Bill O’Reilly, Fox News’ must pugilistic pundit, has Irish ancestry. It’s a thing that we don’t often acknowledge in public because his onscreen persona – one part Christian Brother, one part Joe McCarthy and one part pitbull in pursuit of a fire truck – harkens back to the belligerent stage Irish of the 19th century.
O’Reilly’s no holds barred approach to political debates on TV makes him popular in Florida retirement communities but not so much elsewhere. If he’s like that sober what on earth would he be like after a Jameson or two, many wonder?
But the time has finally come to revoke O’Reilly’s tribal membership once and for all and send him back his dues.
The ascension of Donald Trump, the fall of Roger Ailes and the prospect of another Clinton presidency has apparently sent him right over the edge.
Responding to Michelle Obama’s astonishingly powerful speech at the Democratic National Convention on Monday, O’Reilly noted on his July 26 broadcast that the First Lady had “referenced slaves building the White House in referring to the evolution of America in a positive way.”
“Slaves did participate in the construction of the White House,” O’Reilly concurred. “Records show about 400 payments made to slave masters between 1795 and 1801…”
But before you think O’Reilly is going to cede the First Lady’s point that it’s a measure of our national progress that people who were originally brought here clad in leg irons and terrorized by brutal slave masters have risen all the way to the White House, here comes O’Reilly to put us straight.
“Slaves that worked there were well-fed and had decent lodgings…” O’Reilly qualified, with unforgivable crassness. “So, Michelle Obama is essentially correct in citing slaves as builders of the White House, but there were others working as well. Got it all?”
The other’s he’s referring to were whites and immigrants, as if there were parity of any kind between them or their experiences. As if to be a slave was the equivalent of being a white immigrant.
With this utterly reprehensible and indefensible comment O’Reilly has finally signaled that he’s ready to join the people he has formerly entertained in those slow-moving Florida rest homes.
And he can surrender his Irish heritage card on the way out, since it has taught him absolutely nothing about fellow feeling or compassion and it only brings shame on the rest of us.