Bill O'Reilly spent an hour yesterday inviting listeners to comment on how fairly he has treated Barack Obama. Interesting topic, except for a couple of disclaimers. One is that since O'Reilly doesn't do a lot of original reporting (although he firmly believes that he does) he was really asking listeners to analyze his analysis of Obama coverage. The other disclaimer is that since O'Reilly never allows criticism of him to go unanswered, what we actually mostly heard was O'Reilly's analysis of his listeners' analysis of O'Reilly's analysis of Obama coverage.
Bottom line, according to O'Reilly: O'Reilly is doing a fine job.
At least he did point out that some right-wing talk-show hosts are devoting three hours a day, every day, to Obama bashing. Apparently there is an audience for that kind of talk, he said. If that reference wasn't clear enough, he eventually specifically mentioned Sean Hannity, though mostly only to wonder why liberals get so angry at Hannity. After all, he pointed out, Hannity is openly partisan, doesn't hide his motives, and has every right to bash Obama all day long, if he can get people to listen to him.
In one of my frequent imaginary phone calls to national talk-show hosts, I explained to O'Reilly that in at least my own case, my dislike for Hannity isn't because he favors McCain. Heck, I like McCain. It's that he is so relentlessly unfair in his treatment of Obama and all those who support him. He distorts facts, takes things out of context, cuts opponents off, forces them into trap questions. It's tiresome, and trivial, and gives the lie to Hannity's daily claim that he provides the most complete and comprehensive election coverage on the radio dial.
But when I turned to Hannity for my weekly confirmation of this observation, I found that he had changed tactics. Rather than abuse or interrupt his liberal callers, he was openly mocking them. He would pretend that he agreed with them and promise to do better. It was bizarre, and I wondered for a while where mockery fits along the scale of the stages of grief.
But it's possible that he just thought it was funny. Hannity often seems to imagine that he is a funny guy, although I have never heard any evidence that he is. Rather, on Thursday I heard evidence that he is pathetic.