Shut the F*** Up! The Second-Most-Powerful Man in America is Talking

By Barry Nolan | Boston Magazine |

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.

  • Norm

    This article was spot on! I’ve never seen the attraction to O’Reilly and unfortunately my own mother is one of them. I expect you will soon be one of his pinheads or, I’m sure, considered a terrorist.

  • Rick

    1. There is a line where your free speech rights become “tortious interference”. He may be a jerk but you were messing with the guy’s livelihood. Mouth writing check that body can’t cash? People who proudly proclaim their membership in MENSA obviously have no problem with asserting their opinions. Pot, meet kettle.
    2. For an article about what an a-hole O’Reilly is, there sure was a lot about the author (and little new about the subject). Is looking pathetic a new job hunting skill that I missed? Let it go. Sometimes the jerks win.

  • John

    Mr. O’Reilly says he is the second-most-powerful person in the United States (or was it the world?). So he can hardly claim not to be a public figure. I am not a lawyer, but I understand that in our democracy public figures give up some legal rights in exchange for their fame and power. They have less entitlement to sue for libel. He is fair game.

  • David

    Great article. And all this time I thought O’Reilly was just an asshole. The personality disorder fits perfectly, though. Bullies and loudmouths have alway had a way of getting to the front of the line. When a person has no empathy for anyone, he doesn’t care about the negative effects of his actions and words. If O’Reilly lives a thousand years, he’ll never understand how little value he actually has. He’s really just a bad clown taking up one of the rings in the Fox circus. You should wear O’Reilly’s hatred of you like a badge of honor.

  • Lynne

    This article took a lot of guts to write. Thank you Mr. Nolan for your dedication to speaking the truth, no matter how unpopular.

  • Mike

    Rather whiney tone from a guy that admits he was a jerk when he was on top. O’Reilly is a right-slanted bully but with, “…88% of political contributions from supposedly impartial network television reporters, producers and other employees in 2008 went to Democrats” (WSJ S. Moore 2/7/12), his show is closer to the truth than anyone on the major networks. Making politicians & pundits uncomfortable is the essence of journalism.

  • jack

    If O’Reilly (indeed) has an excess of negative personality problems, then the author shows his own juvenile, petulant personality issues. Grow up.

    Do we know (or care) if a top surgeon, teacher, or professional has bad personality issues, or do we value his work ethic & quality of his work more? All O’Reilly tries to do is inform people about certain issues, and debate them a bit. There’s precious too few on the air doing that these days, so I welcome all such voices. I disagree with some of his views, but I admire his work ethic. We’d be a better nation if more people had that core value.

    And why no mention of O’Reilly’s numerous death threats (& to his kids)? Talk about fair & balanced. LOL.

  • Donald

    Nolan obviously has an axe to grind, but the world of “journalism” would be a lot better off without the likes of O’Reilly, and I always knew there was something I did not like about Emily Rooney.

  • Richard

    Despite exclaiming newly-found humility, Nolan’s piece smacks of sour grapes and professional jealousy. Hey, if telling a bloated narcissist like Madonna to shut up makes one a narcissist also, then sign me up. The repulsive egomaniacs he exhorts to be silent could benefit from his advice.

  • Charles

    I suspect Nolan’s grandstanding at the Emmys wasn’t about Bill O’Reilly as much as it was about creating buzz for Barry Nolan. He probably thought he’d come out of that dustup looking like a hero – but that’s how narcissists think.

  • Howee

    What was the point of this screed, besides Nolan seeking to vicariously glom on to O’Reilly’s fame? Yeah I know, “proper” Bostonians are supposed to disdain folks like O’Reilly (and one wonders how many of these folks have actually read/listened to him, rather than depending upon MSNBC, HuffPo, or other outlets for their opinions.) Nolan simply comes off as a jealous crank, and with a healthy level of pompous self-importance of his own.

    Boston Magazine, you can do better.

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