The Leno Factor
My fellow libertarian friend, the multi-talented Brad Linaweaver, called me up today more upset than usual with one of his favorite pin cushions, Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, which — as Fox endlessly tells us — has dominated its time slot now for 14 years. On today’s show O’Reilly, a drug warrior nonpareil — managed to shock even fellow drug warrior Charles Krauthammer with his suggestions that if he, O’Reilly, were the Drug Czar there would be drug dealers hanging in the United States and drug addicts would be doing multi-year rehabs in Singapore style concentration camps.
I’ve written about O’Reilly before, in an article first published in the July 15, 2009 issue of The New Gun Week, and reprinted here, titled “A Shadow on the Second Amendment.”
In that article I wrote:
The Second Amendment movement just can’t tolerate a Bill O’Reilly who – knowing that Dr. Tiller had previously been shot at and his clinic bombed — repeatedly and editorially called George Tiller a “baby killer.” O’Reilly boasts The O’Reilly Factor has the highest ratings in cable/satellite television news. O’Reilly knew there are always psychotics waiting for a justification to commit mad violence and it was as foreseeable endlessly repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” was inviting murder as it was for King Henry II’s infamous remark that led to the assassination of Thomas à Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
Brad and I agree that a homicidal habit of fantasizing or even encouraging people’s deaths should be a deal killer for a responsible network, regardless of how high Better Dead Lists drive a show’s ratings.
Nevertheless ratings are what drives commercial television so if Fox were finally to get weary of their high-rated sociopath, maybe there’s a TV star who just lost his job that might be a high-ratings replacement, himself. I wrote about this star in my previous article here.
Jay Leno / Bill O’Reilly
Last Thursday, February 6th, NBC’s number-one-late-night star — Tonight Show host Jay Leno — did his last show. As I previously wrote, with rare exception The Tonight Show with Jay Leno held first place in the 11:35 PM ET/PT late-night time slot ratings since 1995, winning the late-night war for NBC against competition such as David Letterman on CBS, Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, and currently syndicated reruns on Fox. At the time of his last Tonight Show Jay Leno was considered one of the top-five most popular TV stars.
A lot of people have speculated that after it sinks in with Jay that he’s not going to be happy tinkering around with his cars, and that club and Vegas gigs won’t satisfy his addiction to being a comedy star, he’s going to want a new TV show. They’ve suggested that Fox might be a new home for Leno.
They’re right, but it’s the wrong Fox.
Jay Leno has all the qualifications — plus a massive existing fan base who already miss him — to take over Bill O’Reilly’s time slot on the Fox News Channel.
Jay Leno is wittier than Bill O’Reilly. He’s as used to interviewing presidents, experts, and celebrities as Bill O’Reilly. He’s been a ratings king even longer than Bill O’Reilly. He’s a conservative populist like Bill O’Reilly acceptable to the Fox News older demographic. And — best of all — Jay’s not a bullying fascist like Bill O’Reilly, whom I’ve felt for a long time is Burt Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker in 1957’s The Sweet Smell of Success or Andy Griffith’s ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes in that same year’s A Face in the Crowd.
Roger Ailes — I got your Bill O’Reilly problem solved right here. You might want to make the call fast, though, before CNN grabs Jay and puts O’Reilly’s ratings into the Tail Spin Zone.
Addendum, February 12th: On today’s O’Reilly Factor during the mail segment O’Reilly managed to come down on both sides of the death penalty for drug dealers. First he responded to a viewer letter asking if he favored the death penalty for drug dealers by saying he opposed the death penalty but favored harsh prison sentences. Then afterwards he read a reader letter: “Having been to Singapore where drug smuggling brings a death sentence, I can tell you that it works” — O’Reilly said nothing. This juxtaposition of letters in which O’Reilly’s final word is quoted from a viewer without objection — with the preplanned backstop that, “Well, I’d just said I was opposed to the death penalty for drug dealers” — is the sort of rhetorical loop-de-loop that is the hallmark of a master propagandist who admires the unfettered efficiency of homicidal totalitarians but hides behind ambiguity because unambiguous clarity would end him.