When I think of Bill O’Reilly, I often think of the entry in McSweeney’s Future Dictionary of America, where “O’Reilly” is a verb basically synonymous with lying in public. So it’s not surprising that in the aftermath of an election in which his beloved President Bush found out he actually does more harm than good, O’Reilly would lash out at an easy target — the liberal bastion of San Francisco. For those of you who didn’t hear, O’Reilly used his platform on his talk-radio show this week to slander an entire city. But before you dismiss these comments as “silly” or “just hyperbole,” take a close look at what he said, in reference to San Francisco’s decision to ban military recruiters on public school campuses, as well as the sale and possession of handguns citywide:
“Fine. You want to be your own country? Go right ahead,” O’Reilly went on. “And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.”
So here’s the thing. O’Reilly might have been able to get away with a comment like this, before Katrina. Before the federal government proved that, incredibly, it can fail to respond when a disaster strikes a city, leaving thousands of poor black folks to die in the streets. It’s not funny, because people did die. And it’s not hyperbole, because it actually happened.
San Francisco officials are right to go after O’Reilly, calling for him to be fired from Fox News. Others should do the same. O’Reilly could have made fun of San Francisco in myriad other ways — people have been doing it for decades. What he said, it’s not OK. And as a country, we should not tolerate it.