Bill O'Reilly's Podcast: Defiant as Ever, Dull Like Never Before

Bill O'Reilly
Bill O'Reilly on the set of his show "The O'Reilly Factor" in New York on March 17, 2015. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Last week, Bill O'Reilly returned from a European vacation to find that he had been fired from Fox News for a history of alleged sexual misbehavior that is impressively wide-ranging, even for the Viagra warehouse that has functioned for near decades as the mouthpiece of the Republican Party.

This week, O'Reilly left for vacation again; his destination this time was not Italy but the Isle of Unreality, a remote location favored by right-wingers seeking to escape lawsuits and facts.

No longer will O'Reilly be a factor, so to speak, in the fortunes of the right-wing cable news channel that brought his visage, puckered with outrage, into the homes of millions. Even as advertisers fled his show over the past two months, he crushed the competition like a Republican congressman in Texas, drawing 3.8 million per night viewers in early April. Now, all he has is a measly podcast, No Spin News, and a website that does an excellent impression of 1999.

O'Reilly's first post-firing podcast went live on Monday. Television endowed O'Reilly with a kind of gleeful menace that was weirdly captivating for those of us who disagreed with him on everything, including the title of "journalist" he gave himself; unseen, he loses power—and seems to know it. Yet at heart, the project is the same, a promise of "no spin" bolstered by sturdy beams of vitriol and misinformation.

O'Reilly began with pure, uncut, right-into-your-bloodstream spin, also known as damage control. "I am sad that I am not on television anymore," he said. "I was surprised how it all turned out." He may mean that he thought the $13 million he and Fox News paid out to various accusers ensured their silence. Or maybe he thought that a recent endorsement from Donald Trump—"I don't think Bill did anything wrong"—would save him.

But O'Reilly really wasn't going to spend all his podcast time talking about that unseemly business, not with the forces of liberalism amassing at the borders of Real America. There was much news to cover, many spins to un-spin or stop the spins from spinning or cause to the spins to spin in a countervailing motion, thereby creating a spin-neutral zone. He began by denouncing numbers, specifically those tied to President Trump's approval ratings. If those numbers seem low, he explained, it's not because Trump has been an ineffectual, easily distracted head of state but because the mainstream media "deceive" Americans "on a daily basis."

I can't claim to be a regular Fox News viewer, but I've seen and heard enough of O'Reilly (Mom loves the guy…) to know that something was amiss on this podcast. The day's news was a slab of red meat, but instead of tearing into it, O'Reilly timidly nibbled at the edges. When I hear the boredom in O'Reilly's voice, I worry for the future of the Republic.

"Don't react to these polls," he advised Trump, like a weary coach telling his charges to hustle. O'Reilly had to know that Trump had already reacted to those polls on Twitter (you can imagine how), so why offer political advice that's not only hackneyed but outdated?

Little else about the 20-minute show was remarkable—which was the most remarkable thing about it. Without much gusto, he covered the French election ("Marnie" Le Pen) and conservative commentator Ann Coulter's feud with the University of California at Berkeley ("a place I would never in a million years go to").

"Interesting," he said of the Berkeley issue. "Very, very interesting." To show just how interesting it was, he followed with a long "um…"

Frankly, I could have used a little, um, spin. In what I take as an ominous sign, the word of the day flashed in a banner atop the O'Reilly website. The word on Monday was sciolistic, which means "concerned with or comprehending only what is apparent or obvious; not deep or penetrating emotionally or intellectually."

Was some dastardly young web editor trolling O'Reilly? Or was O'Reilly nobly unspinning himself? The latter is unlikely. Like the man in the Oval Office, O'Reilly never backs down when presented with evidence of his own misconduct or deception. To the contrary, both men puff up their chests and grow indignant, mistakenly thinking that they stand on high ground, when they are in fact treading along the crumbling edge of a cliff.

"I'm very confident the truth will come out," O'Reilly said at the opening of his podcast.

It already has, Bill.