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Taylor Marsh

Taylor Marsh

Posted: November 14, 2007 02:28 PM

O'Reilly & Fox Sell Sex


by Taylor Marsh

Everybody knows sex sells, but bikini shots during serial killer coverage?

This is a subject I know a lot about. During the 1990s, I did a lot of work inside the sex industry, all with my clothes on, let me add, but reporting from the front lines for sure. I've interviewed everyone from Amsterdam hookers, to 900 line callers, to men who visit soft core porn sites, as well as all sides of the dating, marriage and relationship wars, including personal ads that used to be so big. So I'm not a prude. I remember interviewing the biggest strippers in the industry right when the Internet made it possible for these women to move from the strip club to powerhouse people in control of fan clubs that started bringing in real cash for them. It was the empowerment of the sex industry, if there can be such a thing. If you're a sex worker, the answer is yes. I wrote a book about it. I also did mounds of research on conservative companies who secretly invest in the adult industry so their shareholders can get in on all that smut money, but don't trumpet it to the public so their image won't be harmed while they're raking in the big bucks. But what Fox "News" is doing throughout their network schedule is something quite different.

Ratings rule and we know that the Fox channel is having a tough time these days. Their credibility is in tatters, particularly because of the way they've pimped the Iraq war. So the cheapest way to get viewers back is through gratuitous titillation. We've seen it through the wall to wall blondes and babes delivering the news, but the graphic video and interviews they air takes it to a whole new level.

Take Bill O'Reilly's sexual interview of Miss New Jersey. As a former Miss Missouri, I can tell you that this sort of interview would never have happened in a million years before Fox "News" and Bill O'Reilly. Is this a fantasy picture thing? Is it a negligee situation?

The video above from Robert Greenwald's Brave New Films puts it all together for us.

There's a reason their advertisers are upset. Women who choose to flaunt their sexuality is one thing, but clipping together images to parade before Fox audiences completely out of context is another. Asking a woman in trouble because of lame pictures on the web about non-existent lesbian trysts is insulting. Prodding her over and over again is mindless sexism at its worst.

Mr. O'Reilly hails himself as a "culture warrior." He rails against indecency and that our kids are being harmed by the culture. Then what does he do? Shows ad nauseam clips of Paris Hilton soft core advertising and other smut to get people's attention. Can you say hypocrisy? He's looking out for you? Only if you're a man in a bathrobe with nothing else to do but watch Fox and hope for another primetime smut show.

Greenwald was on Countdown on Monday, with Keith giving O'Reilly the full treatment. Using a fig leaf of "reporting" to show more soft core porn, Fox "News" even put it on the Neil Cavuto show, which is supposed to be about business. Well, if the business of selling sex 24/7 is what Fox has decided to do then they're right on target. There's a reason the video at the top of this post got over 500,000 views in only four days. It hit a nerve. Greenwald and the people at Brave New Films are just getting started. They're campaigning for "a la carte" cable programming.

What is Fox's official comment? It's classic.

Reached for comment on Greenwald's new video, a Fox News spokesperson asked Radar: "Can you quote us so not giving a shit?"

That is so obvious.

One of the clever things they do to cover their actions is show the soft core crap then have a conservative on to rail against the stuff, as it plays gratuitously on the screen. It's classic programming, really, you've got to give it to them. It hits all angles, including the "secular progressives" who are supposed to love this stuff with their news.

Women make all sorts of choices these days about what to do with their lives. We make all sorts of choices on wardrobe, too. Being smart and sexy is a win-win today. Women don't have to be a turtle-neck wearing feminist to show we've got it all. But liberation also doesn't excuse wall-to-wall smut when someone is flipping channels in the living room with a daughter or kid by your side. This stuff assaults a viewer when you're not expecting it and certainly didn't choose it.

Bikini and breast shots during a serial killer report? It's the most reprehensible sexism there is, like walking through a mall and seeing sex shots as you pass by a store.

Why are advertisers putting up with this insult? This is not valuing anyone, particularly not women and certainly not families.

As a feminist, I want to take Fox's "fair and balanced" slogan at face value. I really do. So Mr. O'Reilly, hey Roger Ailes, where are the bare chested, muscles rippling, hot and sexy guys? Fair is fair, right? Or won't they sell as well as making women out to be sluts?

Fair and balanced back at you, boys.

Follow Taylor Marsh on Twitter: www.twitter.com/taylormarsh