Bill O’Reilly’s Obama interview showed a nation still divided
By Dana Milbank
Obama: “By definition, Bill, when somebody is attacking our compound — ”
Obama: “ — that’s an act of terror, which is how I characterized it the day after it happened. So the — so the question ends up being who, in fact, was attacking us?”
O’Reilly: “But it’s more than that — ”
Obama: “And that — ”
O’Reilly: “ — though — ”
Obama: “ — well, we — ”
O’Reilly: “ — because of Susan Rice.”
Obama: “No, it — ”
O’Reilly: “It’s more than that, because if Susan Rice goes out and tells the world that it was a spontaneous demonstration . . . ”
Obama: “Bill — ”
O’Reilly: “ — off a videotape but your . . . ”
Obama: “Bill . . . ”
O’Reilly: “ — your commanders and the secretary of defense know it’s a terror attack . . . ”
Obama: “Now, Bill . . . ”
O’Reilly: “Just . . . ”
Obama: “ — Bill . . . ”
O’Reilly: “ — as an American . . . ”
Obama: “ — Bill — Bill . . . ”
O’Reilly: “ — I’m just confused.”
Obama: “And I’m — and I’m trying to explain it to, if you want to listen.”
O’Reilly did not want to listen. He wanted to inform Obama that “I’m paying Kathleen Sebelius’s salary and she screwed up, and you’re not holding her accountable.” He all but demanded that Obama confess that his “you can keep your health insurance” promise was the biggest mistake of his presidency.
Ailes and O’Reilly channel the white backlash in a country trying to become a multiracial democracy. That’s scary
By Joan Walsh
It means, again, that O’Reilly and Ailes and their viewers see this president as unqualified and ungrateful, an affirmative action baby who won’t thank us for all we’ve done for him and his cohort. The question was, of course, deeply condescending and borderline racist. Obama has been afforded “so much opportunity”? What about O’Reilly, who pretends he’s a working-class son of Levittown, Long Island, when he’s actually the kid of an accountant who grew up in Westbury and went to private high school and university?
This notion that an older generation of white people worked hard for everything they achieved, while a younger generation of folks like Barack Obama had their success handed to them, is a staple of the white backlash that Ailes has been channeling since he helped elect Richard Nixon in 1968. Having just finished Gabriel Sherman’s Ailes biography, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” I watched the O’Reilly interview with the sinking feeling that our nation, while fortunate in so many ways, has been uniquely challenged in this crucial time: As we make the transition to a fully multiracial democracy, our leading cable news network is headed by a man who has spent his entire career channeling his own paranoia and resentment and weird racial ideas. Oh, and sexism.
Unbelievably, O’Reilly got his sit-down with Obama the same week that the RNC’s Reince Priebus threatened to boycott MSNBC over a mildly lame tweet tweaking “rightwingers” about that lovely Cheerios ad–and naturally, MSNBC apologized. That’s became MSNBC is a business, while Fox is a political machine that also happens to make a lot of money (because it serves the side of the aisle where most of the money is).
Fox doesn’t apologize. Its hosts just scream “Benghazi!” louder. Obama’s insubordination inevitably became just more grist for Fox programming. The dolts on “Fox and Friends” are very, very angry that the president blamed their network for scandal-mongering. “Bill Clinton didn’t blame the New York Times for his scandal,” Brian Kilmeade told his sidekicks. “George Bush didn’t blame every media outlet for running down the war or for Katrina. Why attack the people who are asking you questions?”
Thanks in large measure to Roger Ailes, we live in a country now where a carnival barker with an ugly comb-over can make the duly elected president show him his papers, and an angry mediocrity like O’Reilly can condescend to an accomplished black man who is in fact his moral and intellectual superior.
And "the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity"...wow. Like O'Reilly owns the country and Obama is merely visiting it. Like white America has given Obama a great gift by tolerating his presence.
Never mind that Obama's white and black ancestors have lived here for centuries--as long as O'Reilly's have, if not much longer. In O'Reilly's mind, he's the second coming of the Founding Fathers. And Obama is little more than a newly freed slave.
Obama could turn that question around and ask O'Reilly about all the benefits he's gotten from his white upbringing. But that's not how white privilege works. White men get to confront minorities, not the other way around.
We saw an excellent example of this in Boastful Cornerback = Thug? When a black man, even a well-educated one, challenges the white orthodoxy, he gets slapped down.
It doesn't matter if white athletes have said much worse. What matters is that blacks are supposed to know their place and not step over the line.
This is the same white privilege we see in countless Native issues. From sovereignty and treaties to mascots and headdresses, white men get to tell Indians what's right and wrong.
If white men get their way, they think it's the natural order of things. But if someone challenges them--by electing Obama, protesting mascots, speaking "foreign" languages--they cry like whiny babies.