Let me get this out of the way up front: Bill O’Reilly is one of the good guys in media. He’s one of the professionals, as a journalist and television news pioneer. His segments for Inside Edition are still widely cited as background on various stories. O’Reilly’s career spans several more decades than his ultimate position from which he was removed.
He was removed because of an appearance of smoke that could have masked a fire. As someone keenly aware of the value of reputation, when news of $13 million in settlements against allegations of sexual harassment by himself and his employer was made public by the New York Times, he agreed it was time to go, and did not put up the least bit of a stink.
Compare that to Dan Rather, who was fired by CBS for actual loss of journalistic integrity. Rather still believes that the fake documents he passed off as real in 2004 were true because he believes it was his duty to keep George W. Bush from winning another term.
Even compare it to dopes like Tomi Lahren, who represents the entitled Generation Snowflake that believes reputation is useless, and only celebrity matters. I shudder for the next generation of people who will be gracing our screens with their ill-conceived blurbs that would fit into a Snapchat filter, complete with doggy-ears, and have the same intellectual impact.
Bill O’Reilly knew what made good commentary on television, and he also knew his own opinions were what mattered on a show that bore his name. He knew that his personal reputation along with his employer’s could harm both his show and the network. What amount, exactly, that reputation was worth is now becoming known.
The New York Times latest report simply ups the value from the April number, adding $32 million paid to his one-time counsel and former network analyst Lis Wiehl. What that report hoped to accomplish is fairly obvious. Now with Hollywood monsters being outed after years of operating in plain sight, they seek to paint O’Reilly with the same brush.
And to be sure, $32 million, or 37 percent of O’Reilly’s net worth according to Celebrity Net worth, is a lot. But if your entire career is based on your reputation, and you had many millions of dollars in the bank, how much would you pay to avoid legal issues with someone–a lawyer–you’ve known for nearly 20 years?
I am not defending the optics. It looks terrible. But what’s the difference between $9 million, $13 million, or $32 million? If the allegations are true, the amount is irrelevant. If the allegations are false, the value of the money spent is only measured by how much people can trust O’Reilly now.
It seems O’Reilly’s employer trusted him, even knowing about the settlement between two of its employees, one of whom–the accuser–left as a condition of the agreement, O’Reilly was offered a 4-year $100 million contract extension. The NYT reported that the network knew as its “bombshell” revelation but left out the other parts.
The NYT also didn’t report the existence of many of the details about Wiehl’s affidavits, which appear to retract the allegations in whole, a fact that has infuriated O’Reilly, who responded through his spokesman, Mark Fabiani, on his website. They also didn’t report or even mention other responses O’Reilly provided, something they normally do as a matter of journalistic integrity.
It doesn’t matter how this plays out, some won’t trust O’Reilly no matter what.
Does O’Reilly need to defend the amount of the settlement? Is that relevant to the truth? Or is it simply the price someone who’s been in the business as long as he has must pay to keep his reputation?
Certainly, it makes sense for O’Reilly to offer an explanation–and he said he will do so Monday on Glenn Beck‘s radio show.
But the NYT may also have some explaining to do. Like why did this particular story surface now? Or why they employed such selective editing to craft this in a certain way? Before we consign one of the good guys to the cremation pyre, we should first allow him to make his defense.
We owe him that.