Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Rachel Maddow is Bill O’Reilly

By Matt Taibbi

After hyping a fake story for a year, cable’s leading anchor doesn’t blink and moves on to the next fable.

If you’d told me back in 2005, when I first met Rachel Maddow, that the lightning-quick, ultra-smooth broadcaster would someday supplant Bill O’Reilly as the #1 name in cable news, I wouldn’t have been surprised, at all. But I’d have been shocked if you told me she got to the top by being Bill O’Reilly.

With Maddow in the lead role, MSNBC has become Fox, but somehow more craven, jingoistic, and shameless. If you don’t believe it, compare their narratives side by side, and see if you can spot a real difference between Bush-era Fox and Maddow’s MNSBC broadcasts from this past week.

On February 16, 2001, six months before 9/11, O’Reilly said on Fox, “You know, I don’t take Saddam Hussein all that seriously anymore, as far as a world threat.” He added, “Maybe I’m wrong and naive here. Should we be very frightened of this guy?”

Within two years, O’Reilly reversed course. He launched himself into an incredible 16-year run as the #1-rated star on cable by playing Madame DeFarge for the Bush/Cheney War on Terror. His show became a nighty fireside chat in which citizens tuned in to fulminate over stories of Saddam’s boundless evil, denounce traitorous unbelievers, and engage in McCarthyite interrogations of the insufficiently patriotic.

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