The Fall of Bill

Submitted by Vijay Prashad on Thu, 04/20/2017 - 20:18

 

'The Factor' Confronts Professor Over Bin Laden Comments

 

<The Fall of Bill> I had spent the evening with Lisa HajjarLaleh KhaliliSayres RudyPaul Amar andJillian Schwedler. We were chatting about this and that - mainly exciting topics like counter-insurgency, torture and love. I went home. I saw the news. Osama Bin Laden had been killed. The next morning, Bakari Kitwana asked me to do a podcast with him on the killing and its implications for international law. I then went on NPR and talked about how this operation was a dangerous precedent for other countries - such as India - which might undertake its own adventure. I also said it would have been good to have arrested Bin Laden and brought him to trial. Imagine the songs he would have sung about the various complicities of his life.

Bill O'Reilly called me late that afternoon asking me if I wanted to come on his show. I declined. He then called again and said he wanted me on. The belligerence was already evident. I refused, knowing that this was a set-up.

The death threats had already begun to come in.

The next morning my daughter and I got into the car to drive to school. As I pulled out on the street, a car started to tail me. I began to drive around town, testing the car and its intentions. It held my tail. I dropped my daughter off and turned around. The car was still on me. A normal person would have driven to the police, perhaps, and said - 'there is a car following me'. I drove home.

As I got out of my car, I saw - in my peripheral vision - two men come running towards me. I thought, for a second, that this was the end.

It turned out that one held a large camera and that the other was Jesse Watter, O'Reilly's hit man. He did a brief interview with me, with my younger daughter in the porch watching, wondering what was going on.

The segment ran that evening (this was the piece from the first evening, https://vimeo.com/214107400. It went on for a week). It seems funny now, but was not funny then. O'Reilly, the bully, was in full form, although he seemed tripped up by the points I had made to Watters. It is quite funny to watch.

Thousands of phone calls and letters came to my employer asking me to be fired and worse. The college lost an enormous amount of money in donations. The death threats on my phone were chilling, even by normal death threat standards.

A major trade union leader called me asking if I would like protection against the threats. I didn't want anyone to be sitting outside my house, ready for a confrontation. But it was a nice gesture.

I am now glad that O'Reilly is out of Fox - not for tax evasion or something else (the Al Capone standard). I am glad he is out for being a sexist and misogynist bully. It is what he has been and what he is now seen as.

It is a moment of personal pleasure to see this come about.

Watters is a graduate of Trinity College, where I teach. So is Tucker Carlson, O'Reilly's replacement. Therein lies the rub.

 

'The Factor' Confronts Professor Over Bin Laden Comments