Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Killing Bill O’Reilly

The time has come to kill Bill O’Reilly. The author of Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Patton, Killing Reagan and Killing Jesus deserves it.

Bill O'ReillyA book series, yes, but how does a meme in the form of a gerund get on The New York Times Bestseller List.

One especially harsh critic called O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln “somewhere between an authoritative account and strange fiction,” which pretty much sums up his political talk show The O’Reilly Factor.

O’Reilly wrote that Lewis Powell, who was assigned to kill Secretary of State William Seward, spoke with an Alabama drawl. Except Powell was from Florida. Not a big deal, you say. No, but it’s the kind of molehill O’Reilly turns into mountains all the time.

O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugald set out to get all the facts right in Killing Kennedy, including the exact wheelbase and horsepower of the limo Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated. They even reported the car’s Secret Service code name.

O'Reilly Box SetThe book is oddly written in the present tense, which may have been O’Reilly’s literary device to deflect criticism about inaccuracies. He could say events were still unfolding. In the end, O’Reilly had little choice but to kill Kennedy. We already knew the ending.

Killing Jesus portrays another O’Reilly tick. He wrote his account of the crucifixion, he says, because of inspiration from the Holy Ghost. One reviewer said we all create gods in our own image, or self-imagined image. In O’Reilly’s case, Jesus turned out to be the John the Baptist of the Tea Party movement.

O’Reilly’s Jesus sticks up for the little guy against the oppressive Roman Empire (remind you of anyone?) He is tax-hating culture warrior who inevitably runs afoul of vengeful Jews and venal pagans. Oh by the way, O’Reilly’s Jesus thinks the government is fleecing everyone, but he doesn’t favor income redistribution (remind you of anyone?)

Reviews of Killing Patton compared it to a dullish term paper based on a college study team’s overheated library research. Except all that research strangely missed the part about General Patton’s anti-semite sentiments, which took the shape of dumping “Displaced Persons,” including Holocaust survivors, into depressing camps. Jews rejoiced at Hilter’s defeat, but wondered whether anything had changed for them except the uniforms.

The phrase “DPs” became a term of derision that leaked back to the United States. My World War II veteran father, who served under Patton, used the phrase with disdain. When “DPs” moved into our South Omaha neighborhood, he quickly sold our house and moved across the river to Council Bluffs.

O’Reilly defended the odious omission by saying claims of Patton’s anti-semitism were a dog whistle to lefties who disliked the general – and despised O’Reilly. It wasn’t exactly clear how that justified air-brushing history. For O’Reilly, conspiracies are more tantalizing than reasons.

killing-reagan-alternateThe conservative pundit turned bolder in Killing Reagan, as critics say he tossed facts to the winds recycled old claims and rumors that had largely been discredited Killing Reagan was merchandised as new “scholarship.” The book tellingly contained no bibliography.

Of course, there also is the issue that Reagan wasn’t killed. O’Reilly attempts to dramatize the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment, which addresses presidential incapacitation. However, none of Reagan’s top aides recall the subject coming up while Reagan recuperated in the hospital for 11 days.

Perhaps to justify the name of the book, O’Reilly portrays Reagan as mentally incompetent from the early part of his presidency. Evidence suggests otherwise. The book, quite unfairly, attempts to kill Reagan’s reputation.

I bring all this up because when I went to Barnes & Noble, I was assaulted by an entire table of O’Reilly’s books. Annoyingly, the table was positioned in the middle of the History section, seizing valuable space from more credible accounts of people from Kubla Khan to Jimmy Carter.

For me, going to a bookstore is a treat. Seeing O’Reilly’s books spread all over like ants at a picnic sparked disturbing images in my mind. I slowly but ineluctably imagined a new title – Killing O’Reilly.

Bill+OReilly+O+Reilly+Bernie+SaundersI don’t own a handgun, hunting knife or syndicated book review column, so an actual or ritual killing was out of the question. But suddenly a thought struck me. O’Reilly says he will move to Ireland if Bernie Sanders is elected president this fall. That’s a promise too sweet to pass up.




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