“Somewhere Jesus is weeping” over attacks on Bill O'Reilly

FOX News host Bill O'Reilly declared that "[s]omewhere Jesus is weeping" over criticism of O'Reilly in the print media. O'Reilly issued this lament at the end of his December 20 “Talking Points Memo” segment -- a monologue he devoted entirely to responding to criticisms of him by various op-ed columnists -- on The O'Reilly Factor.

During the segment, O'Reilly falsely claimed that a New York Times article on various controversies surrounding Christmas “blames the dreaded conservatives for causing all the ruckus.” He claimed that his critics have launched personal attacks on him because "[i]f these smear merchants can diminish me personally, they don't have to deal with the argument." But far from avoiding the substantive “argument” in favor of attacking O'Reilly, all of the articles O'Reilly cited mentioned him only in passing in the course of addressing various controversies surrounding some holiday celebrations.

O'Reilly began the “Memo” segment by declaring: “Tonight, the media forces of darkness counterattack and go after the defenders of Christmas.” But O'Reilly himself is the only “defender” he named in the segment, though he noted that “The FOX News Channel and its commentators stand in the way of the secular agenda.”

O'Reilly then claimed that New York Times reporter Kate Zernike “uses the Times' playbook and blames the dreaded conservatives for causing all the ruckus.” In fact, Zernike's December 19 article noted that “even many liberals say there is silliness in the way schools in particular try to avoid offending anyone” and that beyond the ever-present conflict between “the A.C.L.U. [American Civil Liberties Union] in one corner and evangelicals in the other ... [t]here is also a more moderate force, asking whether the country has gone too far in its quest to be inclusive of all faiths.” O'Reilly insisted that “Ms. Zernike's analysis of my column ... is misleading in the extreme and she knows it,” but did not explain how. In fact, Zernike never claimed to offer an “analysis” of O'Reilly's December 13 syndicated column on the subject. Rather, Zernike mentioned O'Reilly in just one sentence of her 1,300-word article, quoting a single phrase from O'Reilly's December 7 “Talking Points Memo” and accurately noting that O'Reilly had linked alleged “anti-Christian stuff” to gay marriage, “partial birth abortion,” and legalized drugs.

In the December 20 segment, O'Reilly also cited two other columnists who he claimed personally attacked him to avoid discussing the substance of “Christmas Under Siege” : Tim Rutten in the December 18 Los Angeles Times and Joanne Ostrow in the December 19 Denver Post. But these, too, mentioned O'Reilly only in passing in their discussions of the purported attacks on Christmas.

Directly following the segment, O'Reilly asked his first guest: “All right, where am I going wrong here? All these people hate me. ... And all I'm doing is sticking up for is the baby Jesus. So what's the deal?”

On the nationally syndicated Radio Factor earlier that day, O'Reilly went further in casting himself as a solitary, heroic voice: “So, they [” secular forces"], this weekend, have lashed back in a very brutal way against me because I'm the leading general of the anti-secular forces in this country right now. Unfortunately -- I never wanted the mantle. But I have to do it because they're wrong and they're gonna hurt America."

O'Reilly referred to more newspaper columnists whom he claimed attacked him -- Frank Rich of The New York Times, Laura Billings of the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press, and Howard Goodman of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, in columns published December 19. Rich's 1,700-word column devoted one sentence to accurately quoting O'Reilly and mentioned his name in passing one other time. Billings's 900-word column devoted even less attention to O'Reilly -- two passing references. Goodman devoted several paragraphs to O'Reilly, accurately quoting his remark on December 3 to a Jewish caller concerned about Christian proselytizing in schools that “if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel” as well as other comments documented by Media Matters for America. Despite his relatively minor roles in the various columns that mention him, O'Reilly declared that he was the columnists' raison d'être. “They wanna hurt me -- they're in business to hurt me,” he said.

Yet, despite weeks of coverage of “Christmas Under Siege,” O'Reilly never mentioned that News Corporation, which owns FOX News Channel, held an inclusively titled “Caribbean Holiday Celebration.” The word “Christmas” is conspicuously absent from the invitation.