It's a given that Bill O’Reilly is a terrible person. Thing is, he’s been so thoroughly heinous for so interminably long, it can be hard to remember all the reasons why. Most recently, there have been new revelations about O’Reilly and Fox News paying millions in settlements to women who have been targets of his sexually inappropriate behavior. But reviewing O’Reilly’s history, there's a pattern of despicable behavior that goes back much further in time.
He's shown himself to be a raging racist and a bloviating bigot (for which Fox News audiences love him), a man who lies about his press credentials and morals in the same breath. He imagines himself a guardian of truth and the defender of American virtues being lost to brown, gay and godless hordes, when in fact, he's a huge dick.
O'Reilly is currently on a vacation he took great pains to indicate is wholly unconnected with his harassment scandal, telling his audience on Tuesday that he "like[s] to take some time off around Easter" and emphasizing the trip was booked "last fall." That may be true, but as Newsday notes, O'Reilly has never taken a vacation this long during this time of year. There have been reports that News Corp. brass are mulling firing O'Reilly, but that seems unlikely. The company has never shown a hint of an ethical streak before, and O'Reilly is a cash-cow whose ratings recoup all those hush money payouts. Why develop a conscience now?
In any case, while we wait for the outcome, here are 18 reminders why Bill O’Reilly is a terrible person.
1. He made a racist and sexist joke about congresswoman and national treasure Maxine Waters.
It’s no secret that Maxine Waters has nothing good to say about Donald Trump, O’Reilly’s alleged-sexual-harasser-in-arms. During an appearance on “Fox & Friends” earlier this month, O’Reilly decided to return fire on his buddy’s behalf by going where so many racists and misogynists have gone before: Waters' appearance, specifically her hair. O’Reilly claimed he “didn't hear a word [Waters] said” in a recent anti-Trump speech because he “was looking at [her] James Brown wig”—a joke the male hosts of the show found very funny, because they are also garbage-based life forms. Hours later, O’Reilly issued a sorry-not-sorry non-apology which included a reference to Waters as a “congressman.”
2. He laughed at the sight of a man being violently removed from a United Airlines flight.
After airing a viral clip of Dr. David Dao being dragged, screaming and bleeding, from United Flight 3411, O’Reilly chuckled in a way that might seem inexplicable if he weren’t someone who could fill a listicle with the terrible things he’s done. “I shouldn't be laughing,” O’Reilly said, indicating he understands the way a decent, sensitive human should respond, even if he can’t pull it off, “but it's just so bizarre.”
3. He allegedly sexually harassed at least five women.
According to a recent New York Times investigation, “a total of five women...received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly” or Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox “for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him. The agreements totaled about $13 million.” Allegations of sexual impropriety and other forms of workplace harassment against O’Reilly date back to 2004, when he was sued by “The Factor” associate producer Andrea Mackris. The complaint alleged that O’Reilly offered her unsolicited advice on masturbation, claimed women had been “amazed” by his “big cock,” bragged about participating in threesomes and told her he wanted to rub her genitals with a falafel. (He meant to say “loofah” except he’s an idiot.) In more than one case, women presented incriminating audio recordings of O’Reilly, according to the Times report, which concluded that “Fox News and Mr. O’Reilly adopted an aggressive strategy that served as a stark warning of what could happen to women if they came forward with complaints.”
4. He also allegedly sexually harassed a few more women.
The Times investigation of O’Reilly notes that “besides the women who reached settlements, two other women have spoken of inappropriate behavior by the host.” Former Fox News star Andrea Tantaros filed court papers last year accusing the network of pretending to be “a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny.” Wendy Walsh, a recurring guest on "The Factor," says O’Reilly reneged on an offer to make her a high-paid Fox News contributor after she turned down an invitation to his hotel room.
Surveys have found that 60 to 70 percent of workplace harassment cases go unreported. An alleged serial sexual harasser such as O’Reilly, whose career in television spans more than four decades, may have countless more victims, since many may have kept silent. There’s no way to know the definitive number of O’Reilly’s targets, but the odds seem likely there are more.
5. He allegedly choked his ex-wife in front of his children.
In 2015, Gawker published transcripts from O’Reilly’s custody battle with his ex-wife filed in New York’s Nassau County Supreme Court. Among those papers was testimony from Larry Cohen, a court-appointed psychologist whose job it was to “interview and assess” each member of O’Reilly’s family during the court battle. Cohen told the court that O’Reilly’s 15-year-old daughter recounted “seeing an incident where...she said her dad was choking her mom or had his hands around her neck and dragged her down some stairs.” The psychologist also reported the teenager said O’Reilly had called her mom “an adulterer,” and said if his daughter “spends her time or more time at the mother’s home, it will ruin her life.”
O’Reilly ultimately lost that custody case, and again on appeal. In its decision, the Appellate Court panel wrote, “There is a sound and substantial basis for the Supreme Court's determination that it is in the best interests of the children for the mother to be awarded primary residential custody. Particularly relevant in this case are the clearly stated preferences of the children, especially considering their age and maturity, and the quality of the home environment provided by the mother.”
6. He yelled and swore at everyone on set because he’s confused by common phrases.
Maya Angelou once famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Watching this footage you can just tell not only was this not the first time O’Reilly had a meltdown over nothing, it wasn’t even the first time that week. In fact, he was probably still getting over his last meltdown when this meltdown started. He’s probably having four simultaneous meltdowns as I write this.
Anyway, no one fired him right there on the spot, allowing him to have a four-decade career of inappropriate touching and red-faced spittle spraying.
7. He reportedly lied about being in the thick of the Falklands war.
O’Reilly has been an alt-truther since long before Kellyanne Conway entered our collective nightmare. In 2015, a Mother Jones investigation found that O’Reilly had at best exaggerated, and at worst lied, about being in a “combat situation” during the Falklands war. The magazine cited the numerous times O’Reilly referenced his time in the “war zone,” stories that often suggested he had put his life in danger for the sake of reportage. In one oft-recycled fable, O’Reilly lays it on really thick, painting himself as a selfless hero and not a common fanny-pincher.
"I was in a situation one time, in a war zone in Argentina, in the Falklands, where my photographer got run down and then hit his head and was bleeding from the ear on the concrete,” O’Reilly has repeatedly stated, according to Mother Jones. “And the army was chasing us. I had to make a decision. And I dragged him off, you know, but at the same time, I'm looking around and trying to do my job, but I figure I had to get this guy out of there because that was more important.”
Except that doesn’t jibe with anyone else’s recollection. Far more reliably honest, actual journalists lined up to pick apart O’Reilly’s claims, often pointing out that almost no reporters made it to the frontlines. In fact, O’Reilly’s own rediscovered reports conflict with his tales of bloody conflict and violence.
O’Reilly initially responded to the report by calling Mother Jones reporter David Corn a “liar.” He later simply denied he’d ever said what he said, despite all the proof he said it.
8. He reduced Asian people to a racist, model-minority stereotype.
During an on-air exchange with Jesse Watters (the "Factor" “correspondent” whose vibe is like Tucker Max and a frat party decided to breed), O’Reilly accused Hawaiians of lax drug law enforcement. Which confused O’Reilly, who knows Asians’ essential nature.
O'REILLY: You know what's shocking? Thirty-five percent of the Hawaiian population is Asian, and Asian people are not liberal, you know, by nature. They're usually more industrious and hard-working.
WATTERS: But they did vote for President Obama—
O'REILLY: Big time.
This reads like a scene from a play called “Conversations Between Awful Men.”
9. He said immigration should be 'capped' so white guys stay on top.
Here are O’Reilly and John McCain, just ahead of the election that put a black guy in the White House, talking about immigration as a threat to white male power. No comment needed here; the video and transcript do the job on their own. Bonus points to O’Reilly for getting McCain to agree that white power needs to be preserved.
O'REILLY: Do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure—of which you're part, and so am I. And they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right. So I say that you've got to cap it with a number.
MCCAIN: In America today we have a very strong economy, low unemployment. So we need additional farm workers—including by the way agriculture—but there may come a time where we have an economic downturn, and we don't need so many.
O'REILLY: Okay, but in this bill, you guys gotta cap it. Because your estimation is 12 million, there may be 20 [million]. You don't know, I don't know. You gotta cap it.
MCCAIN: We do, we do. I agree with you.
10. He said America should keep the Electoral College to ensure white supremacy.
In a segment about efforts to scrap the Electoral College that arose following the disaster that was the election of Donald Trump, O’Reilly unwittingly admitted he opposes efforts to dismantle white supremacy.
“If the Electoral College were abolished, presidential candidates could simply campaign in the nation's largest states and cities—New York, LA, Chicago, Houston—and rack up enough votes to pretty much win any election,” O’Reilly stated. “That's what the left wants, because in the large urban areas and blue states like New York and California, minorities are substantial.”
“The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with,” O’Reilly laments:
“It permeates almost every issue—that white men have set up a system of oppression and that system must be destroyed....So-called white privilege bad; diversity good.
"The left wants power taken away from the white establishment. They want a profound change in the way America is run.”
O’Reilly’s unintentionally confessing here exactly what Trump’s white voter base voted against. And for that reason, they chose the candidate who openly shouted he’d keep white power safe from the immigrants and the blacks, among others. O’Reilly recognizes the Electoral College elevates the votes and political power of whites. That’s why he defends the system, and with it, white supremacy.
11. He hypocritically went after every rapper for indecency.
At least 87 percent of O’Reilly’s career is built on scaring old white people about what the rappers are going to do to them. In the spirit of this ongoing mission, O’Reilly spends inordinate amounts of time talking about all the rapping and how it is causing problems, from causing crime (not true) to inventing racism (ha ha, okay). O’Reilly’s ridiculous rants against rappers—and inexplicably, Beyonce—have themselves become cultural touchpoints. (Perhaps most famously during the Cam’ron “You Mad” segment, which launched a million timeless memes.) Dan Ozzi, over at Noisey, did a pretty brilliant job of compiling most of these in "A Brief History of Bill O’Reilly Knowing Dick About Hip-Hop."
In 2002, O’Reilly suggested that viewers protest Pepsi for its advertising ties to the rapper Ludacris, whom O’Reilly described as a “man who degrades women.” The outrage-stoking worked: Pepsi dropped Ludacris, the ad was pulled and O’Reilly claimed bragging rights for the win on his TV show. You can watch him gloat about the whole thing in the segment below, which was presumably shot when he didn’t have more pressing sexual harassment duties to attend to.
Recently, Ludacris was asked to comment on the situation, and he took the high road. “It’s not my place to judge Bill O’Reilly the same way that he judged me,” the rapper stated. “That’s how I feel about it. It’s a lot of maturity and a lot of growth. I’ve moved on past it. I’m thriving in life right now, and all I can do is hope that Bill O’Reilly settles these issues and learns from whatever mistakes he may have made and also thrives. But it is definitely ironic that both Pepsi and Bill O’Reilly are both under fire right now.”
12. He suggested slavery was no biggie.
In her Democratic National Convention speech, then First Lady Michelle Obama said, “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters—two beautiful, intelligent, black young women—playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”
Facts, right? Not a single person asked O’Reilly for his opinion on Michelle Obama’s remarks. But he used a show segment to offer his revisionist take on slavery, because O’Reilly apparently has a racism quota to meet and he was behind that month.
“Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House,” O’Reilly said, thrilled at the chance both to mansplain and whitesplain the topic to FLOTUS. “Slaves that worked [at the White House] were well-fed and had decent lodgings provided by the government.”
White racists have always tried to make slavery seem less morally reprehensible and horrific than it was, even while slavery was happening. O’Reilly is unremarkable in that way, as in so many other ways. Plenty of slave narratives offer an unvarnished look at the horrors of slavery. So does the first-person account of Abigail Adams, the literal first lady to occupy the White House as it was being built, who described the enslaved people doing the landscaping work as “half fed, and destitute of clothing.”
Also, high-five to Shonda Rhimes for tweeting this response:
13. He used the term 'wetback' to describe Mexicans.
In 2003, during a conversation about border patrol agents with Texas Congressman Silvestre Reyes, O’Reilly reportedly let this one slip: "We'd save lives because Mexican wetbacks, whatever you want to call them, the coyotes, they're not going to do what they're doing now, so people aren't going to die in the desert.”
He later told the New York Times the utterance had been an accident, perhaps not recognizing the slip was a sneak peek at how he speaks about these matters off-air. “I was groping for a term to describe the industry that brings people in here,” O’Reilly said. “It was not meant to disparage people in any way.''
''Of course, he didn't intend to say it,” Reyes noted, in a retort that nails things on the head. “But the fact that 'wetback' is a part of his vocabulary and slipped out is a clear sign of where his views fall.''
14. By the way, that was actually the second time he used the word 'wetback' to describe Mexicans.
According to a report by FAIR, O’Reilly had used the term in a speech several months earlier, a fact cited by the Allentown, Pennsylvania, local newspaper The Call. In a January 2003 article, O’Reilly reportedly “criticized the Immigration and Naturalization Service for not doing its job and not keeping out ‘the wetbacks.'”
FAIR notes that “O’Reilly denied making the comment, but the reporter stands by his account.”
15. He blamed Trayvon Martin for his own murder.
For years, Tea Party ultraconservative Allen West has provided an indispensable service to white racists, parroting talking points about black-on-black crime, black pathology and white absolution whenever needed. In 2013, O’Reilly brought West on his show to help him in the cheap and dirty effort to turn Trayvon Martin—whose cause of death was murder by George Zimmerman—from innocent victim to deserving thug. Both men proved up to the task. O’Reilly got things started.
“The reason Trayvon Martin died is because he looked a certain way, and it wasn’t based on skin color,” O’Reilly said, smugly. “If Trayvon Martin had been wearing a jacket like you are and a tie like you are, Mr. West, this evening, I don’t think George Zimmerman would have had any problem with him," O’Reilly said. “But he was wearing a hoodie and he looked a certain way. And that way is how ‘gangstas’ look. And, therefore, he got attention.”
What O’Reilly really means is that Trayvon Martin got “what he deserved” for being in the wrong clothes, for being in the wrong neighborhood, for being black, for daring to be.
There’s nothing to add here about Allen West. Whatever has made him loathe himself this much is far more hurtful than anything I could ever say about him.
16. He managed to out-racist Donald Trump.
While he was still campaigning for a job he didn’t want in a sector he didn’t understand, Trump came on O’Reilly’s show to talk about all the employment opportunities he was going to bring to African-American communities, aka "the blacks." O’Reilly actually seemed increasingly impatient and annoyed during the exchange, not because of the lack of detail in Trump’s plan, but because he kept suggesting black people might ever hold jobs.
“How are you going to get jobs for them?” O’Reilly asked, one huff away from setting the huffiness record. “Many of them are ill-educated and have tattoos on their foreheads and I hate to be generalized about it, but it's true. If you look at all the educational statistics, how are you going to give jobs to people who aren't qualified for jobs?”
“You say you can bring jobs back. But if the kid isn’t qualified to do the job and can’t do the work—I mean, you’ve got to get into the infrastructure of the African-American community.”
17. He couldn’t believe black people are humans.
Al Sharpton and O’Reilly apparently have dinner together once a year, which, sure, whatever. In 2007, the meal took place at Sylvia’s, an iconic soul food restaurant in Harlem. Back at his radio show weeks later, O’Reilly decided to share a few insights from his visit. He could’ve just said, “I’m a huge racist” and saved us all a bunch of time, but instead he took the long way home.
"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City,” O’Reilly marveled, mind fully blown. “I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks, primarily black patronship."
There was also this: "There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'Mother f**ker, I want more iced tea.' You know, I mean, everybody was—it was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun."
What’s not to hate about this man? No, seriously—I’m asking.
18. And this.