Cato Institute received a call this morning inviting me to appear on Fox TV’s O’Reilly Factor. For a moment, that seemed odd. In my experience, the only way you get invited on that show is if you agree beforehand to (1) keep repeating “you’re absolutely right” to O’Reilly or to (2) take some absurdly extreme position that will be easy for him to shoot down. This unique exception to those two rules was because my new column, “The Foolish Factor,” got someone’s attention.
I couldn’t possibly appear on TV tonight. There is a not-to-be-missed black tie event tonight celebrating National Review’s 50th Anniversary. Bill Buckley and the late James Burnham discovered me back in 1971, recruiting me to be NR’s economics editor for several years.
To avoid being exposed to a familiar O’Reilly stunt – namely, “we invited him to appear” (but he was too chicken) – I agreed to do a radio interview instead. But the President said something and that got me bumped. For the record, I’m not intimidated by O’Reilly’s inclination to call his critics pinheads, even though he is a foot taller than I am.
What is being tested here is the thickness of his skin. In his September 9 show, “Feeling Sorry for O’Reilly,” he said, “After I criticized the price gouging by the oil companies, ‘Bill O'Reilly is an Economic Fool,’ headlined one blog. Well, take out the word "economic" and you'd be more accurate.” That showed his sense of humor, which is fine, but the truth is that leaving in the word “economic” would be more accurate. O’Reilly is wise and clever about many issues, but not economics. He has degrees in history, journalism and public administration, but must have slept through basic economics.
He concluded that show saying, “Feeling sorry for me yet? Look, all this dishonest nonsense is ideologically driven. And it appears all day every day in this country, there are no standards anymore in the media. But the good news is that folks are seeing through the propaganda and coming into venues that tell the truth and deliver opinion backed up by fact.” My "ideologically driven" (?) column claims Bill O’Reilly has not been telling the truth about price gouging by the oil companies and he has not been backing up his arrogantly ignorant opinions with any facts.
Don’t feel too sorry for O’Reilly. He has his own column with the same syndicate that carries mine, and his own newsletter, so he is welcome to try answering me in print if he likes. Or, he could simply confess that he has no idea how gasoline prices are set or by whom. The rest of us print corrections when we make mistakes. There's no dishonor in that.