His mouth was bound to get him in serious trouble one of these days, and we can only hope it happens this time. Bill O'Reilly has done it again. This time, the thread on which his career hangs, the one holding the Sword of Damocles, ought to be cut. If only his bosses at Westwood One and Fox News Channel had the decency to realize that O'Reilly has stepped further over the line that even Don Imus did. Just because he's back on the air is no reason not to punish O'Reilly for his profane and despicable comments. (And for all you "First Amendment" defenders of his, I'll have something to explain to you later.) In case you missed it, on his Feb 19th radio broadcast, Bill O'Reilly said the following:
You know, I have a lot of sympathy for Michelle Obama, for Bill Clinton, for all of these people. Bill Clinton, I have sympathy for him, because they're thrown into a hopper where everybody is waiting for them to make a mistake, so that they can just go and bludgeon them. And, you know, Bill Clinton and I don't agree on a lot of things, and I think I've made that clear over the years, but he's trying to stick up for his wife, and every time the guy turns around, there's another demagogue or another ideologue in his face trying to humiliate him because they're rooting for Obama.That's wrong. And I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down.
He then tried to apologize for his remarks with the non-apology apology, "I'm sorry if my statement offended anybody. That, of course, was not the intention. Context is everything." That's right, Bill. You said that you wouldn't join any "lynching party unless" (and you did put a lot of emphasis on the word "unless") "there's evidence". So, to put what you said in another, equivalent way, if there's evidence that she feels "that America is a bad country or a flawed nation", you would feel it "legit" to "to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama". And you don't understand why this is offensive? At all? Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that Mrs. Obama is black, it is a horrible thing to say about anyone. That she is black makes it inexcusably worse.
No one, myself included, who is not black and who did not live through that shameful period in our nation's history can know what it was like to live in fear of having it happen to you or a loved one. No doubt there are many alive today who are parents, children, descendents or siblings of lynching victims, and they know the pain and fear that I never could. To have a black person lynched, even in the public square, sent a powerful and frightening message of domination to the black man. "Do not even think of forgetting your place." (And that's putting it politely.) It was a message of intimidation to everyone. It was terrorism. And what made it all the worse was that it was often condoned by local, white-controlled law enforcement. Sometimes, they participated in the lynchings and help stall ot thwart the investigations. There are many outstanding cases today for which there has been no justice, and may never be. To suggest, even in a joking or flippant manner, that you would have anything whatsoever to do with something called a "lynching party", even in the figurative sense, is one of the most insensitive and racist things one could say. Especially when the person in question is black. And a woman, no less. And the wife of the man who may very well be the next president of the United States. And Bill O'Reilly is not being fired? Or suspended? Or even admonished about his poor choice of words? Nothing? You mean his bosses at Westwood One and Fox News Channel are perfectly okay with this? Perhaps we should let them know how we feel. (Those last two links take you to their respective "Contact Us" pages.)
Now, for all you O'Reilly defenders who want to say that I am depriving O'Reilly of his First Amendment right of free speech, let me explain something to you, and I will try to use go slowly so you'll understand. The First Amendment says that the Congress (not private citizens) shall pass no law "abridging freedom of speech." It means that, with a limited number of exceptions, you can't be put in jail for anything you say. That does not mean that as a condition of employment, your boss can require that you not say certain things in public or as part of your job (such as the fact that your bosses are soulless capitalists who are only interested in making a buck, like Rupert Murdoch). No one, myself especially, is suggesting that O'Reilly be imprisoned for what he said. We just want some kind of sign from his bosses that they do not approve of comments like that, nor would they want to be associated with them and thought of as the purveyors of racism. I know I wouldn't.