Bill O'Reilly (AP/Richard Drew)

Congratulations, everyone, you've broken Bill O'Reilly's brain

The fired Fox host is melting down right before our eyes


Taylor Link
October 24, 2017 7:40PM (UTC)

For the past few days, Bill O'Reilly has been having a bit of a meltdown. Certainly, the fired Fox News anchor hasn't handled the latest news surrounding him with anything that could be mistaken for dignity.

He lashed out at the The New York Times' reporting of a $32 million settlement, calling the story “a malicious smear,” a plank in a vast left-wing conspiracy against him.

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In doing so, he invoked the death of Eric Bolling's son — a death that happened just as Bolling was fired from Fox News for his own harassment scandal — claiming that this kind of reporting ruins lives. Bolling demanded an apology and got one, but it was too late.

As well, O'Reilly has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, telling former Fox New host Glenn Beck, “I have been in the broadcast business for 43 years with 12 different companies and not one time was there any complaint filed against me," he said on Beck's radio program. "Nothing. Zero. So I think my track record speaks for itself.” The fact that he settled multiple lawsuits against people who filed complaints is actually what speaks for itself.

Megyn Kelly offered her own rebuttal to that claim on her show Monday, when she read emails she had sent to Fox executives about O'Reilly's inappropriate behavior towards women.

This prompted O'Reilly to release "evidence" of his good standing with her in the form of amicable letters. He produced similar messages from Gretchen Carlson, who herself accused Fox boss Roger Ailes of harassing her. To him, friendly but clearly perfunctory notes of thanks for favors and such — which he forced Beck to read — constituted a smoking gun, proof of a plot to take down a innocent, virtuous man.

Then, he turned the tables on his employer, Fox News. O'Reilly confirmed in his statement that "dozens of women accused scores of male employees of Fox News of harassment" after Roger Ailes was ousted as chief executive office from the network. O'Reilly directly named current co-president of Fox News Jack Abernethy as one of the alleged harassers. He neglected to mention that he is himself the most well-known of Fox's pack of awful men.

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Oh, and his talent agency dropped him.

This is just the last 72 hours or so.

Overall, the former establishment right-wing commentator is treading into Alex Jones territory, trying to cast himself as the hero in a morally slanted, news business version of a Jason Bourne movie. He released a statement Monday to that effect, insisting that the media and his alleged victims have colluded against him to "keep him from competing in the marketplace."

It's hard to comprehend how drastic O'Reilly's downfall has been the last few months. His ego has likely been unable to grasp it, which might explain why he has acted with a reckless disregard towards the women who've accused him of misconduct and the late son of a former colleague.

Through all of this, O'Reilly seems most distressed over the fact that his chances in show business have come to an end, a delayed finale for the right-wing pundit who, up until this point, escaped serious scrutiny and shunning from his own party.

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O'Reilly's latest scandal involving contributor Lis Wiehl came amid a flurry of sexual harassment and assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. While Weinstein faced immediate repudiation from liberals, O'Reilly didn't suffer the same level of pushback.

Sure, O'Reilly was out of a job earlier this year after the sexual harassment allegations first surfaced, but he has gotten away mostly unscathed and has been able to peddle books and offer his "no spin" in podcasts. He was even invited back on Fox News, appearing live in the studio with Sean Hannity.

But it seems O'Reilly lost a lot of equity after the Times' report. The National Review's David French recommended that O'Reilly had "to be Weinsteined."

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"None of this should be hard," French wrote. "There are too many allegations settled for too much money for O’Reilly to receive the benefit of the doubt. It’s time for O’Reilly to be Weinsteined."

Yes, even the establishment Republicans who cynically rode his ability to gather audiences for so long want to see him buried. Come to think of it, maybe he is right about that conspiracy (though wrong about locating it on the left side of the political spectrum). It's a situation that may have O'Reilly escalating his mostly one-man crusade against what seems to be the majority of the people on earth.

Whatever the case, it seems official: O'Reilly is broken.

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Taylor Link

Taylor Link is an assistant editor at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @taylorlink_

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