Thursday, February 15, 2007

Idiot O'Reilly Ego

On the Tuesday, February 13 episode of the his show "The O'Reilly Factor", host Bill O'Reilly opened:

"Literally within minutes of our report on 'The Factor' last night, Amanda Marcotte, a viciously anti-Christian blogger, left the John Edwards campaign. And today, her partner in crime, Melissa McEwan was shown the door as well."

Moments later, O'Reilly opined: "It was only after critical mass was reached and millions of people around the world actually saw what these women were putting on the Net that Edwards came to his senses."

Then, O'Reilly conducted an interview with Jane Fleming of Young Democrats of America about the bloggers' departures. Fleming declared Edwards "showed his leadership and he did not have a knee-jerk reaction - he waited until he spoke to the two women and then made his decision. The women resigned after getting lots of hate mail and threats." O'Reilly challenged Fleming's assertion: "He didn't make his decision until after we announced we were going to do the story. That's the truth, Ms. Fleming, that is what happened."

Now, I am a firm believer that a pundit is entitled to his or her own opinion. No pundit, however, is entitled to his or her own facts.

First, despite O'Reilly's implications, the Edwards campaign did not fire Marcotte or McEwan. Marcotte announced on her blog "Pandagon" late Monday that she was resigning because: "I was hired by the Edwards campaign for the skills and talents I bring to the table, and my willingness to work hard for what’s right. Unfortunately, Bill Donohue [head of the Catholic League] and his calvacade of right wing shills don’t respect that a mere woman like me could be hired for my skills, and pretended that John Edwards had to be held accountable for some of my personal, non-mainstream views on religious influence on politics ...

Regardless, it was creating a situation where I felt that every time I coughed, I was risking the Edwards campaign. No matter what you think about the campaign, I signed on to be a supporter and a tireless employee for them, and if I can’t do the job I was hired to do because Bill Donohue doesn’t have anything better to do with his time than harass me, then I won’t do it. I resigned my position today and they accepted."

Now, if there's any doubt that Marcotte was harassed, here are three samples of the posts sent to her:

"It’s just too bad your mother didn’t abort you. You are nothing more than a filthy mouth slut. I bet a couple of years in Iraq being raped and beaten daily would help you appreciate America a little. Need a plane ticket?"


"Amanda, after reading your vile screed against Catholics and the Holy Spirit, I just had to see what you looked like. (I envisioned you eyebrow-less, with no visible pupils, and a blank, dead stare.) I see I was correct about the blank, dead stare, but other than that you’re not too bad. I then thought maybe you were mad at God (and by proxy Catholics) for making you ugly, but now I’m figuring you’re just mad at him for making you a woman."

McEwan announced her resignation on her blog "Shakespeare's Sister" on Tuesday. In her announcement, she explained: "I would like to make very clear that the campaign did not push me out, nor was my resignation the back-end of some arrangement made last week. This was a decision I made, with the campaign's reluctant support, because my remaining the focus of sustained ideological attacks was inevitably making me a liability to the campaign, and making me increasingly uncomfortable with my and my family's level of exposure.

There will be some who clamor to claim victory for my resignation, but I caution them that in doing so, they are tacitly accepting responsibility for those who have deluged my blog and my inbox with vitriol and veiled threats. It is not right-wing bloggers, nor people like Bill Donohue or Bill O'Reilly, who prompted nor deserve credit for my resignation, no matter how much they want it, but individuals who used public criticisms of me as an excuse to unleash frightening ugliness, the likes of which anyone with a modicum of respect for responsible discourse would denounce without hesitation."

There is little doubt that both Marcotte and McEwan were provocative -- and often vulgar -- on their personal blogs. And, both made comments that were highly critical of Catholic theology, especially when that theology became intertwined with conservative politics.

It is also clear that the participation of both bloggers put the Edwards campaign in a bind. In an attempt to generate "net-roots" support, Edwards was walking into unfamiliar waters. Politicians are always measuring what they say, so as not to be perceived as controversial. Bloggers often strive to be controversial to be heard in the blogosphere. Thus, politicians and bloggers could be seen to be a natural cross-purposes. To his credit, Edwards refused to fire Marcotte and McEwan for their previous blog comments, while disavowing the content of some of their posts. In the end, however, that position proved untenable for both sides when conservative flame-throwers such as Bill Donohue weighed in (more on him in a later post).

But, for all of his belief in his perceived political power, Bill O'Reilly played no role in these resignations. Why should Marcotte and McEwan be afraid of O'Reilly? The people he appeals to are not the audience the two would even care about.

For example, in the 4th quarter of 2006, "The O'Reilly Factor" averaged 2,029,000 total viewers and 447,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic. Nielsen figures report that 2/3 of Fox News viewers are over the age of 55. In addition, a May 2006 Zogby Poll revealed that 74% of Fox news viewers are married 64% have children, 85% of them come from non-union families, half go to church frequently (more Catholics, Protestants and Born-again Christians watch Fox News than any other news network)and 82% of Fox News viewers identify themselves as politically conservative. The notion that a story by Bill O'Reilly would scare Edwards to fire Marcotte and McEwan, and for the two of them to resign is ludicrous.

In fact, it qualifies as a "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day"!


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