Bill O’Reilly should have been fired before he made fun of Maxine Waters’ hair. Now would be the worst time imaginable to fire the blow-hard, untrustworthy Fox News pundit, because it would allow partisans to silence an opinion-maker whose opinions they hate by employing shameless and unjustified race-baiting. That tactic, employed repeatedly and futilely against Rush Limbaugh and other high profile conservatives, is unethical, and must not be validated by success.
In case you don’t follow O’Reilly, 1) I salute your taste and time management, and 2) here’s what caused the controversy:
O’Reilly was stopping by the set of “Fox and Friends,” and along with the gang on the couch watched some of Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters’ speech attacking President Trump. After the clip, O’Reilly said, “I didn’t hear a word she said. I was looking at the James Brown wig.”
Being in the Land of the Dimwits, O’Reilly sparked an idiotic defense from co-host Ainsley Earhardt, who said, fatuously, “You can’t go after a woman. Plus, I think she’s very attractive.”
Why in the world can’t you “go after a woman” when the woman is an elected official who says ridiculous things as routinely as clockwork? Earhardt’s statement was sexist on its face, and as O’Reilly quickly found out, it wasn’t sexism that he was going to be accused of with his mean James Brown wig comment. By the way…
…he had a point.
It’s a nasty, ad hominem, unprofessional point, however, that lowers political discourse into the gutter. O’Reilly has been doing this in various ways from the beginning of his career, when he wasn’t misrepresenting his credentials, his conduct, or other matters. This, however, was a relatively minor example.
Never mind though: Waters is black, so by the infinitely adjustable weaponizing definition of racism used by progressives, black activists and Democrats for the previous eight years, to criticize her at all is to be a racist. This was a sub-version; criticizing a black woman’s hair is racist. OK, comparing a black woman’s wig to an iconic black soul singer’s wig is racist. Or something: just cry racism, and the hope is that it will tar O’Reilly so badly that he will become unemployable, and no progressive will ever have their blood pressure raised by him again.
All over social media, progressives of note and non-note called for Bill’s head because his comment was “racist.” This really takes chutzpah, since mocking Donald Trump’s hair and skin-color virtually became a national pastime in Leftist Land during the 2016 campaign, and is still. What’s the standard being advocated here? Calling a white President”s comeover anything from a dead animal to decomposing vegetables is perfectly acceptable political discourse, but comparing a black House member’s wig to the hair of a dead rock icon is too horrible to tolerate? The Washington Post published a feature called “The 100 Greatest Descriptions of Donald Trump;s Hair” last June. It included such entries as
- A mullet that died in some horrific accident
- Combed like he’s televangelist Benny Hinn.
- Like Biff, from “Back to the Future”
- Like Lucille Ball
- Like a troll doll
And most worthy of discussion, this:
His hair] resembles the behavior of alpha chimps who, as primatologist Frans de Waal reports in ‘Chimpanzee Politics,’ make their hair stand on end in order to look large
…which, of course, if O’Reilly had said about any black politician, would have had him fired and working at a bait shop within mere seconds. But if comparing Waters’ hair to James Brown is racist, why isn’t comparing Trump’s to Benny Hinn’s, Biff’s (the idiot bully in “Back to the Future”), or Lucille Ball’s not racist too? Please make that argument, someone: I can’t wait to laugh at it.
Joy Reid, the race-baiting MSNBC host (make that “one of many race-baiting MSNBC hosts), tweeted,
“I seem to recall Don Imus being fired for similar commentary about black women; though in that case, not about a *member of congress.*”
Joy, not atypically, recalls wrongly, or even less atypically, is lying and deceiving her followers. Imus and his raunchy radio crew referred to a women’s black college basketball team as “ho’s” and “nappy-headed.” O’Reilly’s statement was not “similar.” It was similar, indeed, identical to the ad hominem, appearance-based attacks on Donald Trump that Reid never found anything but hilarious, because, you know, he deserves it: this is the New York Times rule on how Trump suspends ethical principles for journalists.Such attacks are unprofessional journalism and punditry, but are not racist in any way.
What O’Reilly was trying to convey is that Waters is ridiculous and an embarrassment. Ironically, she is embarrassing to her profession in roughly the same way that O’Reilly is embarrassing to his. Here. for example, is a recent tweet from Ms. Waters:
Nice. Also completely unfair, evidence-free, and irresponsible for anyone in her position. Such a tweet on similar evidence (none) would justify a libel suit if the target was a private citizen. Would it be less “racist” to attack Water’s integrity, professionalism and intellectual acumen than to make fun of her wig? No, it would be exactly as racist, as in “not racist at all.” It would be, however a lot more professional and fair.
O’Reilly, since he knows a losing hand when he is dealt one, has apologized, though he could not have made it clearer that he believed the matter was over-blown, saying,
“As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. I said that again today on ‘Fox and Friends,’ calling her ‘old school.’ Unfortunately, I also made a jest about her hair, which was dumb. I apologize.”
This is straight-up Level 7 Apology:
“A forced or compelled [apology] in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent .”
No, it will do more harm than good to fire O’Reilly based on a hypocritical and cynical definition of racism when what he was really doing was taking an ad hominem cheap shot, like mocking Donald Trump’s hair.
It should wait a while until this blows over, and then fire him for being Bill O’Reilly.
[Full disclosure: I was a guest on O’Reilly’s show about five years ago. He could not have been nicer. I suspect I will not be getting another chance,]