Bill O'Reilly Is "on His Last Legs Anyway"

The former host of The O'Reilly Factor wants us to remember that people who are old like him barely matter

Does anyone remember who Bill O'Reilly was?

We probably shouldn't talk about him in the past tense. He's still alive, after all, though probably not for much longer. He's only 70, so he could live another 30 years, and probably someone in the world would be happy to see him still shuffling about, mumbling about writing another Killing So-and-So book, but most of us can see that he's on his last legs. How else could you explain the idea of a man who was once considered a sharp political commentator speaking dismissively about the deaths of tens of thousands of people?

That's exactly what O'Reilly did when calling in to Wednesday's episode of The Sean Hannity Show. Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that is currently ravaging the hospital system in New York City, Hannity and O'Reilly started out by pining together for a return to normal life, which prompted O'Reilly to find an optimistic angle, saying, "We're making little steps. Bernie Sanders, you know, he's—he's gone, that's really good for everybody."

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It's unclear what O'Reilly might have meant by that—if he felt that the Vermont senator dropping his bid for the Democratic nomination was a positive move in terms of Trump's reelection chances, Joe Biden's shot at the nomination, or just for the country in general. While it seemed to be a complete non-sequitur, perhaps O'Reilly was under the impression that Bernie Sanders' campaign was somehow responsible for the spread of the coronavirus—when people get on in years, it can be hard to tell what they're even talking about.

But after that brief tangent, O'Reilly managed to get back on topic, producing some figures downplaying the on-going tragedy in a way that almost seemed to suggest that the disruption of familiar routines was actually the bigger issue: "The projections that you just mentioned are down to 60,000, I don't think it will be that high. 13,000 dead now in the USA. Many people who are dying, both here and around the world, were on their last legs anyway." As always, O'Reilly is demonstrating the pinnacle of emotional restraint by keeping things in perspective

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The "projection" he mentioned is the current estimate for the eventual US death toll from the coronavirus. While it's not clear if that figure will include the deaths that are currently being left out of the total count, 60,000 is significantly less horrifying than previous estimates, which put the expected fatalities closer to 100,000. The fact that Bill O'Reilly happens to think 60,000 is still an overestimate cannot be attributed to any expertise in medicine, epidemiology, or statistics, so the best bet is that he's simply confused—as tends to happen to people who are barely clinging to life. It's good to know that when Bill O'Reilly passes—whether that's a week from now, a year, or twenty years—his loved ones can skip the mourning process and shrug their shoulders because, however he dies, he was old anyway. He was on his last legs.

We can leave aside the fact that many of the people who have already died as a result of contracting the novel coronavirus have been in the prime of their lives. O'Reilly would seemingly acknowledge that those cases deserve our sorrow. His point is just that most of the people who are dying are old like him, and therefore not really worth getting that upset about. If we look at Italy, for example, the death rate for people in their 40s who contracted the virus is less than 1%, while with people in their 70s (like Bill O'Reilly) the virus has killed nearly a quarter of the infected. But they're old anyway, so no big deal. Right, Bill?

Three Bill O'Reilly Sexual Harassment Accusers Speak Out | The Last Word | MSNBC

The overall message seems to be that if you've ever lost a loved one who was old, you were wrong to get upset about that. They were on their last legs anyway. And if that seems like a heartless, cruel message, please keep in mind that—before he was outed as a serial sexual harasser and removed from Fox News—Bill O'Reilly once hosted the highest-rated show on cable news. These days he is a c-list radio personality.

In other words, he is mentally and physically a hollowed-out husk of his former self—withered away and rapidly deteriorating. We can either wait for him to die, or accept that his life is already devoid of value and start ignoring him now. He's on his last legs anyway.

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Bill O'Reilly and our world of ignorance

What is there to take away from O'Reilly's firing?

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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.