When Newsweek offered the alternative title for Bill O'Reilly's new book, "A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity," with "A Large Bag of Gas Who's No Hannity," my first thought was that Newsweek was pointing out that Sean Hannity, Bill's FoxNews colleague, out draws Bill's Radio Factor, by four to one. To make all that more embarrassing, you throw out Bill's over-90 demographic, the difference is as wide as the crack in the No-Spinster's journalist credibility.
Of course, that could only lead to delicious Fox Fun as Bill, who is never one to accept bad news graciously (see: Al Franken book sales, Keith Olbermann emergence, side-kick's questioning the validity of his facts, homeless vets, phone-sex peccadillos, etc, etc ), could go Factor-muckrake on Sean, spinning the ratings to make it appear that Sean's numbers weren't as good as Newsweek and Talkers Magazine said they were. Figure the whine to sound something like "His numbers may look better, but that's only because at stations like Philadelphia's WPHT air Hannity at 3-6PM, while they air the Radio Factor from midnight-2AM. The graveyard shift is prime time for the Folks™ whose body clocks no longer allows them to sleep past midnight, but with my name being the only air personality NOT LISTED on the WPHT website home page, (check the lineup on the left side), how am I supposed to get decent ratings when the Folks™ don't even know I'm on the station."
But why would Newsweek be so concerned with Bill's lilliputian Philly audience, after all, why not bring up Washington, D.C. where no station at all carries Bill?
Then I realized that Newsweek might not be mocking Bill's lack of audience, but instead making a determination based on his lack of candor as compared to Hannity's frankness. Hannity has never misled his audience as to who he was - a died in the wool conservative vs Bill, a partisan who hides behind an Independent facade but says that everyone else in the tank for a candidate. MSNBC, NBC, The NY Times and on and on, are cheerleading for Barack Obama, talk radio for McCain, while Bill remains ever the objective observer.
The best is that Bill still thinks people buy his claim of independence. Need proof? Read Bill's syndicated column this week. Bill uses the Gallop poll to demonstrate that despite a large lead in money and with the media in his pocket, Barack and McCain are virtually tied. Ever the objective observer, Bill ignores almost every other poll that says otherwise. Some, double digit otherwise.
His objective, even before Obama took charge in the primary, is to slam the Dems, with such objectivity as "the Democratic party can easily be branded as soft on terrorism."
Pretty bipartisan, huh?
Now I don't want to ever be accused of being a cheerleader for Hannity, but even when he was promoting Hillary in the primaries, he made it pretty clear it was an attempt to keep Dems off balance. He never once said, I'm going to listen to both sides then decide which party I'd go with. His audience knows darn-tootin' well on which side his loyalty's going to land. O'Reilly? You'd have to be a blinders-on O'Reilly fan to believe he's giving you a fair and balanced look at the campaign. And the mendacity of it all? It's the Folks™, his fans, who are the ones O'Reilly continues to play for suckers.
Though I can't be sure exactly why Newsweek thinks O'Reilly is no Hannity, there are a number of reasons that could play here, which brings us back to Philadelphia where fans have supported many a bad team. But when it comes to hypocrisy, in sports or politics, Philly fans don't care for being played - especially after midnight.
Steve Young is author of "Great Failures of the Extremely Successful" www.greatfailure.com and has appeared on both the O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes.