Maybe it’s a rewrite of Lord Acton’s famous quote as “Pundit power tends to corrupt and absolute pundit power corrupts absolutely,” but whatever the explanation, something has happened to Bill O’Reilly. Bill has always been, shall we say, a tad narcissistic with his palaver about “looking after you” and the “no spin zone,” not to mention endlessly self-referential email praising or damning his latest co-written book or his avuncular vocabulary hints, almost always illustrated as “Don’t be a [fill in the blank] when writing to the Factor,” but we excused him. He was, after all, Bill O’Reilly, the most popular of the popular and a man of many gifts. But of late he appears to have been running off the rails.
He inflated his own interview with Barack Obama, which scarcely broke any new ground, into the confrontation of the century and continues to auction off his scrawled notes for the event as if they were the Gettysburg Address. But that’s the least of it. Always testy, he has started to become genuinely abusive of his guests.
On Tuesday night, when discussing the latest absurdity from Oliver Stone, he began to harass Monica Crowley, seemingly not comprehending what she was saying. That was compounded minutes later when he genuinely didn’t understand what John Stossel was saying and picked a fight with the libertarian commentator over nothing. O’Reilly didn’t even appear to get the message of Orwell’s Animal Farm. I have to assume he read it, but who knows? Both Stossel and Crowley justifiably looked perplexed but, to their credit, rolled with the punches.