The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 January 2006

Bill O'Reilly Getting Hit From All Sides

READY FOR BATTLE

A Big Bill O'Reilly Week, Olbermann Lobs Grenades




Less than a week
after Bill O'Reilly's grand-slam performance on David Letterman's show, the now-notorious interview has accomplished much for Bill and media watchers alike.

Refusing to be intimidated by Letterman, O'Reilly stood his ground on issues, even as he was subjected to relentlessly rude behavior and cheap debate tactics.

While Bill politely kept his cool, the "Late Show" comedian simply forgot his role as host and the program's purpose, instead becoming lost in a personal brand of extremist politics.

Now, a lengthy new AP story delves substantially into the subsequent fallout and its impact on O'Reilly in particular. In addition, there's a discussion here.

For transcripts and a full analysis, visit Newsbusters here and Michelle Malkin here. To see the already-legendary video clip, go to the Political Teen here.

Now that Letterman has finally revealed his political hand, it makes one wonder why he was so tough on Al Franken a couple of months ago. Was it personal?

Of particular significance
has been the fallout since this segment aired Wednesday:


--- O'Reilly's cable ratings immediately increased, according to the AP:



It's worth noting that nearly 2.7 million people — about 200,000 above last year's average — tuned in to watch "The O'Reilly Factor" the night after he went toe-to-toe with Letterman, according to Nielsen Media Research. O'Reilly's younger viewership was up 20 percent over his December numbers.


--- O'Reilly received a dose of positive publicity from the blogosphere and even some elements of the normally-hostile mainstream media, especially for keeping his cool under fire and enduring Letterman's unprofessional treatment.


--- Always important for a radio or TV host, this incident tightened the bond between O'Reilly and his fans. They had a dog in this fight, one which won hands down, while the other combatant made an ass of himself:


A high-profile confrontation like this solidifies O'Reilly's relationship with his fans, said Martin Kaplan, an associate dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.

"He lives and breathes attention and combat," Kaplan said. "If he were to go on a friendly venue, there would be no story. It's made in heaven for him to be in a fight with Letterman."


--- After years without truly revealing his full hand in terms of political philosophy, Letterman is now completely out of the closet as a leftist. Judging by his particular dedication to Cindy Sheehan, he appears pretty far out there, as well.

Knowing now where he stands, will the audience ever look at him the same way again? Despite suspicions over the years rival Jay Leno held conservative or libertarian views, the "Tonight Show" host has mostly kept his mouth shut.

In 1997, I interviewed him for my radio show, trying hard to get him to open up on the subject of politics, but he wouldn't budge. A smart strategy for a late-night television comedian, don't you think?


--- Though it wasn't a part of the Letterman-O'Reilly duel, the futility of MSNBC rival Keith Olbermann's attacks on the FOX News Channel host have also become clearer. The same AP story provides evidence:


And Olbermann regularly tweaks his time slot competitor, particularly since starting the "Worst Person in the World" segment last June.

"He's writing this material for me," Olbermann said. "I'm thinking of sending him a check. Day after day he just gets weirder and weirder and weirder."

Olbermann pleads innocent to being holier-than-thou because of his show's willingness to point out its own mistakes. "I'm sure I will eventually make the list," he said. "I will be one of the worst people in the world."

He may already be, at least at Fox News Channel's office. O'Reilly, who didn't want to talk for this article, has referred to Olbermann — although not by name — as a "notorious smear merchant" and pointed out his low ratings. (Olbermann's typical audience is about one-sixth of O'Reilly's.)


Clearly, Olbermann's not getting anywhere attacking O'Reilly. How much energy has he instead spent building up himself? Were he to end up in the same adversarial position with a late-night host such as Letterman, could Keith stay cool under fire?


--- David Brock's liberal Media Matters site is wasting its time documenting every word O'Reilly says:

For the past 18 months, the liberal Web site Media Matters for America has assigned a monitor to O'Reilly's radio and TV shows, and alerts critics to alleged misstatements.


Yet the ratings are higher than ever. What success can opponents point to here?

Overall, the story's main point is well taken: Bill O'Reilly has positioned himself better than ever as someone who simply isn't afraid to tackle opponents, even on their turf.

He'll never fall apart in front of a Jon Stewart, as Tucker Carlson infamously did on CNN's now-cancelled "Crossfire".

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Top Franken photo: HBO, O'Reilly/SF skyline: Canadian Press, Secretary Sheehan: Pete at IHillary, MSNBS: David A Lunde for the Radio Equalizer

6 Comments:

  • Ummm... let me get this right: He's tough on BOTH O'Reilly and Franken, so he's a leftist? He might be one, but not based on this logic.

    By Blogger Justin, at 09 January, 2006 11:12  

  • Didn't watch the Letterman show, did you, Justin?

    By the way, it's not very good logic to make the assumption that because Letterman doesn't like Franken, Letterman is a Republican.

    It might well be that Letterman simply recognizes that Franken is a moron. Criticizing him doesn't mean that Letterman isn't to the left in his politics - a point which certainly seemed apparent from watching the segment - it just means he doesn't think much of Franken.

    By Blogger Lokki, at 09 January, 2006 12:08  

  • "By the way, it's not very good logic to make the assumption that because Letterman doesn't like Franken, Letterman is a Republican."

    Right. And likewise, it's not very good logic to make the assumption that because Letterman doesn't like O'Reilly, Letterman is a Democrat.

    By Blogger Mr. Kite, at 09 January, 2006 12:18  

  • I watched BOTH segments Lokki. Mr. Kite summed up my point perfectly.

    By Blogger Justin, at 09 January, 2006 12:46  

  • One more thing: Bill O'Reilly has positioned himself better than ever as someone who simply isn't afraid to tackle opponents, even on their turf.
    Really? Then how comes he routinely bashes Media Matters, but refuses to allow its founder to appear/defend himself?

    By Blogger Justin, at 09 January, 2006 13:25  

  • "Then how comes he routinely bashes Media Matters, but refuses to allow its founder to appear/defend himself?

    David Brock has asked several times to be a guest on The O'Reilly Factor, but to no avail. O'Reilly normally doesn't do his show live (he likes to run home and see himself on the tube), so he could edit the show anyway he wants. He is just a conservative coward.

    By Blogger pbrauer, at 09 January, 2006 18:50  

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