gray didn't get up in the morning and say I'm going to do something and I'm going to die.  But Freddie Gray's lifestyle for many years, led him to this terrible thing which is not only impacted him and his family but all the police officers and that lifestyle should be condemned. I mean, this narcotics trafficking is awful. It is devastating.

This echoes O’Reilly’s comments about the civil uprising in Baltimore back in April 2015 when he said it’s,“long past time for African-American communities across America to begin to police themselves.”

These comments are not surprising or unexpected. Fox News, as one of the main right-wing news entertainment disinformation outlets in the United States, both fixates on and exaggerates narratives of “black crime” and “black criminality.” This emphasis causes a ratings bonanza for a station whose audience is older than the general public, almost exclusively white, racially resentful, and constitutes the “silent (white) majority” that is the base of the Republican Party.

O’Reilly’s comments are also in keeping with those of his colleagues such as Sean Hannity who valorized George Zimmerman, a man who stalked and killed Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager in February 2012. In the time that has passed since Zimmerman’s de facto lynching of Trayvon Martin, he has been involved in numerous violent incidents, publicly demonstrated his white supremacist bonafides, and in an act of wanton cruelty auctioned off the pistol that was used to kill Trayvon Martin under racially discriminatory “stand your ground” laws.


Of note, Zimmerman’s defenders across the right-wing echo chamber have been largely mute about his socially irresponsible and racist behavior since the killing of Trayvon Martin.

While Bill O’Reilly demonstrates a persistent yearning to lecture and comment on the “bad culture” and “life style” of “inner city” and other black communities, he chooses to be silent on the poor behavior and despicable culture and lifestyle that are common to many of America’s police departments.

Where is Bill O’Reilly’s condemnation of a police culture and lifestyle in cities such as Chicago where an internal report revealed that its police officers “have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color?" And what of Baltimore’s problem plagued police department and its tradition of abuse and thuggery against the black community?


Has Bill O’Reilly demanded accountability for a police culture and lifestyle that encourages officers to choke black men to death while they cry “I can’t breathe!,” summarily execute 12-year-old children in the street, and kills black people for the “crime” of sleeping in their car?

Did Bill O’Reilly condemn a police culture and lifestyle where a New York police officer let an innocent man bleed to death while the former called his union representative for guidance about how best to explain the killing?


Is Bill O’Reilly concerned about a police culture and lifestyle where officers congratulated themselves with “high-fives” after tasering a Georgia man to death as he muttered, “O.K. I’m dead, I’m dead..I quit, I quit.”

America’s police are much more likely to use lethal force--when the situation does not warrant it--than officers in other countries. Where are Bill O’Reilly’s concerns about such wanton and reckless behavior?

Conservatives claim to be perpetually on alert against “tyranny” and want the mantel of being “defenders” of “personal freedom” and “liberty.” Yet, Bill O’Reilly and his other ideological kin show little to no concern about excessive police violence and force—especially against non-whites, the poor, the mentally ill, handicapped, and other vulnerable populations. Moreover, America’s police are not required to publicly report the number of people they kill or the circumstances under which such violence occurs. These are Gestapo tactics, but once again, movement conservatives and Fox News, seem relatively unconcerned about such a fact.


The abuse of African-Americans and other people of color by America’s police are features, as opposed to outliers or aberrations, of a racially discriminatory “criminal justice” system. Like too many other white Americans, Bill O’Reilly supports such disparities and the routine violation of black and brown folks’ constitutionally guaranteed and protected civil rights.

It is with good reason that many black and brown communities in the United States do not trust the police. In those spaces, police act more like occupying forces waging a counterinsurgency campaign than as aides to a community they have pledged to “protect and serve.” As was seen with Freddie Gray and too many other examples, America’s police have a remarkable amount of authority in terms of who they decide to question, detain, arrest, and use force against. From unconstitutional and racist “stop and frisk” policies, “pretext stops,” to outright racial profiling and harassment, a racist and classist police culture and lifestyle imperils the lives of innocent people from the first moment of contact through to tragic outcomes such as the unnecessary deaths of Freddie Grey and Sandra Bland.

Of course, police fetishists and right-wing authoritarians will recite on cue that “most police” are “good,” have a “hard job,” and it is only a few “bad apples” who abuse the public. My response is a simple one: if most of the police are “good” why do they tolerate those among them who are the “bad apples?”


The answer is obvious: a broken and rotten police culture and lifestyle. If he were intellectually honest, Bill O’Reilly would devote several episodes of his TV or radio show to the topic.

Instead, it is far easier to blame the victims of America’s out-of-control police for their own suffering and unnecessary deaths.

Conservatives love to evoke “personal responsibility” when they discuss black Americans and other people of color. It is long overdue that Bill O’Reilly and other members of the white right hold themselves and their deified and worshiped police to the same standard.

Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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