Bill O’Reilly is one of the most hated political commentators today. I think this is probably one of the reasons why I like him so much.
Before the entire UC Irvine population gets ready to send me a flood of hate mail, I would like to explain that I respect O’Reilly as a reporter who really knows what people want to see, which might explain why people still watch his show, ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ even if they strongly disagree with his opinions.
Books, television programs and Web sites dedicated to O’Reilly have frequently called him a ‘scumbag’ and worse, but despite the wide criticism, O’Reilly is a media megastar. His show has been on the air for 10 years and rightfully remains the dominant cable news program in the United States.
Along with a popular radio show, O’Reilly has released four nonfiction books, three of which have reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list.
O’Reilly is the classic conservative journalist that even conservatives might take issue with on occasion. Topics on his program are often controversial and are likely to irritate some viewers.
He may not always weigh the merits of an argument before declaring his position, and to be frank, even though I probably lean more to the right, I do not agree with many of his points because they may feel very abrupt.
Nonetheless, there is a reason this man is a media megastar and remains a household name. O’Reilly knows what issues Americans are most concerned with and deliberately selects guests so that heated disagreements will arise and further entice viewers to tune in regularly.
While I realize the majority of college students probably do not follow the news as diligently as I do, I know that many watched O’Reilly’s interview with President George W. Bush.
Considering we are on a college campus and it’s just not cool to be conservative, I am prepared to take the heat when I declare that Bush handled himself rather well during the interview, which was aired in three parts. The president answered the questions calmly and never once criticized liberals.
The president responded aptly and cautiously to O’Reilly’s questions regarding the latest carnage in Iraq.
‘If the definition of success is no violence, hardly any society would be able to meet that,’ Bush said. ‘Our goal is an Iraq that can defend itself, sustain itself, govern itself and is an ally in the war on terror. That goal is achievable with a combination of tough security measures by the U.S. coalition and Iraqi forces, and a political process that recognizes that 15 million people want a unity government.’
O’Reilly asked several follow-up questions, asking why Americans should even believe that Iraq can reach stability and saying that 60 percent of Americans do not support the war. To his credit, the president responded in a very sensitive manner.
‘Because [the American people] want us to win,’ Bush said. ‘They’re wondering whether or not we have the plans in place to win. … I can understand why there’s frustration. The enemy knows that killing innocent people will create a sense of frustration.’
O’Reilly remained diplomatic and respectful throughout the interview, as he said he would from the beginning.
‘Interviewing a president is not like interviewing anyone else on the planet,’ O’Reilly said. ‘You cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States. You can be direct, but you can’t be disrespectful.’
The interview came at an appropriate time, with the November 2006 elections right around the corner. It will be interesting to see whether or not Republicans are able to retain control of the Senate.
Reut Cohen is a third-year English major. She can be reached at