During the December 4 edition of his Fox News show, Bill O'Reilly declared victory against the secularists in his "war" on Christmas. Discussing the issue with Alexia Kelley, executive director of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, O'Reilly asserted: "Now, first of all, you don't deny that, a few years ago -- and we won this war, largely -- that there was a very effective movement underway to wipe out, in the public square, all vestiges of Christmas. Stores were ordering employees not to say 'Merry Christmas.' Towns were suing to get the crèche off the public property." O'Reilly later claimed: "If I had not done the campaign, then the forces of darkness would have won. There's no question about that. We were able to rally the Alliance Defense Fund in Phoenix, Arizona, to fight the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] in court. We were able to convince the major retailers to not order their employees to not say 'Merry Christmas,' to stop that nonsense. We won that."
However, as Media Matters for America documented, O'Reilly previously claimed that certain businesses had ordered employees not to say "Merry Christmas" despite reported denials by representatives of the stores. For instance, on the November 29, 2006, edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, O'Reilly asserted that retailers Best Buy and Crate & Barrel are "still ordering their people not to say, 'Merry Christmas,' " and that the stores "will fire" employees who do so. O'Reilly also claimed that "ordering" employees "not to say 'Merry Christmas' " is "the worst kind of fascism you could possibly have." In a November 22, 2006, article, the Minneapolis Star Tribune quoted Crate & Barrel spokesperson Betty Kahn saying, "We would definitely not say 'Merry Christmas.' " But Think Progress reported: "Kahn said her quote was misconstrued. Crate & Barrel has no policy encouraging or discouraging store employees from saying 'Merry Christmas' or any other greeting. Kahn said she was trying to communicate that the store does not actively require employees to say 'Merry Christmas.' "
On both the November 29, 2006, and December 19, 2006, editions of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly asserted that Best Buy also forbids its employees from saying "Merry Christmas." However, on November 22, 2006, the Augusta Chronicle reported: "Best Buy spokeswoman Dawn Bryant said Best Buy workers are allowed to greet customers any way they choose, including 'Merry Christmas,' but the company's promotional efforts are limited." Bryant added "that one [Best Buy] commercial uses the Happy Holidays saying. 'The idea is that we're celebrating the entire holiday season, just not pulling out any one specific holiday.' " According to the Star Tribune report, another Best Buy spokesperson asserted: "We're not banning Christmas. ... It's the opposite. We're celebrating that holiday, along with the others that are celebrated during November and December."
Later in the December 4 segment, Kelley challenged some of O'Reilly's assertions, saying that "your words around that can be divisive." O'Reilly referred to her as "well-intentioned, but ... naïve," and claimed: "You would have lost the Christmas fight because the secularists don't care about Christmas. All they want to do is get Christianity. Catholicism, Protestantism, whatever it may be, out of the public square." Responding to Kelley's statement that the Christmas message of "caring for our neighbors as ourselves" is "universal," O'Reilly replied: "It may be universal, but you got a lot of forces of darkness who want to knock that message right out."
From the December 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: "Factor follow-up" segment tonight: A group called Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good has taken out a couple of newspaper ads mentioning me. The headline reads: "An Open Letter to Christmas 'Culture Warriors.' " I guess that I am one of those.
Joining us now from Washington: Alexia Kelley, executive director of the Alliance. All right, what do you want people to take away from the ad besides loathing me?
KELLEY: Well, we don't loath you, Bill, and we really want to invite you to join our campaign. We're really wanting to change the subject away from a concern about, sort of, the symbols and the shopping around Christmas, which is all wonderful, to the real message of Christmas, which is, you know, time to be with our families and our friends and to focus on Jesus' message at Christmas, which is to care for our neighbors as ourselves.
O'REILLY: OK, but why would you have to refocus that, because I think most people are with family and friends on Christmas -- I think that's an American tradition -- and I think that anybody who's Catholic understands it's celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Now, first of all, you don't deny that, a few years ago -- and we won this war, largely -- that there was a very effective movement underway to wipe out, in the public square, all vestiges of Christmas. Stores were ordering employees not to say "Merry Christmas." Towns were suing to get the crèche off the public property. You don't deny that was happening, do you?
KELLEY: No, but we did feel that, a lot of the, you know, the campaign and some of the -- you know, your words around that can be divisive. And some of those examples are, you know, do go too far. But the, you know, the way we place our emphasis on Christmas store greetings or what Christmas cards say sort of buys into the consumerism and excessive materialism that can --
O'REILLY: All right, but let's hang on the divisiveness.
KELLEY: -- take over and take over that real message.
O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait. Let's go back to the divisiveness.
O'REILLY: If I had not done the campaign, then the forces of darkness would have won. There's no question about that. We were able to rally the Alliance Defense Fund in Phoenix, Arizona, to fight the ACLU in court. We were able to convince the major retailers to not order their employees to not say "Merry Christmas," to stop that nonsense. We won that. So --
KELLEY: But what we had --
KELLEY: Well, we're inviting you to join us in our campaign to really lift up the message of the common good and get back to the real message of Christmas, and some of the division and the rhetoric around sort of a culture war at Christmastime can distract us from moving forward with a positive message when real people are really struggling today.
And when, you know, Jesus was born in a manger and brought good news to the poor, we want to get back to that message instead of talking about shopping.
O'REILLY: I don't -- I have to disagree with you. I don't think the secularists care about that message at all. And I think the traditional people, most of America, never got away from it. I understand the commercialism, and I understand how stores want to make money, and I understand that they're advertising, you know, after Halloween. I got it. And it's a little bit offensive, but it -- you know, giving gifts brings joy to people.
KELLEY: Yeah, and we're not -- believe me, we do not want to be the Grinch here. I mean, we're -- you know, gift-giving is an important part of the American tradition. But I think dividing people along lines, you know, sort of lines of traditionalism verses, you know, secularists --
O'REILLY: You've got to deal with reality, Ms. Kelley.
KELLEY: Yeah, but it's --
O'REILLY: You've got to -- you know, look.
KELLEY: I think Americans really want to come together around a message of the common good.
O'REILLY: Well, then, why are they suing to get the crèche off the public property?
KELLEY: Well, they're not. They're not suing to do that. I mean, they're some --
O'REILLY: Yeah, they are, Ms. Kelley.
KELLEY: There are some extreme examples.
O'REILLY: The ACLU sued more than a dozen times to get the symbols of Christmas off the public square. Yeah, they are. Look, you are a well-intentioned woman.
KELLEY: But it would be wonderful if you could use --
O'REILLY: You're well- intentioned, but you're naive. You would have lost the Christmas fight because the secularists don't care about Christmas. All they want to do is get Christianity, Catholicism, Protestantism, whatever it may be, out of the public square.
KELLEY: Well, can we --
O'REILLY: They want it out. So, your message is lost on these people. Don't you get that?
KELLEY: No, I don't -- I mean, I think we have a message that's universal, and you know --
KELLEY: -- polls all show that people are ready to come together around a message of good news for the poor and concern for our neighbors as ourselves.
O'REILLY: All right, Miss Kelley --
KELLEY: They're hungry for that.
O'REILLY: -- if that's the way you think, how is Christmas in the Land of Oz? Do you celebrate it any differently? On the yellow brick road?
KELLEY: I think --
O'REILLY: Is that clash with the green tree? Because look, if you think that Americans --
KELLEY: No, I simply celebrate it just like you do.
O'REILLY: If you think all Americans want to come together and celebrate Jesus and Christmas, then you truly are living with the Tin Man, now.
KELLEY: But it is a universal message, we think, of, you know, caring for our neighbors as ourselves.
O'REILLY: It may be universal, but you got a lot of forces of darkness who want to knock that message right out. But we appreciate it.