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What did Bill O'Reilly's rip of Stephen Colbert mean, exactly?

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, seen on Dec.

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, seen on Dec. 15, 2011 in Manhattan, grew up in Levittown and still owns a home in Manhasset. Credit: Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic

The culture wars bled into the late night wars the other evening when Bill O'Reilly went after Stephen Colbert -- calling him a "deceiver" who has damaged the country. Yes, this news was everywhere Wednesday -- and sorry about getting to it so late -- but better late than never, and it's not going away, so .?.?.

This broadside arrived on the Talking Points segment on Tuesday's "Factor" -- and Bill is clearly annoyed here. More than annoyed -- angry. More than angry -- is there some other word designating "more than angry?"

O'Reilly is responding to Colbert's broadside from last week, when he mocked his alter ego's comments about "equality .?.?." Set aside the specifics of O'Reilly's complaints (see clip below) or the fairness of Colbert's representation of his position -- this is what Colbert does, and does on a regular basis.

So why now? The subtext to this almost seems to be the Media's current infatuation with Colbert -- or certainly my current infatuation with Colbert which is based on the belief that he could easily drop "character" as host of "Late Show" -- as the leading contender to replace David Letterman when he steps down next year.

In that regard, O'Reilly's annoyance makes a little more sense: Here is someone who has patterned his entire persona on O'Reilly and who seems poised to assume one of the most important jobs on main stream TV. A card-carrying "lefty" -- or "secular progressive," in O'Reilly's words -- who is to be rewarded for mocking Bill .?.?. night after night, year after year? If I was Bill, I'd maybe be annoyed, too -- or whatever word is out there designating "more than annoyed."

But, as some certainly others pointed out Wednesday, all this does is a.) Further promote Colbert as the leading candidate; b.) Reinforce Colbert's already considerable legitimacy among his followers.

The irony here is that I suspect O'Reilly is on some level secretly pleased with Colbert's long-running imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-flattery shtick. Moreover, O'Reilly has a reasonably good, even cordial, relationship with other Colbert fellow travelers, Letterman, and Jon Stewart. And as you know, O'Reilly has even appeared on "The Colbert Report." If Colbert is "damaging the country" then why help him by appearing on his show and further legitimatizing him?  

Here's the clip, plus Colbert's appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor" in 2007. If he's "secretly pleased," it's not apparent here.




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