Share this article

print logo


Too easy. Too obvious. Too satisfying.

That was my reaction -- after laughing -- when a colleague merrily told me about Bill O'Reilly's current sexual harassment pickle: a suit by his former producer Andrea Mackris and O'Reilly's pre-emptive countersuit charging extortion.

Sure, I thought, many would like to believe that the top-rated bully-boy of Fox News -- a pompous quasi-populist known for shouting down opponents and saying "shut up" more than Little Richard -- is the kind of wacko who forces a producer on his show into one-sided phone sex.

But it's way too convenient, I thought. In the real world, media miscreants don't typecast themselves that obviously.

Or do they? Whatever else O'Reilly is in the world (and bloviating buffoon is one thought that comes to a few minds), he's also hugely vulnerable to every ideological enemy or rival who wants to see him knocked off his bully-boy pulpit.

My colleague directed me to the Internet Web sites having a field day with the story, with hints that there were details in Mackris' suit too embarrassing to tell me but worth marveling at.

When I finally checked it out on America's Schadenfreude Central -- otherwise known as the Smoking Gun -- it became instantly obvious to me as it did everyone else: So detailed and strange are Mackris' allegations that she either has O'Reilly on tape or she has a gift for wild-hare sex comedy exceeding every current novelist, screenwriter and playwright known to me.

Which isn't so hot for her, either. As one of O'Reilly's many chortling and giggling cable-TV competitors pointed out over the weekend, taping someone without telling them isn't exactly kosher in New York State.

It's still a He Said/She Said at this stage, an episode of "Boston Legal" being played out on dueling morning shows ("Today" vs. "Regis and Kelly") for the amusement and edification of everyone eager to see the Shut Up King trade in his business suit for a fool's cap and bells.

We do an awful lot of this these days, it seems to me. We put bullies in big public places to harangue us all and tell us everything we're doing wrong -- whether it's O'Reilly blunderbussing about his "no-spin zone" or Martha Stewart instructing the world on the higher meaning of doilies and peonies -- and then we throw a party when yesterday's Humpty Dumpty turns into today's omelet.

That O'Reilly's ratings will ride high for a while is a given. The "tune-in factor" to the playing out of this public relations nightmare can't help but be high. But, as O'Reilly has said, his career may be on the line here. He could very well be poised on the brink of Bloviating Bully-boy Oblivion, where Morton Downey Jr., Joe Pyne and other Maharajahs of Rudeness Past dwell.

What awaits him may be the kind of folkloric decimation of reputation that befell, say, J. Edgar Hooever, a man of historically documented monstrous behavior in American history who is now best known as the cross-dressing G-man everyone wishes him to be but which no one can conclusively prove.

Then again, it's not as if O'Reilly's lurid sexual imagination is a secret. In a volume cordially titled "The I Hate Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity Reader" we are reminded that in 1998 O'Reilly published a novel called "Those Who Trespass," replete with bloody violence, crotch scrutiny and guys "in hushed tones ... using words that in polite conversation would have been vulgar but in this context were extremely erotic."

If he remains employed and solvent, he's only a public apology and a period of absolution away from wholesale renewal.

Bill O'Reilly -- meet an old whipping boy of yours, Bill Clinton. You two have a lot to talk about.

A CLOSER READING: Another colleague pointed out that I should I have read my quick history of Che Guevara more carefully. He was indeed shot to death in Bolivia, as I said in my review of the superb "The Motorcycle Diaries" but not by firing squad.


There are no comments - be the first to comment