During the past few weeks’ media coverage of Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment scandal, Stephen Colbert declined to say much about it, noting on the air one night that he’d spent too much of his life engaging with O’Reilly to start bringing him up again. But that changed on Wednesday night. With O’Reilly’s ouster from Fox News official and television’s biggest news story of the day, Colbert dove back into his O’Reilly obsession with lusty gusto.
Colbert quoted from 21st Century Fox’s press statement about O’Reilly, and added his own editorial: “Fox released a statement that said in part, ‘By ratings standards, Bill O’Reilly is one of the most accomplished TV personalities in the history of cable news.’ By moral standards, he was a self-righteous landfill of angry garbage.”
“It’s the end of an era,” said Colbert. But he added a comforting note to Fox News fans. “In case you’re a fan of sexual harassers who are on TV all the time, you still have Donald Trump.” Colbert acknowledged that he owed a chunk of his career to that walking landfill of angry garbage: “I owe a lot to Bill O’Reilly,” the host said on The Late Show. “I spent over nine years doing a character based on him, and then spent years of therapy trying to de-bloviate myself.” Colbert then revived his old right-wing character from The Colbert Report to deliver the final blows. Colbert’s evil twin excoriated the forces that had brought O’Reilly down: “Suddenly sexual harassment’s a crime? That’s the country we live in now: Obama’s Trump’s America!” Bad-Colbert finished off with a sobbed, “Stay strong, papa bear!”
Meanwhile, Fox News was busy alternately singing O’Reilly’s praises or scrubbing his entire two-decade career at Fox from viewers’ memories. Fox’s 8 p.m. show was instantly re-named The Factor — no more “O’Reilly” there. Substitute host Dana Perino read stiffly from the teleprompter: “It’s the end of an era here at the Fox… Bill O’Reilly has been the undisputed king of cable news… he is an incredibly talented broadcaster who raise the bar for interviewers everywhere. He has also held his staff to exacting standards… And you, his audience, responded in record numbers, making the Factor the number-one cable news show for more than 16 years.”
And just like that… poof, he’s gone. Tucker Carlson announced he’s moving into O’Reilly’s 8 p.m. slot next week without tugging his forelock in thanks to Bill. Earlier, the quintet on The Five were gleeful in their announcement that The Five will move from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. next week — all but that battering-ram in a suit, Eric Bolling, who will stay behind to launch his own new show at 5 p.m. (Jesse Watters — who became famous entirely due to O’Reilly’s Factor showcase of his dopey man-on-the-street interviews called “Watter’s World” — will replace Bolling on The Five.)
The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle looked at the camera and made a grinning threat: “Rachel, we’re coming for you!” She was referring to the show against which The Five will now compete: MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show. It’s a measure of how competitive MSNBC has become in prime time that Guilfoyle used Maddow’s name on Fox News’s air. Up until recently, it was a point of pride for hosts — led, of course, by O’Reilly — to never mention the competition by name, implying that those liberal twits were so low-rated, they didn’t deserve a Fox News plug. No more. It’s a new news world without Bill O’Reilly.
The Factor airs weeknights at 8 p.m. on Fox News. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on CBS.
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