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Saturday, February 21, 2004


Bill O'Reilly In LA--The Pasty-Meter Pegs Up
I heard on KABC that Bill O'Reilly would be speaking at the Wadsworth Theater in Brentwood as part of KABC's "2004 All-Star Talk Tour." The announcement said there would be a question and answer period following the talk; I thought this would be the perfect forum to ask a tough but fair question and see how Mr. No Spin would respond.

I thought it was a good omen that the talk would be at the Wadsworth Theater. The Wadsworth Theater gives me a warm feeling every time I pass it--even though I had never been inside of it until I saw O'Reilly speak. The parking lot next to it was the site of three of my most enjoyable party crashing events: the after-parties for the premieres of Spider-Man, xXx, and Terminator 3. It seemed kind of odd that at a place I had so much fun, people would be parking their cars in order to see O'Reilly's lame old-dude-on-a-bar-stool routine.

I thought it would be good to look as clean-cut as possible at the event. I trimmed my sideburns (the latest Playboy advisor said that appropriate sideburn length for the business world is "midear"). I wore a nice pullover, slacks, my new ankle boots, and a varsity jacket. I figured I would pass muster if a line formed to ask O'Reilly questions (For what it's worth, the concession stand lady told me I looked like James Spader).

O'Reilly was scheduled to speak at 7:30 so I arrived at 5:30 to get a good seat. When I got to the theater, I noticed there wasn't a microphone in the audience area--as there usually is for Q & A sessions. I went to the lobby area and there was a sign telling people to fill out cards for questions to ask O'Reilly (it turned out that after O'Reilly gave his talk, KABC radio host Al Rantel had the Q & A with O'Reilly with the cards). I knew that there would be no fucking way they would ask O'Reilly any of the questions I wanted to ask him, so I didn't bother to fill out a card. I asked the guy at the KABC table why they weren't going to have a live Q & A with audience members. He said that it was due to time considerations. I was pissed.

Since I had nothing to do for a couple hours, I decided to take a look at the audience members and see if they were "the working class" people O'Reilly prides himself on representing (I scanned the audience before, during, and after the event). The audience certainly wasn't representative of the working people of the great Los Angeles area. For one thing, this was an audience that was overwhelmingly white; there were about 700 audience members and I counted six whom I could tell were not white (that's less than one percent!) The last time I saw anything as close to this high a percentage of white people at an event in the LA area was a 2000 Nader rally in Long Beach. Let me repeat:

The last time I saw anything as close to this high a percentage of white people at an event in the LA area was a 2000 Nader rally in Long Beach.

I think the last time there was a crowd this pasty was when Dick and Lynne arrived at a Cheney family reunion.

Let's contrast this with the working people of Los Angeles. I live in a working class neighborhood and I commute with working class people on the bus and metro. The people there were not the working classes of LA. What I could tell from the people I saw and the cars they drove, it would be fair to say that the audience was primarily comprised of middle and upper-middle class whitebreads. I thought it was a big contrast with the Brentwood Coffee Bean I visited after O'Reilly's talk; about one third of the customers were nonwhite.

There is no dishonor in this. I have nothing personal against the O'Reilly's audience for being middle and upper-middle class white people (especially the blonde wearing the miniskirt and fuck-me boots). I come from a middle class white background. I honor many of the values of middle class society (e.g., when I have to tell someone to quit talking in the movie theater, it is very rarely a middle class person). I went to a predominantly upper-middle class undergraduate school (and if it were possible to still be there, I would still be there). So my dispute is not with middle class white society, it is with O'Reilly's claim to represent the American working class. He may be their champion, but they weren't the people who showed up to his speech.

My thesis was further supported by audience reaction to O'Reilly's talk. O'Reilly brought down the house when he made the following observations:

"...[E]veryone in California should have a right to carry a concealed weapon."

"He [George W. Bush] did really well [in an interview on the O'Reilly Factor]."

"Stuart Smalley [Al Franken] is the biggest liar in the country!" [O'Reilly didn't elaborate on any of Franken's alleged lies to the audience]

"If the presidential race were held tomorrow, Bush would win. Bush would win." [The applause was very loud after this comment]

"Well-informed people don't listen to Barbra Streisand."

The crowd really ate it up over O'Reilly's most obnoxious comment that night: "If I were gay, I would marry Hillary!"

These comments also don't exactly square with one of O'Reilly's comments in his talk: "I'm not an ideologue. I don't have an agenda. What I want is the best for America--the best for the folks." Is O'Reilly full of it? I'm reporting; you decide.

Addendum: NewsMax sponsors O'Reilly's newsletter: The title the story on O'Reilly's trip to LA this week in his 2/19 No Spin email newsletter was "Bill Survives a Week in California." It also noted that the newsletter was sponsored by Chris Ruddy's NewsMax. Celebrity Boxing? In his talk, O'Reilly made the following comments: "...Snoop Dogg, who, by the way, in a magazine said that he wants to b-slap me [audience laughter] ... I've got a message for Snoop: Hey, Mr. Dogg, you may be sniffing around the wrong guy here. [Audience laughter] ...You lay a finger on me and your rap days may be over fast!" [Audience applause and laughter] One Thing I wanted to ask O'Reilly: I wanted to ask him about the phony quote in Who's Looking Out for You?

Update: Welcome to Atrios readers. If you're unfamiliar with this site, check it out. The front page is here.

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