Sunday, November 27, 2022

Opinion | Bill O’Reilly used to anger the Kremlin. His replacement delights in it.

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Of the Kremlin’s apology request, O’Reilly mentioned on air, “So, I am working on that apology, but it may take a little time. Might want to check in with me around 2023.”

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Weeks later, O’Reilly commented on a “60 Minutes” piece on Putin’s victims. “Did you see the ’60 Minutes’ thing last night Lesley Stahl did about all the Putin people that got poisoned and hit in the head and they are in a coffin?” Around the time of the Helsinki summit in July 2018, O’Reilly in his post-Fox News incarnation bashed Putin on his personal web site: “Vlad is a psychotic megalomaniac.”

The community’s ideological agenda, after all, shaded the former host’s tackle Russia, as when he declared in July 2016 that he didn’t “care” if Hillary Clinton’s emails had been hacked by Putin.

Tucker Carlson, who took over O’Reilly’s time slot, has introduced a contemporary sycophancy to the Putin protection. “Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?” Carlson requested in 2019. “And I’m serious. Why do I care? Why shouldn’t I root for Russia? Which I am.” He backpedaled on these remarks earlier than affirming them once more: “I think we should probably take the side of Russia if we have to choose between Russia and Ukraine. That is my view.”

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And simply earlier than Putin began pummeling Ukraine in a “border dispute,” Carlson advised that American liberals had been a higher menace: “It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”

The Kremlin isn’t fairly so dismayed with the phrases of this 8 p.m. Fox News host. Russian state TV, in reality, has been enjoying clips of Carlson’s useful commentary. The regime will take any propaganda victories it may well get because it fights for its misinformational life. Securing a sympathetic voice at the top-rated cable-network present in the United States isn’t a nasty prize.

So how did Fox News progress from a Putin antagonist to a Putin apologist in this time slot?

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By trial and error, with an accent on the latter: Carlson in November 2016 slid into the 7 p.m. emptiness left by departed host Greta Van Susteren, then hopped to 9 p.m. following the departure of Megyn Kelly, and at last to 8 p.m. in April 2017 after O’Reilly was dismissed over a sexual harassment scandal. Before all this prime-time slot-hopping, Carlson was type of kicking round at the community, internet hosting weekend editions of the risible “Fox & Friends” franchise. That appeared to be his comeuppance for having flamed out at CNN and MSNBC.

Once in entrance of Fox News’s night viewers, Carlson hosted with a vengeance. He filleted liberals, shouting them down and laughing in their faces; he positioned himself as the populist enemy of multinational Washington; he invented a hypocritical slogan about serving as the “sworn enemy” of mendacity, groupthink and different scourges; and he camped out on the excessive fringe of the period’s sizzling debates: Democrats weren’t simply mistaken, they “hate” America. Immigrants don’t simply create service-delivery issues for municipalities, they make the nation “poorer and dirtier.” Your leaders weren’t simply incompetent from time to time, they harbored contempt for you and your loved ones.

Into that very same development suits Carlson’s on-the-fly recalibration of Putin. When Trump in 2019 got here below fireplace for withholding navy help from Ukraine for corrupt causes, Carlson questioned aloud about the prudence of favoring Ukraine over Russia. Surely the MAGA crowd would get pleasure from that thought experiment.

It’s simply that now it has backfired. The atrocities piling up every day in Ukraine vindicate O’Reilly’s evaluation of Putin and vanquish Carlson’s. Every time Russian forces shell an condo constructing or a maternity hospital or a household hustling for security, it’s truthful to ask Carlson: Is this the horror you minimized? What do you will have to say about Putin now?

As Politico’s Jack Shafer has famous, Carlson has just about reserved this house for himself: “While Carlson deserves points for having an original point of view on Ukraine, his originality has not produced much in the way of imitators.”

“O’Reilly fundamentally did like the idea of democracy and was pro-American,” writes Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, through e mail. Carlson and Putin, in contrast, “are both fundamentally ethno-nationalists,” he contends.

None of that is to romanticize the days of Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. He proved himself to be an terrible, terrible man, pushed by pettiness and spared by an immunity to penalties from the hypocrisy that he ladled out on his extremely rated program. That he embraced a fact-based evaluation of Putin doesn’t rehabilitate him.

It does, nevertheless, set down one other marker for the way removed from actuality Fox News has drifted over the previous 5 years.

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