Fox News star Bill O'Reilly is a big fat baby.
Friday night, he wah-wah-wahed on his top-rated cable news show about last week's edition of CBC's the fifth estate.
The U.S. is at war, the Iraqis were voting, social security reform is a huge issue and this guy devotes precious TV time to denouncing Canada, Canadians and CBC, repeating the same tired and untrue lines about how Fox had been "banned" here.
"The Canadian government gives these people $1 billion of Canadian tax money, and the Canadian government is at fault here for allowing this kind of stuff to go on," he railed.
Titled "Sticks and Stones," the hour-long fifth estate report focused on the highly polarized political discourse in the U.S., devoting about 10 minutes to the loudest mouth of them all, O'Reilly.
O'Reilly, who can dish it out but can't take it, complained to his viewers that it was "dishonest" and "a vicious attack."
This from the guy who invented vicious and dishonest attack TV? Mediamatters.org and other watchdog groups have meticulously documented his distortions and deceptions.
CBC had a Friday night follow-up on The National by Neil MacDonald, who laughed off O'Reilly's contention that the public broadcaster was running scared now that Fox News is available in Canada.
Cross-border TV catfight!
But why is O'Reilly so defensive?
It's no secret that many media organizations in the U.S. offer up partisan hackery for cheap fun and easy profit — and the fifth estate merely travelled the same groove laid down last year by filmmaker Robert Greenwald in his documentary Outfoxed.
Which is why CBC's magazine show ran tape of O'Reilly shouting "shut up" no less than eight times at program guests and at liberal broadcaster Al Franken.
But it can't be the first time that O'Reilly has heard Franken say that he "lies constantly," is a "big sanctimonious hypocritical jerk," and is "pathological."
Ever since Fox landed on the cable dial here late last year — Roger's free digital preview ends in mid-March — I have been mesmerized by how often O'Reilly accuses guests of not supporting the troops or being anti-American, making up factoids to suit his view of the world
For example, he once cited the "Paris Business Review," an economic journal that doesn't exist, to bolster his case that the right wing-led boycott of French goods over its anti-Iraq war stance had cost France billions — even though the value of American imports from there increased in 2002-2003.
So anybody with half a brain and a finger on the pulse of some real journalism knows that O'Reilly's nightly, and laughably named, "no spin zone" is a wash.
As the fifth estate's Bob McKeown put it, "often what Bill O'Reilly has in mind is not debate but diatribe."
(For the record, Fox and O'Reilly refused to participate in the fifth estate documentary because they claim they're not conservative, but "mainstream." Well, maybe. From the Ku Klux Klan's perspective.)
Among the untruths allowed to stand on Fox on Friday night:
Fox is seen "in about seven million or eight million homes" in Canada, said O'Reilly.
Not true. Not even close.
There are 7.2 million homes total in Canada with basic cable. Rogers boasts about 675,000 digital households. Many cable and satellite services don't even carry Fox.
CBC "has enjoyed something like a monopoly on news coverage and commentary up until now, and true diversity is now arriving in broadcasting."
This from Carl Hodge, billed as a professor of "political sciene" (sic) at B.C.'s Okanagan University College. Hasn't he noticed that CTV, Global and Chum have all been doing TV news for some time now?
But do you think O'Reilly cares? He's all about selling mail order pet meds and second mortgages, according to the ads that I've seen.
Fact is, although Fox has more viewers than CNN, advertisers prefer the latter because they reach a better class of customer. Seems the thinking people are not watching Fox, except for a laugh — or because they're paid to.
It's a dirty job, let me tell you.
PRESS GANG: Look, I am as happy as the next person to see singing and dancing Iraqis getting to vote but when the cable news nets can devote hours of coverage to the elections and never once see a downside?
For an alternative view, check out Juan Cole's Informed Comment (http://www.juancole.com).
© 2005 Toronto Star