By Kica Matos
Everyone, likely even much of his audience, knows Bill O’Reilly is a bad man. A mention of his name among groups of women will usually elicit shudders of disgust.
Notwithstanding, 21st Century Fox decided to extend the contract of this serial sexual harasser while helping to pay the $13M in legal fees for his harassment of women. Are we surprised? Appalled maybe, but not surprised. This is after all, the same network that supported the election of an admitted sexual assaulter as President of the United States and which until recently was run by a man who himself was a serial harasser who used his power at the network to make women submit to him.
O’Reilly, Trump and the current and former head of Fox News have one common denominator: They are conservative white men in positions of power. Power and domination tie these men inextricably. As does disrespect for women.
While neither Trump nor O’Reilly created the problem of harassment and assault in America, they have two things in common: 1) They are high profile perpetrators who have managed to get away with their disgusting behavior and 2) They are co-dependent on the explicit and implicit racism and sexism of their audiences for ratings or votes.
Ultimately, the wider Trump and Fox News agenda is all about disempowering women. Consider that Trump has:
· Built the whitest, most male cabinet in recent history –including Jeff Sessions and Mike Price who voted against legislation to curb violence against women and achieve equal pay.
· Re-enacted the global gag rule on reproductive freedom for women. And his Administration has already moved to bar funding for women’s health though Planned Parenthood
· Proposed an anti-women domestic budget that would mean among other things that 260,000 more victims of sexual assault and domestic violence would not have access shelters and supportive services each year.
· Signed an executive order that rolls back hard-fought victories for women in the workplace.
And O’Reilly? His record of straight up misogyny and racism on air is nothing new. Just last week, he insulted Congresswoman Maxine Waters because he couldn’t get past her race and gender.
Donald Trump loves and needs Bill O’Reilly, a man who was known during the campaign as his chief enabler. O’Reilly loves and needs Donald Trump. And the head of Fox News network can’t seem to get enough of them. Or their repulsive comments. Or their racism, misogyny and xenophobia. Why? Ratings. And the mighty dollar ― 21st Century Fox loves profits! It’s a trifecta of co-dependency – the white nationalist President, the sexist right wing media icon and a corporation willing to pick up the harassment tab as a gateway for more profits.
What is to be done about this? Step one is to remember an important reality: Fox News is literally digging its own grave. The median age of a Fox New prime time viewer is 68 – meaning that over half of its audience is older than that.
The Fox News audience is old and male and getting even older and more male. The continuing saga of harassment and Fox’s cheerleading for Trumpism will only worsen its demographic demise. And here is something else that counts against them: while Trump voters and Fox News’s audience are literally dying, women of color will make up 53 percent of the population by 2050.
None of that is to say we need sit around and watch Fox News go gently into that good night. Bill O’Reilly has advertisers and those advertisers have customers who are younger (even if Fox itself does not). Already, these advertisers are waking up to the fact that the surging post-Trump resistance personified by the electrifying March for Women and building to a new, pro-immigrant crescendo on May 1st is bigger than Trump? Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and BMW recently pulled spots from O’Reilly’s show. More are following suit.
Social justice advocates are also stepping up their game. In every post-election meeting I have attended about organizing resistance (and good news - that’s a lot of meetings) the subject of corporate targets has come up. Increasingly, our society is becoming more conscious of what they buy, the level of corporate responsibility behind these products and whether these entities attack or support people based on their identity.
More and more, this generation is using their creativity and might and buying power to bring about change. Just witness the bloodbath of corporate withdrawal regarding Trump brands. Corporate America may be part of the trifecta of co-dependency in this case – but only so long as we permit it. And time is running out on them.
For those of us who make up part of the growing number of women of color who will soon be the 53% let me be clear: we intend to use our power to make sure that men in positions of power who abuse and harass women – men like O’Reilly and Trump, are knocked off their perch. Permanently.
Kica Matos is Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice for the Center for Community Change.