Shut the F*** Up! The Second-Most-Powerful Man in America is Talking
Narcissistic Behavior: “Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.”
After Hard Copy flamed out in 1999, I ended up taking a gig as a senior correspondent for Extra. Four years later, I became the executive producer and host of a TV show on CN8, a now-defunct regional network Comcast had built in the Northeast. In 2008, quite by accident, I found out that the local chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences — or NATAS, which is the organization that runs the annual New England Emmy Awards — was planning to give O’Reilly its Governors Award. That’s the body’s highest award, presented to individuals who have done something noteworthy and important in their career. I was shocked.
In the past, the award had gone to such luminaries as Mike Wallace, Ken Burns, and Natalie Jacobson. You know, journalists. I was concerned that bestowing such a prestigious honor on Bill O’Reilly would send the wrong message to every aspiring reporter. It would be holding O’Reilly up as an example of a good journalist. It would be saying, Become a bully, get the facts wrong, call people names, snarl “Shut up,” and you too might one day be worthy of our esteem and honor.
I sent an e-mail to the NATAS board of governors, arguing that they should reconsider their decision. Not long after, I got an e-mail from CN8 vice president Ken Botelho with a message in all caps: “BARRY…I DID NOT SEND THIS TO YOU!! :).” It was an e-mail thread that began with a message from Roger Lyons, the former president of the board of governors, to the members of the board. Lyons wrote that he had taken my criticism to heart, and that I was right. After further consideration, he wrote, O’Reilly’s “indiscretions, inaccuracies, and prejudices disqualify him from such a lofty honor.”
In a subsequent message in the thread, Botelho wrote that he agreed completely and that if “we do not reverse course there will be a backlash from others in the industry seriously questioning the integrity of this award.” He went on to call giving the award to O’Reilly a “ticking time bomb.”
The NATAS board of governors, in the end, decided not to change its plans. And so, the night of the Emmy Awards dinner, I protested by passing out copies of a document titled “The Man We Honor Tonight.” It contained some of O’Reilly’s more outrageous quotes attacking the free press and calling people names. It also contained choice sections of the sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him. When O’Reilly was introduced to the room, I quietly got up and left.
Two days later, O’Reilly wrote a letter to the chairman and CEO of Comcast complaining that I had “attacked” him. Not that I had said anything untrue about him. Just that I had “attacked” him. O’Reilly was particularly upset about that kind of behavior from an employee of Comcast — “an excellent business partner” of The O’Reilly Factor and Fox News. The implication: Comcast, you’re attacking me, the hand who feeds you. Make it stop.
I was canned. O’Reilly went on to have another successful year with his show. While pursuing “other interests,” I sued Comcast for violating my constitutionally guaranteed right to engage in free speech. The suit wound its way into federal court, and in 2011, a federal appeals court ruled against me. O’Reilly finally got somebody fired. Me.