There goes my retirement plan.
I had it all worked out: A book. Nothing hefty — 150 pages max. It would be called “I’m not Bill O’Reilly by Bill O’Reilly.” It didn’t matter what was in the thing. It couldn’t fail.
“I’m not Bill O’Reilly by Bill O’Reilly” would sit next to O’Reilly’s best-selling “killing” series — “Killing Lincoln,” “Killing Jesus,” “Killing Kennedy” — on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble. If one person in a hundred mistakenly bought it, I’d make a fortune, a killing if you will. Erroneous Kindle sales from fat-fingered Americans alone would pay for my youngest daughter’s college education.
Pretty good plan, right?
I thought so: After 20 years of Bill O’Reilly jokes, after 20 years of strangers saying things like “bummer dude” upon hearing my name (and a lot worse), I was going to cash in.
But, alas, it was O’Reilly who was killed in the end — axed by the brass at Fox News in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal and advertiser boycott of his “The O’Reilly Factor.”
There goes that.
The former Fox host might be laughing all the way to the bank. He never cared about being liked. That much was clear from day one. With a hefty separation agreement, presumably, and the zillion or so he pocketed from book sales, he should be set for life. One Hollywood gossip sheet put his net worth at $85 million. Not bad for a former Scranton weather forecaster.
I was never much of an O’Reilly fan. That perpetual scowl was off-putting, and no guest could ever finish a sentence on his show. Yet he reigned supreme over the cable world for 16 years. That’s quite a feat when so many people hate you. (Trust me, I have keen insight into this.)
But in the end, it was arrogance that took O’Reilly down. The kind of arrogance that makes you think it’s OK to say whatever you want to anyone, however inappropriate, however sexually crude. It might make great TV, but in the real world, it will eventually get you sued.
O’Reilly changed American television. You’ve got to give him that. His blunt, populist tone was exactly what a lot of Americans wanted to hear, beginning in 1996. This Bill O’Reilly shared many of his opinions. Others came along and mimicked his bloviating style, but Fox’s O’Reilly stayed ahead of the pack and on top of the ratings to end.
It’s been a real blast sharing a name with the guy all these years. But in the end, I wish his parents had named him Fred.
Bill O’Reilly the cable host, RIP.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.