NBC’s Today Show, broadcast to 4.5 million viewers across the country as they get ready for the day ahead, apparently cannot think of a better use of its platform than to help a reported sexual harasser promote his weird vanity project and attempt to rehab his image.
Bill O’Reilly was fired from Fox News in April following a New York Times report that detailed $13 million in settlements he and Fox’s parent company had paid to five women who reported O’Reilly for sexual harassment, a subsequent advertiser boycott spurred by activists, and later harassment reports from more women working at Fox. He was too dangerous for Fox News -- something grotesquely difficult to be -- and was subsequently (and justly) relegated to broadcasting his thoughts via a podcast from his office for months afterward.
But now he’s promoting his newest book, part of an ongoing vanity project O’Reilly began years ago while still at Fox. And for some reason -- and I really, truly don’t know what that reason could be -- some major news networks are set to give him airtime to tout his book and attempt to whitewash his image along the way. If O’Reilly’s appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show this afternoon provides a clue, he’ll also be using this book tour to publicly attack the credibility of women who’ve reported him for harassment.
NBC’s Today appears to be the latest program to decide that allowing a reported serial sexual harasser to engage in an illogical and insulting PR tour is in the best interest of its viewers. O’Reilly tweeted that he will be appearing on Today during the 8 a.m. hour of its broadcast on September 19.
An O’Reilly Today show appearance is completely unforgivable in a number of ways: His misconduct was reportedly one of the reasons Today’s Megyn Kelly left Fox News last year, and Today’s audience is primarily women, who are likely to have themselves experienced workplace sexual harassment.
Unless O’Reilly’s Today appearance is a deeply researched and responsible interview focused solely on the reports that he sexually harassed at least five women, it will only damage NBC, hurt its viewers, and insult its employees.
The network sat on the Access Hollywood footage depicting President Donald Trump bragging about committing sexual assault and was eventually scooped by another outlet. It subsequently waffled on firing its own employee, Billy Bush, for his participation in the incriminating exchange. So if NBC’s past priorities are any indication of its regard for the safety of women, the O’Reilly appearance won’t be anything but a cruel joke.