Of all the racists, Islamophobes, misogynists, homophobes, and all-around hateful bigots ThinkProgress has chronicled since our inception 11 years ago, none have provided such a steady stream of nonsense as William James O’Reilly Jr.
And so it is with mixed emotions that we must report the premature and yet also long-overdue demise of Mr. O’Reilly’s career. It was 42 years old.
O’Reilly’s career came into this world on local television, where he quickly earned a reputation as an irritable showman. A job offer from the syndicated television gossip program Inside Edition provided O’Reilly’s career with a bridge from local nuisance to national embarrassment in the early 1990’s.
But it was at Fox News Channel, then a fledgling cable news network developing an obsession with Bill Clinton’s libido, that O’Reilly’s star was born.
During his 21-year career with the network, he found an audience yearning for an old white man brave enough to defend slavery. They lapped up his observations on the LGBT community (how they are to blame for the War on Christmas, why they are basically the same thing as Al-Qaeda, that they are pedophiles), on abortion (that providers are basically asking to be murdered), and how the LGBT community is responsible for unrestricted abortion.
In the face of overwhelming evidence, O’Reilly always remained steadfast in his insistence that children never go to bed hungry, that voter ID laws aren’t deliberately punitive toward minority communities, and that global warming is a fiction. Even when guests came to his Manhattan studio armed with indisputable facts, they were no match for O’Reilly’s unshakable opposition to accuracy.
He was nothing if not generous with his platform though, lending his airwaves to such friends as Ann Coulter and anti-immigrant birther Lou Dobbs, and his longtime producer Jesse Watters, who was strategically deployed to carry out the show’s more straightforwardly racist segments, like the one he filmed just last year making fun of Asian-Americans.
It was Watters who, in 2009 after ThinkProgress reported on O’Reilly’s comments that women should expect to be raped if they don’t dress appropriately, was sent to stalk Amanda Terkel—then a ThinkProgress editor—while she was on vacation.
O’Reilly’s obsession with ThinkProgress ran deep. He devoted entire segments of his now-defunct show to calling ThinkProgress “insects,” “a very well-oiled, effective character assassination machine,” and, in a rare moment of lucidity, “the most important progressive news outlet.”