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Wednesday, 19 April 2017 08:38

Unmoved by Bill O'Reilly's Sexual Harassment Incidents, Religious Right Goes Silent

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Bill 0419wrp(Photo: Karppinen)Women's organizations are excoriating him. Advertisers are bailing on him. The president is defending him. Glenn Beck says he "deserves the benefit of the doubt." Viewers are flocking to him. Religious Right leaders are silent. So it has gone since the beginning of the month when The New York Times' Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported that Bill O'Reilly, the host of the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" – the No. 1 program in cable news – had paid out $13 million to five women "in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him."  

And, to add one more excruciatingly odd factoid to the above, O'Reilly's new book, called Old School, co-authored with Bruce Feirstein, and a defense of traditional family values, is #1 on The New York Times' "Combined Print and E-Book Best Sellers" list. The book is also doing quite well at Amazon, where, as of Sunday, April 16th, it is #10 in Books, #1 in Books, "Nationalism," "Public Affairs & Policy," and "Conservatism & Liberalism."

According to The New York Times' Alexandra Alter, Old School: Life in the Sane Lane (Henry Holt and Co.) "includes advice on how men should treat women respectfully, not as sex objects."

The "Product Description" at billoreilly.com, offers the following: "Those crusading against Old School now have a name: Snowflakes. You may have seen them on cable TV whining about social injustice and income inequality. You may have heard them cheering Bernie Sanders as he suggested the government pay for almost everything. The Snowflake movement is proud and loud, and they don't like Old School grads."

The description ends with this challenge: "Time to take a stand. Old School or Snowflake. Which will it be?"

Meanwhile, back to O'Reilly's sexual harassment issues.

While a number of advertisers have dropped O'Reilly like a hot tamale, and a number of critics have lambasted him, O'Reilly's supporters, led by the President himself, are sticking by him. His reputation may have been tarnished (yet again), but his brand is still burnishing bright, as viewers continue to flock to his nightly program.

O'Reilly apparently draws his supporters from the same pool of those continuing to support President Trump. Regardless of what they do or say, his peeps are stick with them. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Trump offered up his seal of approval with his best birds-of-a-feather-like defense of O'Reilly: "I think he's a person I know well — he is a good person," Trump told the Times. "I think he shouldn't have settled; personally I think he shouldn't have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don't think Bill did anything wrong."

Ironically, Trump has declared April 2017 National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, pledging that his administration "will do everything in its power to protect women, children, and men from sexual violence."

21st Century Fox, O'Reilly's employer issued a supportive statement: "21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously. Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O'Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O'Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O'Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O'Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News."

O'Reilly himself issued a statement saying that he had done nothing wrong, and was only settling the cases to spare his children.

Religious Right goes silent

Not that long ago, when former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was revealed to be a confirmed child molester, the Religious Right had little to nothing to say about the man they had previously revered for his so-called family values.

For nearly two decades, watching O'Reilly's show has been a nightly salve, or better yet, a cosmic jolt, to the brains of religious conservatives. O'Reilly's "War on Christmas" hokum warmed the cockles of religious conservatives hearts. As The Huffington Post's Daryl Deino recently pointed out, viewers "have taken action against anything or anybody Bill O'Reilly has wanted them to. … burn[ing] Dixie Chicks albums … spent hours writing horrible comments about Rosie O'Donnell … after internet articles, protested at Madonna concerts, marched at anti-gay marriage rallies, and have figuratively called for Janet Jackson's beheading after her breast was exposed at the 2004 Super Bowl… ."They have even attempted to organize boycotts against anybody who said anything remotely critical of George W. Bush when he launched a war in Iraq under false pretenses."

Now, his sexual harassment scandal doesn't appear to have caused so much as a hiccup from O'Reilly's Religious Right allies. Deino noted that, "The victimization of women and the huge payoffs to silence them never seem to faze O'Reilly's faithful."

Just for the heck of it, imagine if it were discovered that one of President Trump's persistent television critics, say Trevor Noah, host of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," or Stephen Colbert, host "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," had settled multiple cases of sexual harassment. How do you think Religious Right leaders would be reacting?

One can only guess how many press releases Tony Perkins, president of the influential Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council would issue, how many boycotts Tim Wildmon, president of the boycott-happy American Family Association would begin organizing, and how much more bat-shit crazy things Pat Robertson might utter.

Yet, when it comes to O'Reilly's predatory behavior, it's absolute silence.