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O’Reilly’s New Job: Stand-up Comedian?

Posted by Rick · September 17th, 2003 · 18 Comments

We’re only about five or ten minutes into it and already O’Reilly has started with the jokes.

First, his top story is an attack on MoveOn.org, which is apparently a “leftist Internet-driven organization.” They took out an ad somewhere blasting Bush. The punchline of the story so far is this: O’Reilly says MoveOn.org wanted to come on the program, but he couldn’t do that because “they would attack Bush and then I’d have to defend Bush and I just don’t want to do that.”

Uh, say what???

Categories: Politics-In-General


18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 joe // Sep 18, 2003 at 1:40 pm

    It appears Mr. O’Reilly has issues with Al Franken and potentially with the truth.

    Why is this important? Remember the article written by the nun on the National Catholic Reporter website? It’s an issue of integrity.

    Especially revealing is O’Reilly’s own defense of his claim that ‘Inside Edition’ won two Peabody awards while he was host. The truth is that they were the far less important Polk awards and they were given after he left.

    This is transcribed from a television interview. (The complete transcription can be found here:
    http://www.alfrankenweb.com/freshlies.html )

    GROSS: Now you do have a chapter devoted to Bill O’Reilly, and one of the things you do in that chapter is check a couple of things that he has said about himself, including that “Inside Edition”–the show that he used to host–won a couple of Peabody Awards and that he grew up in…

    Mr. FRANKEN: Levittown.

    GROSS: …Levittown, New York.

    Mr. FRANKEN: Yeah.

    GROSS: So I’m going to ask you to choose one of those two things, which you and your students investigated. Want to…

    Mr. FRANKEN: Well, I…

    GROSS: …go with the Levittown? You want to go with the Levittown?

    Mr. FRANKEN: Yeah, I’ll go with Levittown. I mean, he–here, let me open the book to this chapter, because there’s some funny things I want to quote in it. OK. He has created this sort of myth about himself, which is that he’s sort of this every man who grew up in, you know, poverty and–a self-made man who talks for every guy. And, in fact, he said–at the book expo, that thing he said, ‘I started out with nothing.’ And he told The New York Observer once, ‘You don’t come from any lower than I came from on an economic scale.’ And that’s pretty hard to do, not–you know, to be in America and not come–anyway, so–the thing is, though, that there–we found an independent source who contradicted him. And that independent source is his mother.

    And he said, ‘I grew up in Levittown,’ which is, you know, he had this hardscrabble boyhood in Levittown. And the fact is he didn’t grow up in Levittown, he grew up in Westbury, which is an affluent suburb. And his mom very proudly told The Washington Post that they had a very nice, affluent childhood for him, and they went to Florida every year for vacation, and he went to private school, and he went to a private college, and she’s very proud of that–and as well she should be; her husband worked very hard.

    But Bill–so, when I was at the book expo, I said to Bill, I said, ‘Well, which is it? Did you grow up in Levittown or did you grow up in Westbury?’ And which is really, seemingly, a hard thing to spin. Remember, this is a guy with a ‘no spin zone.’ He said, ‘I grew up in the Westbury section of Levittown.’ And they’re two different villages. They’re just–they’re not–they don’t–it’s like saying, ‘I grew up in the Brooklyn section of Manhattan.’ It’s just crazy.

    And this is this pattern that he has, which is he has created this myth that I think he now believes about himself, and so, you know, the thing about winning the Peabodys, it was just crazy, too. And then, you know, when he was caught on that, he said, ‘OK, so I mistook a Polk for a Peabody.’ And, well, he’s talking about a Polk that he didn’t win, that the show won after he left, for two Peabodys that they never won. They just did not–and I said to him once, on this, I said, ‘Don’t you think it’s ironic that you would get a journalism award wrong? Don’t you find that ironic?’ And he said, ‘Go ahead. Go after me.’ So, you know, I did. I thought that–Oh, that’s a good idea, OK, I’ll go after you.’

    GROSS: Al Franken’s new book is called “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.” He’ll be back in the second half of the show. By the way, we’ve invited Bill O’Reilly of Fox News to join us in a few weeks after his new book is published. I’m Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

    There is also a supporting article here:

    In this article, O’Reilly seems to become the very definition of rude politician that he claims to despise.

    Is O’Reilly ever funny intentionally? No, but he is very sad to watch.

  • 2 gregg greenberg // Dec 2, 2003 at 6:03 am

    Al Franken –

    Just to let you know, there is a Levittown section of Westbury. You are wrong on this point.

    Westbury incorporates a number of areas. The Jewish area on the other side of Cantiague Park is behind Temple Beth Torah, they went to Hicksville schools along with the Levittown section of Westbury which you keep referring to. It was a modest area comparatively. Westbury also had a black section which went to Westbury schools. Then Westbury had an upper middle class area that went to Tresper Clark High School behind the old Salisbury Theater.

    Old Westbury is the affluent section, and they go to Jericho schools or private schools. That section is miles away from the Levittown section where O’Reilly is from.

    Just look at a map of Westbury before you make the statement again.

    Gregg Greenberg

    You are very wrong on this.

  • 3 Rick // Dec 2, 2003 at 6:59 am

    Interestingly, after Franken’s book came out, O’Reilly changed his bio on the Fox website. It used to say:

    “He lived in a modest house with his father, mother and sister in the Westbury
    section of Levittown.”

    But now it says:

    “From humble beginnings on Long Island, NY, Bill O’Reilly….”

    You can see the change (until google fixes its cache) by searching for “levittown westbury o’reilly” at google. Read the text in the google link, then go to the link itself and try to find that text. You can’t. It’s been changed, as noted above.

    The Washington Post reports:

    “O’Reilly actually grew up in Westbury, Long Island, a middle-class suburb a few miles from Levittown, according to his mother Angela, who still lives in the Levitt-built house Bill grew up in. His late father, William O’Reilly Sr., was a currency accountant with Caltex, an oil company; Angela “Ann” O’Reilly was a homemaker who also worked as a physical therapist.

    While hardly well off, the O’Reillys – mom, dad, Bill Jr. and his younger sister, Janet – weren’t exactly deprived, either. Both children attended private school, and the family sent Bill to Marist College, a private college in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as well as the University of London for a year, without financial aid.”

    (That story was here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A62722-2000Dec12?language=printer.)

    From http://www.msnbc.com/news/969273.asp?cp1=1

    Phillips: ?Is it Levittown, is it Westbury??
    O?Reilly: ?I was raised in a section of Levittown, OK??
    Phillips: ?The house you grew up in is not in Westbury??
    O?Reilly: ?It?s in a section of Levittown, which used to be called Westbury. It?s now called Salisbury.?
    Phillips: ?Levittown Post Office is that where you got your mail??
    O?Reilly: ?No. It?s a Westbury post office.?
    Phillips: ?Westbury post office.?
    O?Reilly: ?The Westbury section of Levittown, OK? If you say you lived in Queens, somebody said, ?No, you live in Jackson Heights.? You say, ?No, look, it?s all Queens, right?? It?s all Levittown. It was built in one big tract, OK? And that is what I told everybody to get across that I had a very lower, middle class upbringing.?

    For more on the interesting conflicts between Franken and O’Reilly (and for another view of what O’Reilly does best — which is to spout right-wing ideologies and refuse to allow his guests to make their own points without constantly interrupting them and using various rhetorical devices to alter or inhibit their getting anything he doesn’t like across) see this site: http://www.rotten.com/library/bio/entertainers/pundits/bill-oreilly/

    Usually, Bill just says, “Shut up! Shut up!” or something similar.

    O’Reilly is right about one thing, though. His is truly the no-spin zone. Twisting. Mutilating. Shredding. Mangling. But not spinning.

    Spinning would be way to mild for O’Reilly.

  • 4 David Ippolito // Dec 9, 2003 at 6:04 pm

    Actually the saddest thing about Bill O’Reilly and men like him is that they are so spiritually and ethically bankrupt, that they actually think they’re getting it right. At this point, anyone who can say something as blatantly idiotic as, “I grew up in the Westbury section of Levittown” and then defend the statement again and again, when in fact they are two completely different villages, is so misguided that it must be considered pathological. If this were a major example of Bill O’Reilly’s flagrant disregard for fact and truth, it wouldn’t be as disturbing. But, this kind of thing is minor in the mindset of people like Mr. O’Reilly. (Oh, and I was raised in East Meadow… so, I have an idea where these towns are… actually, they’re in nearly opposite directions from where I grew up. I now live in the Manhattan section of East Meadow.)

  • 5 Harry // Jan 4, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    I am a 59 year old resident of very “middle class” East Meadow, Long Island. I also attended the same private high school O’reilly attended. It amazes me how much has been made about O’reilly’s youth. For whatever it is worth, Chaminade High School is not populated by rich people. Tuition when I attended in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was in the neighborhood of $40 per month. There is a substantial number of affluent students in attendance, but the vast majority come from “middle class” families. Most are two income families, union members, middle management types. As far as the Levittown/Westbury thing, I do not know exactly what O’Reilly said, but the fact still remains that when Levitt built his houses they were built in Levittown, Westbury (Salisbury) and Hicksville, all on the same basic tract of land. All three areas had the exact same style and size houses and were sold at the same prices. The point is: O’Reilly grew up in a modest Levitt-built home regardless of his Post Office, and he attended a private school where the majority of the students are middle class. The fact that he went to college without financial aid has no bearing on his stated middle class rearing. Most of the people I know who have children attending college do not get financial aid and are not wealthy. They are very middle class. These days you have to come from the lower economic strata to qualify for any type of “meaningful” aid. Bill O’Reilly never said he was poor. And try to tell everyone who takes an annual vacation that they are rich. Anyone has the right to disagree with O’Reilly’s political positions, but the implications about his supposed address distorting his upbringing are absurd.

  • 6 ray // Jan 11, 2004 at 12:18 am

    Perhaps so much has been made of O’Reilly’s childhood because he has sought to make it an issue. People in the US love underdog stories. They love stories about people who pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And rightly so. Unfortunately for Bill “No Spin Zone” O’Reilly, he was caught doing precisely the thing that he claims to be so adamantly opposed to: spinning. The guy grew up in Westport. That may be contiguous to Levittown, the borders may even blur, but the fact of the matter is that he grew up in Westport. Since he grew up there, he should certainly know the name of the town. Why would he claim to have grown up in Levittown when he didn’t? The only explanation is that he hoped to cash in on the cachet of having pulled himself up by his own bootstraps out of his hardscrabble roots in Levittown. The story isn’t quite as compelling when “middle-class Westport” is substituted for Levittown.
    Let’s stay focused on the issue, Harry. O’Reilly crows to the media about how “You don?t come from any lower than I came from on an economic scale.” That is spin. He grew up middle class. His father was an accountant — a white collar professional. In most other people, such an transparent attempt to recast themselves as an underdog who triumphed against all odds would probably be excusable. From a fellow whose claim to fame is browbeating people he sees as “spinning” the truth, it’s sheer hypocrisy. And if there is anything that people like more than underdog stories, it’s stories about hypocrits caught in their hypocrisy.
    I’d also like to touch on something Harry seems to misunderstand about the issue. I don’t think that Franken was asserting that, because his family took annual vacations to Florida, O’Reilly was rich. He merely debunked the myth that O’Reilly has attempted to create. O’Reilly has stated that he pulled himself up from the lowest levels of the socio-economic ladder. He implicitly denies that he was middle class. The fact of the matter is that people who can take their families to Florida every year, probably qualify as reasonably well off. I’m a public defender and I deal with people who are not well off on a daily basis. There are a lot of them. I can tell you with a fair degree of certainty that very very few of my clients ever went on a vacation like that even a single time in their lives. And they certainly don’t have the wherewithal to pay for their kids to attend college.
    There is nothing wrong with being middle class. I grew up in a middle class family, and I’m grateful for it. There is something wrong, however, in casting yourself as something you are not in an effort to win admiration. Particularly if you claim to be devoted to ferreting out the truth.

  • 7 ray // Jan 11, 2004 at 12:24 am

    Sorry. Quick correction. I meant “Westbury” not “Westport.” My mistake.

  • 8 Mike // Feb 24, 2004 at 5:14 pm

    Hmmh…as someone who grew up in Levittown, I have to say it is not a poor town. Solidly middle-class. And – there is no such think as a “Westbury section of Levittown”. I’ve never hear that until now, of course I’ve only lived here 40 years. O’Reilly clearly lied about where he grew up (Levittown) for the association with tract homes. Sad.

  • 9 Joe // Feb 27, 2004 at 4:25 pm

    There was no change to O’Reilly’s website at Foxnews.com–it reads:

    “While growing up O’Reilly had no idea that journalism would be his calling. He lived in a modest house with his father, mother and sister in the Westbury section of Levittown. O’Reilly began working in his early teens mowing lawns, which evolved into a house painting business.”

  • 10 Richard // Apr 16, 2004 at 11:12 am

    This is the stupidest discussion I have ever seen. O’Reilly has now located the deed to the home he grew up in and anyone who wants to do a little actual research could verify what kind of place it was 50 + years ago. Even I, with no research, am aware that Levittown was a tract home development designed to allow people with modest means to own a “home”. Since it seems clear from the limited research of those commenting on this that Westbury was just a part of the same development and that all the homes were alike, why is there a debate about which specific address he used? To me, this shows up the laziness and pathetic agendas of people like Al Franken and some of the reporters at major newspapers.

  • 11 Rick // Apr 16, 2004 at 11:33 am

    Richard: How do you REALLY feel? 😉

  • 12 Richard // Apr 16, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    Rick: Well since you asked, the way I feel is exactly how I wrote it. Why don’t you address the points that I made? Again, why did this discussion even get started? We are debating how well off a 1950s family was in Levittown, NY (obviously middle class at best, obviously not homeless, so somewhere in between), and the Washington Post and Al Franken are acting like they have a GOTCHA situation. Isn’t that what this is REALLY about?

  • 13 Rick // Apr 16, 2004 at 1:06 pm

    Why don’t I address the points you made? Because I consider them somewhat irrelevant. I haven’t done any extensive research regarding O’Reilly’s family’s wealth or lack thereof. I did (in a comment above) quote from a story on the topic. But my primary point there was to talk about O’Reilly’s “silence and spin” tactics.

    Is his upbringing going to change MY view of him? Heck no. My view of him is based on what he says and how he acts today. Not on his upbringing.

    I personally think it’s self-evident that Bill O’Reilly had a LOWER-class upbringing. It comes out not only in the things he says, but, more importantly, in the WAY he says them.

    At the same time, I don’t think he was as poor as he says. If it’s true that he told the New York Observer that “you don?t come from any lower than I came from on an economic scale,” then I have to say that’s unbelievable.

    Although some people may think this is a myth, there actually are homeless people in the world. And Bill O’Reilly, so far as I know, has never claimed to be homeless — certainly not while living in Levittown, Westbury, or Salisbury (take your pick). Automatically, then, there are people who come from “lower than [O’Reilly] came from on an economic scale.”

    And while it may be true that his family was not well off, even those defending him (see Harry’s comment above) note that he attended private school. Harry notes that tuition was “only $40 per month” in the ’50s and ’60s. I’m no economist, but I think in the ’50s and ’60s, that was a lot more than $40 today. MY parents tell me how they used to go out on payday and buy all the baby food they’d need for me to get through to the next payday and then count what was left to see if they could supplement their RICE with some meat. And that was in the late ’50s to early ’60s.

    We were not homeless, either, but somehow I think that we came from “lower…on an economic scale” than O’Reilly.

    In the long run, though, I don’t think any of this matters — at least not to me. To me, O’Reilly is the Spinmeister Extraordinaire; he’s about as unfair and unbalanced as can be.

    But he IS also sometimes right.

    And he is nearly ALWAYS the best comedy show on television.

  • 14 Richard // Apr 16, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    Now that’s a response!

    I don’t agree with your final assessment on Bill. I believe he sincerely cares about certain issues that too many people don’t (e.g. the effect of gangster rap on kids). I agree he is bombastic, and it makes great viewing. He is also very funny at times. I suspect you think he is a comedy act because you are laughing AT him and not WITH him. Because your ideology doesn’t line up with his. Am I right?

    The one thing I don’t like about your assessment is how you feel he is LOWER class. If you are claiming your upbringing was even lower than O’Reilly’s then what does that say about you?

    Liked the thoughtful commentary nevertheless.

  • 15 Babylon NY thug // Apr 16, 2004 at 7:06 pm

    I’ve lived on Long Island all 50 years of my
    life. I know all parts of Long Island Extremely
    well. Part of Westbury can in fact be considered
    Levittown because the section that Bill O speaks
    about was part of Mr. Levitt’s development. There
    were 2 or 3 specific styles of one family homes
    built so medium to lower and lower income families
    could afford a home. They were made in
    an assembly line manner, and done quickly.
    ( That’s what made them so affordable. )
    That area was not then nor is it now considered
    upper-middle class or upper class. it’s Middle
    class. I’ve seen mansions on the North Shore
    of Suffolk, Oreilly’s house did not even come
    close to Fort Salonga homes and some Northport
    homes. Regarding his family sending him to
    private school, my father sent 6 children to
    a private school on a public school teacher
    salary, so it couldn’t have been all that difficult,
    and we were not a privileged
    wealthy family,…so don’t mistake the fact
    that his parents sent him to private school
    as being something that only the wealthy
    can afford to do. I think that money just
    went further,.. back then.
    Now, as far as them going to Florida every
    year,…my grand parents from 1940 till 1975
    did the same thing and my Grandmother’s income
    was not very high. She worked for Grumman
    building the Hellcat fighter, and then after
    the war she worked for a supermarket (A&P).
    That proves once again that you didn’t have to be
    wealthy to go to Florida ( every year, ). My
    Grandparents did that on a very average to
    lower than average salary. So doing so doesn’t
    mean that you are wealthy, my Grandparents
    certainly were not.
    Their home was only 800 square on a 1/3 acre!

    Certainly if Bill O’s family was better off
    his parents would have not selected the community
    that they did settled in. If I were upper income
    back then their were much more fancier homes
    in much better areas that one could have purchased. The fact that they settled there
    shows that they were probably a middle class
    working family. They were not a upper class
    family looking to go slumming. That’s all
    they could afford, I’m sure.

  • 16 Rick // Apr 17, 2004 at 12:01 am

    There’s a difference between being poor and being lower class. My family was, for awhile, poor. (I cannot fairly say that anymore, particularly of myself. And by the time I was a teen, my family was doing pretty well, too.)

    O’Reilly’s way of treating people is decidedly lower class. In fact, we could just drop the “er”; it’s decidedly low class.

    And, yes, I’m laughing at, and not with, him. The only thing that makes me sad is to realize that many people actually agree with him. To me, that shows the dangers of passing kids on in school without actually teaching them to think.

    As I said, I periodically agree with his opinions. I virtually NEVER agree with his methodology. But it’s no surprise that occasionally his beliefs would be half-way decent; as they say, “even a blind squirrel gets a nut now and then.”

    What amazes me about this whole business with his upbringing, though, is that it’s really just so much wasted ink (or pixels, depending on the medium). Who CARES whether he was poor or rich? The truth is that whatever his economic background and status, he’s wouldn’t recognize a logical argument if it bit him on the *ss. His BACKGROUND is irrelevant to the lack of logic in his arguments. All it does is sort of explain his extreme dependence upon shouting down people who don’t agree with him and his inability to get by without strong use of the baser tools of rhetoric.

    That’s why I’ve ignored this thread for so long. As long as people want to argue whether he was from Levittown or Westbury, the conversation is (for me, anyway) uninteresting.

    Whether or not he’s from Levittown or Westbury, the fact is he has the mind of a SALISBURY steak.

  • 17 Gene // Jan 30, 2005 at 10:44 pm

    I came across these comments today (30 Jan 05) and thought I’d set the record straight for anyone who could possibly be interested in this rather petty discussion.
    Westbury in the 1950s became a conglomoration of various housing developments and was a blend of the so-called middle-class economic levels. Bill O’Reilly grew up in a Levitt house (part of the vast housing development called Levittown that stretches through several towns including Westbury, Hicksville, Wantagh, and Levittown itself).
    A few blocks from Bill’s house was a development of houses called Birchwood which were bigger and somewhat nicer than the Levitt houses. A few more blocks down the road was an area called Post Acres where the houses were a bit smaller and not as nice as the Levitt houses.
    It was all “Westbury”, however, which was a mish-mosh of municipal services. The post office was Westbury. The school district and fire department were East Meadow.
    So O’Reilly is not fibbing when he says he grew up in Levittown. His mailing address was Westbury, but the Levitt house he grew up in was the same as any Levitt house in any of the towns where Levitt houses were built.
    To say that Westbury was an “affluent” suburb would be a bit misleading. As a whole, it was neither wealthy nor poor. It was right in the middle. “Old Westbury”, the municipality north of Westbury, could be described as affluent or even rich. But that is not Westbury. It’s a different area. And it’s certainly not where O’Reilly lived as a kid, although he and his friends did occasionally sneak onto the grounds of one of the estates of Old Westbury to play ice hockey on a frozen pond there.
    On this topic I can claim to be a complete authority. I grew up down the street from O’Reilly and, along with a kid named Kenny and a kid named Lenny, am his oldest childhood friend. I will, however, accept no responsibility for what O’Reilly says on the air… you can blame Lenny for that.

  • 18 Phil // Oct 9, 2005 at 11:42 pm

    I grew up in Westbury. Where Bill O is from would be considered South Westbury. The houses are the same as in Levittown. But it’s called Salisbury now. The South side of Westbury is middle class and made up of mostly white families, while this is not affluent like Old Westbury. The North side of Westbury where the Post Office is, is mostly African American and hispanic with an Italian American section. Bill should just end all the drama and say he’s from South Westbury. Maybe he doesn’t want to be associated with being from a minority town or something. For as long as I’ve known Levittown has always been about 98% lower to middle class white.

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