Killing Bill O’Reilly (Book Review)
Bill O’Reilly’s crime is pretending to be a writer.
In his awful ghostwritten books for which he parsimoniously takes credit as the author, O’Reilly intentionally and maliciously contorts some of the most memorable events in history, orchestrating willful acts of deception destined to mislead and confuse millions of readers.
O’Reilly is a historical alchemist pimping fake history for a fast buck.
Conservative blowhard Bill O’Reilly is leaving his decaying throne at FOX News, the veritable sewer of scum he’s ruled for two decades as the network’s clown and ringmaster in residence. [See Footnote]
That O’Reilly is departing one of television’s most highly-visible and lucrative perches — at least temporarily, until likely being re-hired elsewhere by some desperate channel seeking a ratings-driven battery jump — is a good thing.
However, public humiliation and media scrutiny aren’t likely to end O’Reilly’s twisted carnage as a chronic fabricator of history. In his wretched “Killing….” series of books, O’Reilly recklessly distorts actual historical events, therefore misleading millions of readers. His sloppy narratives of what he insists (really) happened to Lincoln, Kennedy, Jesus, Patton, and most recently Reagan has been debunked incessantly by virtually all academics and credible historians who are far more familiar with the actual account of events than O’Reilly. The truth is damned, though. In today’s expository pop culture where one historical account seems as good as any other, where crackpot conspiracy theories grease public interest, O’Reilly’s literary manure has matured into a rose garden of best sellers.
O’Reilly’s ghostwritten alchemy began with “Killing Lincoln,” published in 2011. At least 12 major errors were instantly discovered by real historians, including one that was repeated numerous times throughout the book. O’Reilly claimed that Abraham Lincoln made the most important decisions of his presidency inside the Oval Office, which is described in some detail. That might seem plausible, until checking historical accounts available to anyone curious enough to pursue them and discovering the Oval Office wasn’t added on to the White House complex until 1909, some four decades after Lincoln’s death. There are many more glaring errors, which can be read HERE.
That was just the beginning. Hundreds of books have been written on John F. Kennedy and his assassination has been covered to the point of, well — overkill. Credible authors have spent years, and in some cases decades, tirelessly researching the controversial 1963 murder from every conceivable angle. Some of these alternative interpretations of what happened are more convincing than others. Yet somehow, full-time television personality and protagonist Bill O’Reilly — lacking any research skills nor access to new information on the crime of the century — pounced on the Kennedy Assassination in order to make a fast, easy buck.
Churning out what would become a book a year, O’Reilly’s hasty-written follow-up to the surprising success of the Lincoln narrative resulted in “Killing Kennedy,” published in 2012. If the Lincoln narrative was bad, the recount of Kennedy’s killing was appallingly worse.
Not content with tarnishing the historical record of those terrible tragedies which befell both Lincoln and Kennedy, next it was Jesus Christ’s turn to relive some agony on the cross. “Killing Jesus,” published in 2013, purportedly told the real story of what happened to the Christian messiah all those years ago when someone like O’Reilly would have been served up as lion food to screaming mobs thirsting for blood. In an appalling display of narcissism, O’Reilly’s name even appears on the front cover above Jesus’, and in equal font size (the author’s name is in larger print than the previous two books — Lincoln and Kennedy). Once again, O’Reilly and his accomplices concocted a maelstrom of falsehoods. One religious scholar uncovered no less than 133 errors which can be seen HERE.
Emboldened by the glaring gullibility of his faithful viewers-turned readers, including millions who inexplicably dismissed scathing book reviews by real historians and were all too willing snatch up whatever rolled off the assembly line of O’Reilly’s fake history factory, General George S. Patton became the next victim of crazed pseudo-fiction.
“Killing Patton,” released in 2014, alleged the former Soviet Union murdered one of America’s most iconic generals. Truth is — shortly after World War II ended, Patton died from injuries sustained in a freak auto accident. Lacking any supporting evidence, and often contradicting actual facts, O’Reilly hatched his theory designed to appeal to a plentiful audience of conspiracy buffs, mostly the sick paranoid souls who’ve come to infect the American political right. When discussing his book, O’Reilly told ABC News: “I think Stalin killed him. Patton was going to go back to the United States and condemn Stalin and the Soviet Union, tell the American people these guys aren’t going out of Poland, they’re going to try to take over the world. And Stalin wanted him dead. And I think Stalin got him dead.”
In this fourth book, O’Reilly once again returns to his exalted status, as his name is printed in a larger typeface than Patton, the book’s subject for 350 cringe-worthy pages. O’Reilly’s name is also capitalized, whereas poor Patton gets the equivalent of riding in economy class. Read historians’ reaction to the book HERE.
Most recently, Ronald Reagan became the latest debris in O’Reilly’s twisted tornado of historical deception. Lincoln, Kennedy, then Jesus, and Patton might have been fair game. Some bending of truths might have even been forgiven by his readers before, but now Saint Reagan was the new target. Predictably, when “Killing Reagan,” was released in 2016, conservatives finally revealed a consciousness and screamed — “enough!” Right-wing critics from columnist George Will and David Brooks, to the hallowed National Review, unmercifully shredded O’Reilly’s completely unfounded bogus claims that Reagan’s 1981 assassination attempt lead to mental instability over the next seven years of his presidency. Here’s where O’Reilly really crossed the line among many of his conservatives compatriots. Read more about the epic clash between O’Reilly and Will HERE.
The book on Reagan should have been easy to write. Of the five historical events covered by O’Reilly so far, that shooting and aftermath of a presidency is the most recent. Countless witnesses to what happened inside the White House during the Reagan years are readily available to this day, only a generation later, and would likely have contributed helpful information, particularly to someone of O’Reilly’s stature. Surely, the Reagan Library was also contacted, which contains the most extensive accounts of Reagan’s presidency. Alas, neither O’Reilly nor his writer-sidekick Martin Dugard ever bothered to conduct any research there. Ed Meese, Jim Baker, George Shultz, nor any of the other key figures who served in the Reagan Administration were interviewed, either. “Here’s an interesting approach to writing history,” George Will remarked. “Never talk to anyone with firsthand knowledge of your subject.”
Given the scathing criticism of each of his five books, how to explain them selling by the millions? My theory is that much of the political right has become so insular they’ve drifted off in an alternate twilight universe of reality. Not content to purchase nor accept more conventional and respectable fact-based interpretations of history by pointy-headed scholars from leftist academia, instead they seek explanations elsewhere. When one of their own such as O’Reilly comes along, the words (no matter how wrong) are taken as pure gospel, even when unmasked later as falsehoods.
Credit O’Reilly for two things which he’s very good at — theatrics and marketing. Despite the obvious ideological misgivings, his undeniable popularity with millions of devotees provided a rare golden opportunity to do some serious good, that was sadly squandered. Indeed, I wish he’d used his lofty platform for could be a noble purpose –promoting the majesty of history and encouraging the discovery of new information on many of the most important events which have shaped who were are and our world.
However, O’Reilly isn’t promoting history in his books. He’s killing it.
Footnote: The most thoughtful account of Bill O’Reilly’s firing by FOX-News was written by Paul Harris and can be read in full HERE.