Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bill O'Reilly

Bill O'Reilly graduated from Chaminade, a Catholic high school for boys in Mineola, New York in 1967 -- just in time for the Summer of Love (which, of course, he hated). During his freshman year, the future tough guy host of Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor was bullied by the rich kids because they didn't like his clothes. In the biography The Man Who Would Not Shut Up by Marvin Kitman, O'Reilly claims he once punched out an elitist student who was hassling him about his limited wardrobe ("The guy dropped like a top. I mean, right to the floor, okay..."). He then briefly considered punching out the Catholic brother who grabbed him after the fisticuffs ("Oh, I want to tell you I was that close to decking the guy..."). But O'Reilly did not hit the teacher and instead channeled his anger onto the ice rink, playing hockey for the Chamindade Flyers (in Kittman's book, O'Reilly suggests that there was a conspiracy to keep him off the football team).

At Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, the young plaid-panted, Banlon-shirt-wearing "culture warrior" rebelled against the hippie lifestyle of the day by eschewing drugs and the music of the Doors and the Beatles. He also once threatened to turn his roommate in to the police for having "a little pot" in their dorm room (there was no "pot," just a small saucepan - a bad joke that, nevertheless, inspired campus-wide ridicule of O'Reilly). The awkward Dirty Harry-loving conservative played football, studied history and wrote for the college newspaper before graduating in 1971.

O'Reilly went on to a little-noticed career as a mainstream television journalist on local affiliates and, later at the networks, before his higher profile turn as host of the tabloid TV program Inside Edition in the early 1990s. A leaked tape from this period brilliantly captures the fabled O'Reilly temper in full blossom. In later years, Al Franken, Keith Olbermann and NPR's mild-mannered Terry Gross would all inspire the FOX News star's wrath to varying degrees, but nothing beats the Inside Edition clip for pure, unrestrained fury.

As the highest rated personality at FOX, O'Reilly has milked his fame for all it is worth in a series of best-selling books including, most ridiculously, The O'Reilly Factor for Kids. Only someone with the host's outsized ego would publish such a work within a year of settling a particularly seamy sexual harrassment suit. The infamous complaint that survives the otherwise sealed case memorably features the word "falafel." It is a document that is, no doubt, a lot more entertaining than any of O'Reilly's churned-out rants about the negative effects of liberalism.

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