Based on the evidence of his peculiar backhanded mash note to the president, published yesterday in Parade, it seems that Bill O’Reilly wants readers to understand two things. First, despite his reputation as one of cable’s leading conservative attack dogs, O’Reilly can be charitable and statesmanlike. And second, Barack Obama comes from one messed-up family.
O’Reilly’s piece is structured around five traits Obama exemplifies that set a good example for America’s children. Conveniently, three of those characteristics also demonstrate what O’Reilly sees as the almost insuperable dysfunction inflicted on the president by his parents. Consider:
Lesson One: Forgiveness
President Obama was just 2 when his father abandoned him and his mother in Hawaii. Four years later, his mother took her little son to Indonesia after she remarried. However, the home was somewhat chaotic as they tried to adjust to their new surroundings. So when Barry, as he was called, turned 10, he was sent back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents while his mother stayed abroad.
That kind of situation could ruin a child. But President Obama betrays no bitterness.
Fortunately, O’Reilly’s around to be bitter on his behalf! Turning to “Respect,” O’Reilly returns to the theme: “Even though his mom and dad apparently put their needs ahead of his, [Obama] speaks of them in mostly affectionate terms,” he writes. “He finds a way not to demean them.” “Persistence” and “Hard Work” pass by, sadly, with few further details on Obama’s upbringing. Fortunately, we then get to the stirring conclusion, in which Obama shows today’s youth that in America, anything is possible—even the election of a president who, as a child, “had no fatherly guidance.”
Memo to Bill: Unexpected praise for your political opponents comes across as more genuine when it’s not used as an excuse to advance your favorite political hobbyhorses.
It’s no surprise that a contrarian Bill O’Reilly still sounds like Bill O’Reilly. But he’s not being done any favors by the editors at Parade, either. Surely someone should have thought that perhaps this line—“While high-tech can be a tremendous educational tool, explicit images and conversation easily found in cyberspace can rob children of their innocence and, in some cases, put them in actual danger”—should not have appeared under the name of the man responsible for this and this (see number 4)?
And Parade editor Janice Kaplan doesn’t exactly help the situation with her companion piece, one point of which was apparently to admire how well O’Reilly stages a photo shoot to create a sense of racial diversity. Seriously. Near the opening of her brief piece, Kaplan pens these cringe-inducing lines:
On a recent Saturday afternoon, [O’Reilly] gathered a group of children of varied ages and ethnic backgrounds outside his beautiful suburban home. He was warm and welcoming to all of them.
In fairness, maybe Kaplan was just trying to suggest career alternatives for O’Reilly. If he ever tires of ruling the roost at Fox News, he can go design ads for Benetton.Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.