O'Reilly: raving nut or slick huckster?
No doubt some of you have already heard about Bill O'Reilly's hissy fit on yesterday's Fresh Air (you can listen to it here). The short version is that, at the tail end of the approximately 45 minute interview, O'Reilly abruptly started ranting at host Terry Gross about the interview being nothing but a setup designed to subject him to a multitude of smears by his critics. O'Reilly conspiratorially winked that "we both know what is really going on here". After mouthing off for approximately two minutes, O'Reilly said, "this interview is over" and left the studio, leaving Gross somewhat speechless.
Some are speculating that this demonstrates how unhinged O'Reilly is. I think not. In fact, I think it was O'Reilly who was setting up Gross. Consider the fact that O'Reilly's abrupt "meltdown" occurred right at the place where the interview would be wrapping up anyway. Up until then O'Reilly had been fairly engaging with Gross. There had been some tough back in forth early in the interview about his fight with Al Franken, but the major portion of the middle of the interview dealt almost exclusively with his new book. In other words, O'Reilly was lying when he said that the interview was just an excuse to subject him to criticism. He got plenty of airtime to talk about his work.
Here's what I think happened: O'Reilly knows that his core audience loves the kind of red meat he offers them when he goes after public radio. So what does he do? He goes on Fresh Air to promote his book. But, as the interview is winding down and he has already gotten all the exposure to the NPR audience that he wants to get, he goes into a full bore rant which he can then cut and paste and play back later on the air (which, by the way, he apparently has done on both his TV and radio show) in order to demonstrate how unfair NPR is and how the great Bill O'Reilly continues to stand up "for the little guy" against the big bad liberal media. It's a win-win situation for Mr O'Reilly.
Take it from me folks, Bill O'Reilly knew exactly what he was doing on that program.
Update: There are several letters about this show over at the Poynter Forum (dated link). At least one of the writers is thinking the same thing I'm thinking:
O'Reilly's good timing
10/8/2003 6:03:00 PM
Cursor (dated link) also has several pointers for this story. It looks like O'Reilly is promoting the incident like crazy, once again backing up my theory that his "rant" was calculated.