Brent Bozell: ‘Bill O’Reilly Is Wrong’

Last night, Bill O’Reilly had some very nice things to say about the Media Research Center and for that I’m grateful.  But he made a major criticism of this organization, and rather than have me on to respond to it, he brought on two other guests to discuss it. So I’ll respond here.

Bill O’Reilly is wrong.

He said last night that, “[T]here is no question that the huge partisan divide in this country is leading to hate speech, slander, defamation.... And now some Americans are calling for firings, boycotts and in one absurd case, criminal prosecution. All for speech that they don’t like.”

After stating that the “marketplace should dictate these controversies” (I think he meant “resolve”), he said, “The entire boycott movement is garbage. The far-left threatening sponsors who advertise on programs they don’t like is flat-out un-American. So I believe that the Media Research Center is making a mistake sinking to that level.”

I’m not quite sure why he had nice things to say about us if he also thinks we’re un-American. Regardless, here’s my answer.

If the suggestion here is that I’m promising — not threatening, promising — to take a complaint to the advertisers of MSNBC because I don’t like liberal speech, Mr. O’Reilly would be entirely correct. And silly. I’ve been at this for 25 years. I’ve never objected to the right of political free speech, liberal or otherwise, including far-left liberal political free speech. But this does not mean I don’t have a right to communicate with advertisers. I have every right to do so. That’s my free speech. And when someone goes over the line, I exercise it.

When CBS announced it was coming out with The Reagans, a made-for-TV movie that deliberately distorted Ronald Reagan’s record, while painting a viciously dishonest picture of him, I objected to the advertising community. I make no apologies.

When, in the wake of 9-11, Bill Maher made insulting comments about our military as they went to war in Afghanistan to fight al-Qaeda, I objected to his advertisers on ABC. I make no apologies.

In both cases, the advertisers had every right to tell me to pound sand. But in both cases they agreed, and left these shows in droves. CBS was forced to move The Reagans over to its pay-cable network Showtime,  which does not rely on advertiser support. ABC canceled Maher. They made the correct decision, and I was pleased by the outcome.

When MSNBC goes over the line, with one host after another making racist, hate-filled, misogynistic, and utterly-dishonest, character-assassinating accusations against conservatives, I have every right to react. And I have every right to go to the underwriters of this programming and ask why they want to be associated with such bile. They have every right to disregard my complaint. Or listen to it.

That, Mr. O’Reilly, is the marketplace.

A final point: O’Reilly states that he “aggressively reported GE’s irresponsible position involving hate speech. But we never threatened anyone. In fact the only time I mentioned the boycott was when France was actively aiding Saddam Hussein.” Um, no. He did more than mention. He actively supported a boycott of France. Here’s his site:

Why? Because he felt France had crossed the line. He was exercising his free speech. And I’m happy he did.

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