Bill O'Reilly's Meltdown and the 10 Most Disgraceful Moments From the Fox News Hall of Shame
Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor since 1996, has been fuming. A controversy recently erupted when Mother Jones reporter David Corn alleged that O’Reilly had misrepresented his coverage of the Falklands War in 1982: O’Reilly, according to Corn, has said that he reported from a “war zone” when, in truth, he only covered angry anti-war demonstrations in Buenos Aires and wasn’t anywhere near the actual combat itself. And when The New York Times’ Emily Steel interviewed O’Reilly about the controversy, he told her that if he disliked her coverage, “I am coming after you with everything I have. You can take it as a threat.” Some of O’Reilly’s critics have been saying that by threatening a New York Times reporter, he has sunk to a new low. But being a bully is nothing new for O’Reilly or his colleagues at Fox News.
Founded in 1996, the far-right outlet is well known for its history of distortions, sloppy reporting, racism, classism and xenophobia. In fact, O’Reilly’s latest tirades come only a month after UK Prime Minister David Cameron (a member of the Conservative Party) denounced Fox News’ so-called “terrorism expert” Steve Emerson as a “complete idiot” for describing Birmingham, England as a “totally Muslim” area that was firmly under the control of radical Islamists and was off limits to non-Muslims. After 19 years, Fox News obviously has no desire to clean up its act.
Below are ten embarrassing moments in the “Fox News Hall of Shame.”
1. Fox News’ Lauren Green Can’t Understand Why a Muslim Academic Wrote a Book on Jesus Christ
In 2013, Reza Aslan (a religious scholar, PhD and convert to Islam) appeared on Fox News to discuss his book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” The interviewer, Lauren Green, took an antagonistic, confrontational approach throughout the interview, implying that Aslan wasn’t qualified to write a book about Jesus Christ because he was a Muslim. And Aslan stressed that one of the things religious scholars do is discuss historic figures like Jesus Christ—it’s part of the job description. Green’s treatment of Aslan was appalling, and in a 2014 interview with Salon, Aslan noted that he had received countless e-mails from “Christians who said that, while they disagree with my interpretation of Jesus, they were horrified by the blatant bigotry that was shown in the interview.”
2. Fox’s Andrea Tantaros Insists That Use of Torture Doesn’t Make U.S. Any Less “Awesome”
When the Senate Intelligent Committee released a 500-page report detailing the CIA’s extensive use of torture on prisoners in Guantanamo Bay during George W. Bush’s presidency, civil libertarians warned that the U.S. had crossed a dangerous line. But Fox’s Andrea Tartaros wasn’t hearing any of it. Tartaros declared: “The United States of America is awesome, we are awesome…… This administration wants to have this discussion to show us how we're not awesome.”
3. Bob Beckel Demands Moratorium on Mosque-Building in the U.S., Calls For Murder of Julian Assange
The neocons at Fox News love to claim that they are big on religious freedom—that is, unless a person of faith happens to be a Muslim. During an anti-Islam tirade on July 9, 2013, Fox News’ Bob Beckel called for limiting the number of mosques in the U.S. and asserted, “I would not have another mosque built in this country until we got it worked out who is not a terrorist.” Beckel also pandered to the neocon agenda when, in December 2010, he appeared on Eric Bolling’s show Cashin’ In and said that the best way to deal with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was to “illegally shoot the son of a bitch.” And ironically, Beckel (who served as fellow Democrat Walter Mondale’s campaign manager in the 1984 presidential race) is positioned as one of Fox News’ token “liberals.”
4. Ann Coulter Jokes About George Tiller’s Murder During O’Reilly Factor Appearance
Fox News seldom misses an opportunity to link Islam in general with terrorism, but terrorist attacks committed by far-right Christianists is a problem that Fox doesn’t worry about nearly as much. For years, Fox host Bill O’Reilly went out of his way to demonize George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who performed late-term abortions. O’Reilly repeatedly called him “Tiller the baby killer” and compared him to Nazis—which was blatantly irresponsible in light of the fact that Tiller received numerous death threats and had survived an attempt on his life in 1993 (when he was shot five times). And on May 31, 2009, anti-abortion terrorist Scott Roeder fatally shot Tiller inside a Lutheran church in Wichita. O’Reilly condemned the killing and even acknowledged that it was an act of “domestic terrorism,” but the condemnation rang hollow after all the time he had spent dehumanizing Tiller.
As if it weren’t bad enough that O’Reilly had spent over half a decade going out of his way to inflame Tiller’s opponents—knowing full well that there were extremists who wanted to see him dead—O’Reilly invited the ultimate far-right troll on his show to discuss the killing: Ann Coulter. In early June 2009, Coulter found the killing incredibly funny and told O’Reilly: “I don’t really like to think of it as a murder. It was terminating Tiller in the 203rd trimester.” Coulter went on to say, “I am personally opposed to shooting abortionists, but I don’t want to impose my moral values on others.” It’s safe to say that had an American physician been murdered by a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban, Coulter would not have been joking about an act of terrorism.
5. Race-Baiting Andrea Tartaros Compares Eric Holder to New Black Panthers During Coverage of Michael Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Missouri
The shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 19 has provoked an in-depth conversation about the extreme militarization of American police—one the United States desperately needs to have. But at Fox News, apologists for the Ferguson Police Department have been claiming that liberals are using events in Ferguson to inflame racial tensions. One such apologist is FNC’s Andrea Tartaros, who in August, described Attorney General Eric Holder as “one of the biggest race baiters in this entire country” for going to Ferguson and insisted that he “runs that DOJ like the Black Panthers.” And Tartaros wasn’t referring to the Black Panther Party of the 1960s, but the extremist New Black Panthers. It was classic Fox News: Tartaros made a clumsy, awkward attempt to paint Holder as a race baiter only to demonstrate how much of a race baiter she is.
6. Fox News Refers to Michelle Obama as “Obama’s Baby Mama”
Fox News has never been shy about using racial dog whistles to fire up their audience, and one of their nasty attacks on Michelle Obama came in June 2008 during a segment in which FNC’s Megyn Kelly was interviewing far-right blogger Michelle Malkin (a frequent FNC guest). While Kelly and Malkin were discussing Republican criticism of Michelle Obama, the words “Outraged liberals: stop picking on Obama’s baby mama” appeared at the bottom of the screen. In hip-hop slang, the term “baby mama” refers to the mother of one’s child when the two are not married—and considering that Barack and Michelle Obama were married in 1992 and had their first daughter, Malia, in 1998, she hardly fits that stereotype. But quite often, Fox News is too busy being racist to let facts get in the way.
7. E.D. Hill and the “Terrorist Fist Jab”
During the 2008 presidential race, Fox News seldom missed an opportunity to paint Barack and Michelle Obama as foreign and less than American—and Fox News’ coverage of the Obamas became especially ridiculous when E.D. Hill (who hosted the program America’s Pulse) devoted a segment to a fist bump they had given one another on the campaign trail. On June 6, 2008, Hill infamously described it as a “terrorist fist jab.” Hill (who is now at CNN) later apologized, but her comment was so revealing: even something as innocuous as a fist bump can take on a sinister quality in the xenophobic, paranoid world of Fox News.
8. Stuart Varney and Andrea Tartaros Mock Food Stamp Recipients
To sane individuals, the fact that the number of Americans who are poor enough to qualify for food stamps soared from 17 million in 2000 to 47 million in 2012 is a tragic illustration of the U.S.’ economic decline. But to the classist wingnuts at Fox News, it is more hilarious than an old Hans & Franz skit on Saturday Night Live. Two such wingnuts are Stuart Varney and Andrea Tartaros. In November 2012, Tartaros appeared on Varney’s program to discuss Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s “food stamp challenge:” Booker had vowed to spend a month eating on a food stamp budget of $133 in order to show how difficult it is. Tartaros remarked, “I should try it because, do you know how fabulous I’d look? I’d be so skinny. I mean, the camera adds ten pounds. It really does. I would be looking great.”
9. Eric Bolling: Barack Obama Is “Chugging a 40 in IRE”
Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and others at Fox News never hesitate to tell African-Americans to pull themselves by the bootstraps. But when a black man does exactly that—for example, Barack Obama coming from disadvantaged circumstances, graduating from the Harvard Law School and eventually becoming president of the United States—he is still likely to be bombarded with racial stereotypes from FNC buffoons. When Obama was in Dublin in late May 2011 for a meeting with Irish President Mary McAleese, Fox News’ Eric Bolling (now one of the co-hosts on Fox News’ talk show The Five) sent out a Twitter message attacking the president for “chugging 40s in IRE while tornadoes ravage MO” (a line he repeated on Fox Business’ Follow the Money). And when Obama met with Gabon President Ali Bongo Ondimba the following month, Bolling criticized him for having “a hoodlum in the hizzouse.” John Durst, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio Wesleyan University, denounced Bolling’s rhetoric as a blatantly racist example of “associating blacks with crime and crime with blacks.”
10. Steve Doocy Attacks Mister Rogers For Giving Children a “Sense of Entitlement”
The Rev. Fred Rogers, who hosted the children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood from 1968-2001, wasn’t exactly a controversial figure: after his death from cancer in 2003, the Presbyterian Church’s general assembly described him as someone who “promoted and supported Christian values in the public media.” But in 2007, three wingnuts on Fox & Friends (including Steve Doocy) tried to make him controversial and claimed that Rogers promoted socialism by telling children they “were special.” As Doocy and his colleagues saw it, Rogers had done an entire generation of children a disservice by given them a “sense of entitlement.” Never underestimate the lunacy of Fox News.