Ethics Verdict on O’Reilly vs. Aniston: O’Reilly’s No Dan Quayle

Jennifer Aniston is promoting her upcoming comedy “The Switch,” about a single woman who becomes a mother through artificial insemination. In one interview. Aniston commented that “Women are realizing more and more that you don’t have to settle, they don’t have to fiddle with a man to have that child.” This rankled Fox News’ star blowhard Bill O’Reilly, who regarded Aniston’s remark as an endorsement of unwed and under-age motherhood, and told his  cable audience that Aniston was “throwing a message out to 12-year-olds and 13-year-olds that, ‘Hey! You don’t need a guy, you don’t need a dad!” His verdict: “That’s destructive to our society!…Aniston can hire a battery of people to help her, but she cannot hire a dad, okay?” Social conservatives immediately lined up behind O’Reilly, eager accept Bill’s invitation replay the two decades-old spat between Candace Bergen and Dan Quayle. That famous debate ensued when  Bergen’s TV sitcom character Murphy Brown, a single professional woman, had a “fatherless” baby and Quayle accused her and the show of  irresponsibly representing voluntary single-motherhood as a perfectly acceptable alternative to a traditional mother-father-child family. The E! crowd, which has been very protective of Jen since Angelina Jolie snatched away her husband, as well as the many bloggers and journalists who believe O’Reilly is the devil incarnate, immediately ridiculed Blowhard Bill’s shot as the rantings of a antiquated  fuddyduddy.

It’s not that simple.

To begin with, Dan Quayle was dead right, and even Candace Bergen, whose liberal and feminist credentials are impeccable, ultimately agreed that he had a valid point. The cavalier manner in which Murphy Brown had her fatherless baby and then farmed the child out to various caregivers while using her substantial financial resources, trivialized the issue of single-parent childbearing and unwed motherhood. It did send an irresponsible message to teenaged girls who might regard having a baby as fun and glamorous rather than a life-altering commitment and a severe disadvantage for the child. Murphy’s baby, once all the pregnancy plot lines had been exhausted, essentially vanished after he was”born,” because the main action in “Murphy Brown” was the workplace. This was also misleading: a baby becomes the center of a single mother’s life, while Murphy appeared to be functioning as if nothing had changed,  letting her funny house painter take care of her son all day without any apparent alteration in her routine or stress level.

Hollywood does send a  damaging cultural message to girls with the way its stars so often treat marriage as a mere optional  accessory to child-bearing. O’Reilly’s general point is a fair and important one. As usual, however, he went too far, suggesting that fathers are essential to successful parenting, and in so doing denigrating the millions of mothers who have to raise children alone through no fault of their own, without a Hollywood salary, and still do a wonderful job of it.

He was also extremely unfair to Aniston, who was making a simple statement of fact: women who want a child but who have not found a man to be a partner and father need not abandon the dream of starting a family. “You don’t have to settle” is an important idea, in fact: “settling” on a poor potential father in a desperate effort to have a child not only often leads to single parenthood anyway, but also divorce, infidelity, or abuse. She was not talking about 14-year-old girls in Gary, and actresses do not have an obligation to ensure that every public utterance they make is 100% immune from misinterpretation by someone without a high school diploma.

Aniston’s choice of words was unfortunate, however.  Her use of “fiddle” could give the impression that she believes having a father for one’s is a mere inconvenience of life, like doing the dishes, that has finally been rendered obsolete by the miracles of science. I don’t think that’s what she meant or believes—she did marry Brad Pitt, after all—but public figures are accountable for what they say, and both she and O’Reilly know their comments know that their statements and the words they use to make them will have influence far, far beyond what their wisdom, expertise and authority justify.

Both had legitimate points to make on the issue of single parents, and both should have been more careful with the scope of their comments. O’Reilly, however, unfairly condemned Aniston, whose sentiments he linked to the destruction of society when she did no more than make an accurate statement of fact.

Sorry, Bill. You were unfair and disrespectful to Jennifer Aniston and used her off-the-cuff remark as an excuse to re-enact Quayle vs. Brown.  But Jennifer is no Murphy Brown: you’re the ethics loser this time.

14 thoughts on “Ethics Verdict on O’Reilly vs. Aniston: O’Reilly’s No Dan Quayle

  1. And here I’d been regarding O’Reilly somewhat favorably in recent weeks after his appearance on the “Tonight Show,” especially his comments regarding Lindsey Lohan and his no-buts apology over his handling of the Sherrod story. Good things, unfortunately, don’t always last.
    I don’t have serious quarrel with any of your comments regarding Jennifer Aniston, Jack. Still, her interview remarks did have my antennas twitching a little. Research on the subject has made pretty clear that the gold standard for child-rearing is a mother and a father in a low-conflict marriage. Tragically, our society seems to be doing a pretty good job of making a hash of that standard.
    Please don’t misunderstand: I have nothing but respect for legions of single parents who are doing their level best, often under trying circumstances to provide for and raise their children. God bless them for it. The fact remains, however, that the odds of favorable outcomes for children increase when both a mother and a father are involved in the process of child-rearing.

    • No disagreement, and from some of her comments in response to O’Reilly, Aniston appears to agree as well. My late Dad, mostly conservative, really bristled at this issue: he and his mom were abandoned by his dad when my father was very young, and his mother was the most courageous and dedicated single parent imaginable. It can be done, but nobody should pretend it’s the ideal, or easy, or without risks.

  2. Excuse me — am I typing in invisible ink? Two sets of writing have disappeared. I hope the previous messages — very much “in process” have not gone up on your website but I think I will stop now rather than try to reconstruct the material. In future I will compose elsewhere and then copy here. Do, if you know, tell me what happened.

    • Penn…I’m sorry…what happened? I hate that. Not sure what the WordPress software did to you, but it is rare. Typically you can just compose, click, and it’s there. Don’t give up…

  3. For me, this issue is important for sure, but whenever FauxNoise and o really? Hop on an issue such as this, it is ALWAYS to wedge and distract, divide and conquer the sheeple away from what are the real issues, facts, and manufactured consent for the “moral majority’s” hideous global agenda that keeps plugging along under our fat, complicient schnozzles.

    For evidence much more eloquent than me, any one of these fine series and see for yourself:
    1. Conspiritus ubiquitos (sp) – evidence of revision… 5 parter, great stuff, especially part 1… It’s a mind bender for sure… Especially about th rifle…
    2. Adam Smith’s “the century of the self” which details the modern pheomina of public relations, and how the ruling class, beyond “the left” and “the right” have implimented these “tools” to trick the masses into a hypnosis to which this oh really vs aniston debate is, I’m sad to say, is just a part of the grander agenda, part of the “Manufactured Consent” where they justify their hideously unethical behavior but scream and yell at anyone who has any independant Thought Structure(tm).

    • It’s far too paranoid for me to believe that Bill O’Reilly has any over-arching agenda other than to get high ratings, bludgeon viewers with his opinions, make lots of money, and hear himself talk.

      Though people don’t like to admit it and don’t like the fact that more diversity of opinion actually makes it harder for democracy to work, but facts are facts: in the Sixties, 80% of the public believed everything Uncle Walter told us, and when the press liked a president, they just buried the fact that he was sleeping with mob molls and spies. People like O’Reilly and Rush have shattered that “hypnosis”—now nobody trusts anybody, as your comment aptly shows. It’s still safer than thinking biased news with an agenda is “objective.”

  4. 3. Another great Adam Smith series which really nails home this “Manufactured Consent” is the 3 part “the Power of Nightmares,” which speaks to your comment about the media having no agenda except high ratings and beating the propaganda Tom-Tom. Remember phil Donahue? He was by far the highest rated (and rising) show on MSNBC when they abruptly “Cancelled” his show in 2002-3 for his openly questioning “the war agenda” openly… Where’s he been since?
    Which leads me to my “power of nightmares” vs this “mosque near ground zero” nonsense. Watch the series and then honestly tell me that these are alll intricate moves in a very elaborate “chessgame” (bryzinski) (sp) that put the CONSENT out there that it was the Muslims (oswald, sadaam hussein, gulf of tonkin, Japanese & pearl harbor, remember the Maine, etc etc…) therefore, it reaffirms in the mind of the public that it was not an inside job ( NORAD standdown, building 7, operation northwoods, etcetc…) instead.
    So try toget on fauxnoise and push that agenda, of which there is ample evidence, however, you’ll be labeled “conspiracy theorist” & crazy by o really and Sean “bohemian Grover” hannity.

    • Phil? he wasn’t “abruptly canceled” at all: his ratings were in the toilet, he would no longer let guests speak, and his naked bias was even annoying to people who agreed with him. He got shrill and irrational. Since then? Oh, he supported Howard Dean for President, and has periodically reappeared to remind us of why he left. He doesn’t prove a thing.

      I’m going to assume I misread the suggestion that 9/11 was “in inside job,” which I regard right up there with “LBJ had Kennedy assassinated” and “the CIA launched AIDS to kill black people” and just as offensive.

      • Hey you’re right… His ratings were in th toilet. But according to wikipedia ( sorry) it was th highest rated show on msnbc at th time. And hey, I’ll give you that he’s probably as self righteous as any pundit out there, Ralph Nader and Jerry brown notwithstanding.
        However, I challenge you to really dig into the other terms and events I briefly touched on – you can’t just dismiss them with a sweeping, blanket generalization as “offensive” w/o looking w a skeptical eye at the “official” view of the events.
        Jack, you can believe whatever you want… We are all on a journey. But am I wrong to think that the pursuit of real truth is not the most noblest intent of ethics in it’s purest form?

        • You were talking about his MSNBC show? I was talking about the long-running “Phil Donahue Show”. The MSNBC show was his comeback, and was widely regarded as a floppola. “The highest rated show on MSNBC” in those days was like being the intellectual on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”! (It’s not that much better now, actually…)

          I agree that the search for truth is a noble quest. I just don’t believe that the world is infested with James Bond villains, or that any such villains pass through the various filtering systems that lead people to the White House, or that vast, complex conspiracies ever remain hidden for more than about 15 minutes. People are far more arrogant, careless and stupid than they are evil, and almost all bad things occur as a combination of bad management and bad luck (Herman Kahn).

  5. Oh, and I am typing all this on me phone, or I would be much mote articulate and provide evidence w links & examples. But the bottom line for me is… Our pop culture has it’s healthy aspects, however, it is ladden w traps set by hidden agendas, of which there are plenty, and elaborate.

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