I photographed a much younger, pre-Factor Bill O’Reilly, on the set of Inside Edition, publicity images for the then-new show. He was more cooperative, had budgeted more time, than his co-hosts (a typically perky blonde woman and a handsome African American man). He seemed a bit arrogant, ambitious, and savvy about the value of good promotional images. After having the film processed, I gave all of the 120 chromes (minus any frames with blinks) to the show’s outside publicist, who had hired me. I assumed she gave them to Inside Edition employees.
A few weeks ago, looking in my flat files for 35mm b&w negatives from a shoot at PS1 in the 80s, I unearthed the Inside Edition clip test** of O’Reilly (see upper right corner of the image for the tell-tale marks, including undeveloped area).
While I don’t lean in (and find the marketing, branding, co-opting of “feminism” repugnant), I certainly lean (way) left and have never watched O’Reilly’s top-rated Fox show. Most of what I know about his nightly performance, I learned from The Colbert Report and articles about the conservative provocateur’s endless, outrageous lies (some even about himself: having seen combat duty, being caught up in a riot in LA). And it would difficult to be a sentient being in our culture, and not know that O’Reilly is a “racist, and serial sexual harassment offender,” as Color of Change’s Arisha Michelle Hatch has accurately called him.
On April 1, in an article in the New York Times by Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt, it was revealed that $13 million has been paid over 15 years by either O’Reilly or his employer to five women, “in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations against him.” Two other women have spoken about inappropriate behavior, a former Fox host and Dr. Wendy Walsh, who had been a frequent guest on O’Reilly’s show, who called the 21st Century Fox hotline to report her experience after the Times article was published.
The following Wednesday, while Trump was doing his fake news condemnation schtick, he praised Fox News and specifically Bill O’Reilly’s coverage of his current Susan Rice hallucination, and went on to defend the host, “I think he’s a person I know well–he is a good person…personally I think he shouldn’t have settled…Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
But advertisers have had a different opinion. Luxury cars makers were among the first to speed away and as of yesterday, 82+ companies had fled. On last night’s edition of the Factor, O’Reilly, whose ratings have been holding steady, announced he was going on vacation. With CEO of 21st Century Fox James Murdoch’s reported deep disapproval of his star, perhaps the trip will be permanent.
** In the dark ages (sometime after glass plates, but pre-digital), a photographer would instruct the lab she used to clip and process a frame or two from specified rolls of transparency film. When the clip test (exposure) was perfect, the film was run normal. If it were too dark, the film was (as we said) pushed (developed longer) and too light, it could be pulled (but this never looked great).
UPDATE, 4/19: Bill O’Reilly’s two-decade run at Fox News, as the host of The O’Reilly Factor, ended today, with his firing.