Thursday, October 09, 2003

Don't Come to a Battle of Wits Unarmed
(Especially when it's a game of solitaire)

Bill O'Reilly stars in the remake of The Mental Disorderly

Terry Gross of NPR, being an incredibly fair, experienced, and dare I say it, balanced interviewer, made the mistake of inviting Bill O'Reilly for an interview. You can listen to the interview here.

I've never watched O'Reilly's show for more than two minutes at a time, because it seems to always end up with him yelling at somebody. I doubt seriously anybody other than he has completed an entire sentence on the show. But really, he was in the not-on-my-radar-screen status until the recent flap in which Fox News sued Al Franken for allegedly violating the trademarked statement 'Fair and Balanced'. I listened to the Fresh Air interview largely because I couldn't quite believe Al Franken had it entirely correct, and I figured a Terry Gross interview would be the place where I could learn something closer to the center of what happened. As it turned out, Al Franken probably was being kind and gentle to O'Reilly, who turns out to be a fruitcake loonier than the Vince Foster murder conspiracists and the JFK assassination buffs combined. I mean, really actually mentally unbalanced, not just disconnected with reality.

I shan't comment in depth on the substance of the bizarre dispute with Terry Gross, since I believe if you listen to the complete interview, it speaks for itself. The dime version is O'Reilly taped the interview, acted incredibly paranoid at anything that wasn't a fawning question, went mental-postal on the mild-mannered Gross, and cut the interview off. He then proceeded to use a very tiny snippet of it on his show, very much out of context, to ridicule NPR, Terry Gross, and again put forward the view that everybody's out to get him.

One of the heights of hypocrisy in this exchange is where O'Reilly claimed Al Franken's book, even though it quoted him directly, was an unfair personal attack because it took only a small snippet of a transcript. He claimed one had to hear the whole interview, segment, etc. to understand what was really going on. And of course, Fox aired a snippet of the Fresh Air interview, while NPR aired the whole thing.

One of O'Reilly's repeated claims was that he'd been libeled/slandered by Franken, et alia, because they attacked him 'personally'; listen to the key phrase in the interview "review the book, not the person". He apparently doesn't hold this standard to himself.

Among the many reprehensible things spouted by O'Reilly in this interview were what can only be characterized charitably as underinformed attacks on Terry Gross - personally - one of the least pre-possessing journalists and interviewers working today. Gross. much to her credit, did not fight back, but kept her journalistic distance.

I, however, am under no such restraints, so I'm going to state the obvious from the interview: Bill O'Reilly is mentally ill. The level of paranoia demonstrated in this interview is intensely high. He needs therapy, possibly medication (maybe he could ask Rush Limbaugh for some help there). Seriously, I'd be really worried to meet a guy like this on the streets.

This guy Bill O'Reilly has gone from an insignificant speck on my personal radar screen to a dangerous incoming missile with a defective firing mechanism. Oh, strike that, on third thought I don't think there's any payload on board, so I guess he's an insignificant speck after all.

Don't pick on Terry Gross. It isn't nice, and certainly not the behavior of a gentleman.

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