Every theater needs its props, but things can get tedious if they don't appear when needed. That's the lesson from this week's O'Reilly Factor, when the Fox News pundit lashed out at Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock who declined his invitation to appear on the show.
According to Variety, O’Reilly immediately took issue with the curt - and racially tinged - response his debate request received.
'I was summoned to testify before speaker of the house Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News entertainer,' Whitlock wrote in his calculated to offend column.
'I don’t have to shuffle off to the big house when summoned. O'Reilly is not Boehner, Pelosi or Obama. He’s a TV entertainer who has spent the weeks after the election crying about the end of the ‘white establishment’ America, the end of the days when an upstanding white man felt entitled to summon whomever he wanted whenever he wanted to the big house to dance. I don’t dance,' Whitlock wrote.
O'Reilly was incensed to hear himself described in terms reminiscent of a Southern plantation owner before the Emancipation Proclamation, but it's also likely he was equally offended by Whitlock's decision to dismiss him as 'a TV entertainer.'
Whitlock’s response was pure racism, O'Reilly said on his show. 'Whitlock implying that I am some kind of slave overlord - and he gets away with that kind of garbage, in fact, he gets paid to spout,' he added.
But critics would suggest that so does O’Reilly. Despite its offensive comparisons, Whitlock's column did make an undeniable point: O'Reilly's show often provokes conflict between the combative host and his often startled guests, and that gives O'Reilly the home team advantage because he calls the shots and can edit the exchanges.
Without the participation of guests like Whitlock, O'Reilly is forced to turn to fallbacks like Bernie Goldberg, Juan Williams and other familiar Fox faces to stand in for invited but uninterested guests.
'The O’Reilly Factor isn’t a courtroom, and there’s nothing that says its host has a God-given right to confront his critics,' Whitlock wrote. 'Moreover, if you do venture into the lion’s den, the game is rigged, since O’Reilly and his producers control every aspect of the appearance.'
O'Reilly dismissed Whitlock's racially charged rant with incredulity. 'We are living in a country that is rapidly changing. Rules of civility are pretty much finished,' O'Reilly said in his Talking Points Memo section.
O'Reilly added that people like Whitlock deserve pity, but they need to be exposed. 'They are liars and they are abusing freedom of speech,' he added.