Bill O’Reilly and our world of ignorance

After weeks of pressure from advertisers and viewers Fox News decided to remove O’Reilly’s show from its network.

[Editor’s Note: the following opinions are entirely my own.]

Bill O’Reilly no longer has a TV show. I know it probably shouldn’t be surprising, given the backlash that emerged after The Times’ profile on O’Reilly’s multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Advertisers abandoned his show by the dozen and placed enough pressure that Fox News was willing to kill their golden goose. This is a good thing, right? The voices of a disgusted public were heard and acknowledged, as a man who’d performed predatory acts on colleagues was no longer saved by their personal profitability. But somehow as the fallout continues I can’t help but find my optimism tamped down by the painful uncertainty whether or not anything has really changed?

We’re undeniably better off without O’Reilly in the television landscape, but there’s something unsettling about the way he was removed. As much as people will likely remember this event as the result of citizens’ backlash, remember this news comes 18 days after the report was released and prepared themselves to stand by the successful newsman. This comes after Fox News had settled with his accusers for millions of dollars and still opted to renew his contract. There was no excuse of surprise or ignorance from their side. They knew what he’d been accused of but just didn’t care. Bill O’Reilly was saved at first because he was profitable and he was let go because he wasn’t anymore.

Perhaps this is a simplistic way of looking at the matter, but still it would be nice to know that even when the right decision is made it is done for the right reasons. We live in a world where not only a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women sits in the White House and throws his full support to the entrenched O’Reilly. Where many politicians who admonished Trump for his words, quickly forgot about the entire incident when his poll numbers rose again. Where the journalist who playfully bathed in Trump’s words on the Access Hollywood bus receives millions in buyout money and is now plotting a comeback via his bizarre Instagram videos today. Despite the protests and fighting from activists, everybody still wants to live in a world of ignorance. Only when their financial or political futures become questioned does contrition even become considered.

There is a good side to this story, one about the pressure and protesting that made Fox News finally cast O’Reilly aside. That consumers made it known there was money to be lost if they were to continue supporting O’Reilly. Hopefully this teaches a lesson on the standards we require for our public figures. Yet, I already fear the moment ignorance sets back in and O’Reilly finds himself his next job because somebody remembers he was profitable. Trump made it to the White House, Mel Gibson is an Oscar nominated director again, and countless other men continue to skirt by because there’s money and power to be found. As much as there is a temptation to call this decision a win, it will only be one if people continue to remind the decision of what men like O’Reilly do. In a world that prioritizes money, it’s up to us to make them see beyond dollars and cents.

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