Bill O’Reilly can relax. As long as we have arithmetic, he will still have a job.
O’Reilly is the haughty and smug guy on Fox News who pulls down $18 million per year for saying haughty and smug things.
In addition, he has allegedly said bizarre and disgusting things to women who worked for him or Fox. These include an incident in which a woman says O’Reilly wanted rub her up and down in a shower with a “falafel.”
As it turns out, O’Reilly was confusing “falafels” and “loofahs,” though I got the impression that if he couldn’t find one, the other would do.Follow @politicoroger
But back to arithmetic. Fox is paying O’Reilly that $18 million a year, and now also has to join O’Reilly in $40 million worth of settlements to the women suing him and Fox.
(Just for the record, for even a small percentage of that $40 million, I would let O’Reilly rub me with a falafel, while I ate a loofah.)
So why would Fox go along with this creep and his slithery ways?
Here’s why: In 2015, O’Reilly brought in $178 million in ad revenue to Fox.
So a bunch of women were made to feel bad, so what?
Did a bunch of sponsors pull their ads from Fox in protest for what O’Reilly had done? Sort of. What some, like Mercedes-Benz, did was merely switch their ads from O’Reilly’s show to another Fox show.
It was a shell game. Fox was happy, Mercedes was happy, O’Reilly was happy.
The all-powerful former head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, harassed a bunch of women and he finally got ousted. He got a payoff of $40 million, however, to cushion the blow.
Under Ailes, Fox News was making more than $1 billion per year. So what’s a few million here and there?
Arithmetic can really work for you if you are a big deal. And how much does the public really care?
In 2003, Arnold Schwarzenegger went from an actor promoting “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” to governor-elect of California in a dazzling 60 days. It was especially dazzling because near the end of the campaign, 15 women came forward to the Los Angeles Times and described, sometimes in gruesome detail, how Schwarzenegger had groped or otherwise molested them over the years.
Schwarzenegger was forced to apologize to any woman he may have “offended.”
But Arnold had some things going for him. His chief opponent, incumbent governor Gray Davis, was bland. He did not have Schwarzenegger’s star power. Or his friends.
Jay Leno was one of Schwarzenegger’s friends. And in one of his nightly monologues on NBC before the election, Leno said: “You’ve got Arnold who groped a few women, or Davis who screwed the whole state.”
Schwarzenegger won in a landslide. And promised he would provide “specifics” about the groping complaints.
At a news conference a few days after his victory, Schwarzenegger was asked for those specifics.
“Old news,” Schwarzenegger said and walked away.
But Donald Trump is the great example we have of the affect of star power on politics.
About a month before Election Day, a tape is leaked of Trump talking to Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood.” The two are on a bus and Trump is bragging about how he moved on a married woman “like a bitch” and how sometimes he grabs women by their genitals.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”
Which shows that Trump understood politics after all. Because by Election Day, the incident is no longer even a story! It’s incredible.
But shortly after the bus tape was released, Trump went on TV with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who said to him, “kissing women without consent, grabbing their genitals — that is sexual assault. You bragged that you have sexually assaulted women.”
“I don’t think you understood,” Trump replied. “This was locker room talk.”
And that’s all it took. The press moved on to other stories.
The public — or at least those member of the public who lived in states critical to the Electoral College vote — didn’t seem overly disturbed by what Trump had done.
And so it was not surprising that Trump came to O’Reilly’s defense this week.
“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled,” Trump told the New York Times on Wednesday. “He is a good person. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
And Trump should know. Because a few days before, he declared April “National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.”
When you’re a star, you can do anything.
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