First it was the fabulous number one bestseller Killing Lincoln. Then the fabulous number one bestseller Killing Kennedy. Then, number one again, Killing Jesus. We are up now to the year 2013. In 2014 came Killing Patton, the following year it was Killing Reagan, and finally, last year, Killing the Rising Sun.
Last year was when we first heard Mr. O’Reilly complaining on his television show that he hadn’t been getting his fair share of attention. That is to say, in spite of being a number one bestseller on The New York Times Book Review list, to date, Killing the Rising Sun had garnered only two reviews—at least in places O’Reilly considered important enough to matter. (This figure did not take into account the hundreds of lauding notes that O’Reilly put up on the screen in his regular closing segment of the show, many claiming that Killing the Rising Sun was the best book the correspondent—P.O. Box 10, Pussy Hollow, Iowa—ever read, excepting The Holy Bible. This in addition to O’Reilly’s regular reports on sales, weeks on the bestseller lists, television movie deals, etc.)
All to say, O’Reilly had wheedled himself millions of dollars of free advertising and had nothing to show for it except money. And money was no longer enough—Mr. O wanted honor, celebration. The unfairness of it moved us to tears. After all, we are writers too, and we know about being overlooked. We get letters from book clubs in North Carolina wondering if we could fly out and spend an evening, we go to book signings where dealers show up with 15 readers’ copies—the free, softcover “galleys” that go out to reviewers prior to publication and somehow end up in the hands of second-hand book dealers, who turn around and sell them to people who think they are buying the Magna Carta. We are, admittedly, a tiny corner of the newspaper business (although nobody has actually explained to us yet that if this is a newspaper, where is the paper?), but we do what we can. In this case, we not only read Killing the Rising Sun, we provided Mr. O with a real review.
Did we get a thank-you? Not a word.
Anyway, how to put this? Killing the Rising Sun is not the best book we have ever read. In a generous mood, a reviewer might call it tiresome. A reviewer who is not feeling generous might say that in cherry-picking the most gruesome, repetitive scenes of battlefield carnage—there is nothing inside a helmet that doesn’t eventually get blown out for the reader to see, again and again and again—what O’Reilly calls “history” crosses over into a kind of revolting pornography.
But then again, back in the days when we were reviewing Killing the Rising Sun, we didn’t know what pornography was. And now we do.
Once there was a man who had it all. Power is knowledge and he knew everything, and what he didn’t know he made up as he went along and that got him a fair piece down the road. As a younger man O’Reilly taught school for 10 minutes in the state of Florida, and was thus a self-anointed expert on education. He played college football—or claimed to, although there is no record of Mr. O on the college gridiron. An old-timer thinks he remembers that O’Reilly was the punter in junior high school—and therefore is prepared to speak with authority on the atmosphere of NFL locker rooms. These are only two examples, of course. In real life, the examples are endless.
But back out to narrative flow. After wild success at many manly professions, Mr. O fell into television, and from there he found his way to Fox News where he was more simpatico with the viewers than he’d been at ABC.
Then some bad luck. O’Reilly became a very important man at Fox News, and this he took to heart. His show reached number one of cable news shows, and Mr. O started letting his penis do the thinking. It is not a smart penis.
Women were berated openly in the newsroom, around the office. They complained and were told there was nothing that could be done, that Mr. O was a throwback, and he made too much money to be reprimanded. Then, in 2004 an associate producer named Andrea Mackris who did not think O’Reilly made too much money to be reprimanded sued Fox and Mr. O’s penis for sexual harassment. Her story was that the television star would call her at night with his sexual fantasies while masturbating on the other end of the line. Among other requests, he wanted her to go with him on a vacation and accompany her into a shower and then, clean as a whistle, insert a food item called a falafel—a deep fried fritter from what I find in the dictionary—into her God-given falafel-holder, and in the interest of good taste I don’t think we should take this any further.
This was not the first woman Mr. O had antagonized, but Ms. Mackris was apparently the first one who sued. She sued, and Mr. O countersued the same day, claiming she was an extortionist. The lawyers heard the stories, and Fox settled for $9 million.
A reliable source said, “Two million bucks an inch!”
Mr. O said, “This brutal ordeal is officially over and I will never speak of it again.” This is also about the time he stopped talking to newspapers.
Meanwhile, things were not going well at home. Mr. O, who is famous for his temper, was, according to his daughter, terrifying his wife and kids, and in 2010 the couple separated. Fourteen years, down the drain.
In 2011, Rebecca Gomez Diamond, host of Fox’s Happy Hour filed a sexual harassment complaint, settled for an undisclosed number, personally paid by O’Reilly. Like the others, Ms. Diamond had complained but was told there was nothing they could do. Mr. O’s penis was a problem they all had to live with.
Then, Juliet Huddy, co-host of Fox & Friends Weekend and Dayside, said O’Reilly threatened to have her fired when she rejected his sexual advances in 2011. Mr. O’s technique had not gotten any smoother. According to Ms. Huddy, it was the same old thing, more dirty talk on the telephone while Mr. O masturbated. Then last year Ms. Huddy and Laurie Dhue, a second-string anchor, both sued O’Reilly for sexual harassment, both winning seven-figure settlements out of court.
In 2015, talking to a forensic examiner, O’Reilly’s oldest child, Madeline, testified that she’d seen Mr. O choke her mother and drag her down the stairs by the neck. Mr. O said the story is “100 percent false.” All lies, said Mr. O, talking about his own daughter.
Moving ahead to this year, Wendy Walsh, a psychologist, claimed O’Reilly offered her a contract over supper, then “snatched it back” when she refused to accompany him to a hotel room. She has not sued anybody to date.
Former Fox personality Andrea Tantaros filed suit against Fox last summer, complaining not only about Mr. O but Roger Ailes and two of guests of the show. She has since turned down “a seven-figure” offer and will be in court this summer.
Another accuser came forward this week, an African-American woman named Perquita Burgess, who worked temporarily at Fox, and said O’Reilly called her “hot chocolate,” and grunted at her when they were alone. Grunting? How does a girl say no?
These are not the only complaints. The downstate returns aren’t in yet, but so far it looks like $13 million in harassment settlements, which Fox News would have undoubtedly paid forever to keep O’Reilly in place, but earlier this month New York Times reporters Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt laid O’Reilly out for the world to see, and it was just a matter of time then until O’Reilly joined three presidents, one savior, a general, and a country, all victimized for doing what they loved.
As it stands, Fox owes O’Reilly something in the neighborhood of $25 million, as the company recently signed a new contract, this one in the form of a severance deal, with Mr. O, knowing exactly who O’Reilly is and what to expect.
In the end, we are left with a broken man and his last words. This is what he said: “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. That is the unfair reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”
And there isn’t much to add to that.