Bill O’Reilly is accused of sexist, personally offensive language

As has been stated in this blog in many different ways, individualist, conservative Republicans should never universally castigate strong women in America.  And most of them don’t, with the knowledge that most independent, strong women go about their daily lives in manner that would make proponents of the philosophical ideals of individualism proud.  These women don’t care what other people do or say, and it has no bearing on the manner in which they do business.  If any man, or any other person for that matter, makes the claim that they should not hold the powerful position that they do, these women simply laugh at them and go on about their business.  There is a strain of women, however, that spend too much of their time decrying the effect men have on their lives.  It’s an attempt these women –of a weaker constitution than those truly strong women— use to compensate for their lack of ability.  They claim that the men that criticize their lack of ability do so, is based on a fear that man has of a woman in power, and they state that women should be treated the same as a man … Except, apparently, when it comes to criticism.

downloadWhen Bill O’Reilly, anchor of the Fox News program The O’Reilly Factor, opined that State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki appeared to be out of her depth in the State Department, Psaki’s Deputy spokesperson, Marie Harf, called him out for using sexist, personally offensive language.

Bill O’Reilly’s exact quote was:

With all due respect, that woman looks way out of her depth over there, the way she delivers.  It doesn’t look like she has the gravitas for the job.”

State Department Deputy spokesperson, Marie Harf’s reply was:

I think that when the anchor of a leading cable news show uses, quite frankly, sexist, personally offensive language that I actually don’t think they would ever use about a man, against the person that shares this podium with me, I think I have an obligation and I think it’s important to step up and say that’s not okay.”

Other than the use of the word woman, and the two uses of the word she, there are no general references made to the manner in which a person of the female gender woman can do a job, or the job as spokesperson.  As Mr. Erik Wemple states in his blog, O’Reilly’s specific comments were about Ms. Psaki’s performance, and his general opinion on the way she presents herself.  If O’Reilly had a habit of limiting his criticism to women in general, or women in this administration, Ms. Harf would have a case, but as a Western Journalism piece details Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly and Howard Kurtz pointed out, Bill O’Reilly is the “equal opportunity critic” he claims to be, as evidenced by his criticism of male press secretary Josh Earnest:

Josh Earnest, okay.  He looks to me to be befuddled.  I mean, (former press secretary) Jay Carney, you may not have liked him, but he looked like he understood the process.  Mr. Earnest doesn’t look like he has a lot of credibility.”

After playing the video clip of O’Reilly criticizing this Josh Earnest, Kurtz and Kelly had the following exchange:

Howard Kurtz: “Marie Harf playing the gender card seems unfair.”

Megyn Kelly: “It’s playing the victim.”

Megyn Kelly concluded the piece by giving the State Department some advice:

You should be worried about the terrorists who are beheading Americans and not focused on Bill O’Reilly.”{1}

Erik Wemple of the Erik Wemple blog, on the Washington Post, decided to conduct his own examination of this charge of O’Reilly’s sexism, writing that we can all go ahead and:

 … Toss (Ms. Harf’s) “personally offensive” claim right in the trash heap.”

“In slighting Psaki, O’Reilly stuck strictly to her performance as a professional, something that is well within his ambit as a cable news anchor. If a SPOKESWOMAN cannot be evaluated on the basis of how she presents herself to the public, then nothing is fair game.”

Erik Wemple then cited a particular instance in which Bill O’Reilly leveled criticism at a Eric Wemple blog, that criticized the Fox News anchor for whining about the media overkill on the Malaysian (MH370) jet story:

On his show, O’Reilly dismissed us in much the same style he did Psaki: “It is simply incredible that the Washington Post would pay a man as foolish as that.”

Wemple then performs a nexis search on the word gravitas, with a presumed connection to women, in general, and Bill O’Reilly.  “Alas,” writers Wemple, “There’s nothing too solid.”  He writes that there are some mentions of Sarah Palin, and Katie Couric’s run as CBS News anchor, but Wemple also finds this particular commentary made in reference to women and gravitas:

… I don’t mind Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State,” O’Reilly stated on the Dec. 3, 2008, edition of The O’Reilly Factor, soon after Ms. Clinton’s nomination.  “I think she has a certain gravitas out there. And I think she’s pretty tough. …”

Wemple then concludes with: 

Maybe O’Reilly is even-handed with assessments of the gravitas of women at the State Department.”{2}

One has to believe, based on his other columns, that it pains Mr. Wemple to defend Bill O’Reilly on anything, but he should be applauded for providing a well-researched, objective column on not only this tête–à–tête between Ms. Psaki, Ms. Harf, and Mr. O’Reilly, but for examining Bill O’Reilly’s record in a thorough manner befitting any journalist.  Mr. Wemple even included O’Reilly’s criticism of Erik’s blog as evidence that the Fox News anchor is an equal opportunity criticizer.  How many people, much less journalists, would do that?

I don’t care who you are, taking harsh, pointed criticism of your performance, and your overall ability to perform, is never easy to take.  The first thing most of us do, is look for excuses to, at least, lessen the pain that such criticism can cause.  Some of us even try to turn the tables on the one making the evaluation, so that we don’t have to simply ingest, or try to sleep with the pointed, harsh criticisms.  When our close friends are criticized in such a manner, we react with vengeance, as Ms. Harf apparently did, but her answer did nothing for women, in general, or Ms. Psaki, and it may have done more harm than good, as it left the perception that Ms. Harf was singling out the criticism for being critical, as opposed to defending the performance of a friend, and colleague, being singled out for criticism.

Instead of using the female shield, Ms. Harf probably should’ve defended the virtues of Ms. Psaki’s performance.  Ms. Harf probably should’ve said something along the lines of: “I think Ms. Psaki’s performance speaks for itself,” even though Ms. Psaki’s has received a dearth of criticism for her hashtag diplomacy on Twitter, but Ms. Harf probably could’ve left her defense as a more vague, general defense than putting it in the victim status.  As Ms. Harf has surely found out by now, it doesn’t always rally the troops and lead them to blindly join you in solidarity.  Some of the times, they’ll do their research and find out you’re simply wrong.




One thought on “Bill O’Reilly is accused of sexist, personally offensive language

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