Bill O'Reilly Really Likes You
BY Michael Giltz
May 14 2009 12:00 AM ET
Bill O'Reilly is a brash, aggressive man who, at 6 foot 4, towers over everyone around him and exudes the no-nonsense working-class Irish Catholic background he proudly claims as a native of Levittown, N.Y. The nuns at his school had O'Reilly pegged as a handful at an early age. So it's hardly surprising when the 52-year-old host of Fox News's The O'Reilly Factor tells The Advocate , "I've never, ever, in my life been hit on by another guy. Ever. I don't give out that aura."
Any sensible person would wait for him to make the first move. But the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association took the initiative and asked O'Reilly out for their annual convention, and he said yes. He'll appear by satellite at the group's mid-September gathering in Philadelphia. Sure, he's debating whether there's a liberal bias in the media. But still, Bill O'Reilly? At a gay convention? After all, he continues to insist, "I've never understood why anyone, why any American, would want to tell the world what their sexual preference is. It's no one's business but yours."
During an extensive interview at his rather messy Fox News office in New York -- "It's always like this," he explains -- O'Reilly talks about almost every gay issue under the sun, from the gay pride parade ("It's offensive, it's foolish, it's counterproductive, and it backlashes against you") to gay adoption (he supports it and did a terrific interview with Rosie O'Donnell, but adds, "I'm not looking out for the gays here; I've got to tell you the truth. I'm looking out for the kids").
O'Reilly's show reaches some 20 million viewers a week, and his books are megasellers. He is the de facto face of hard-line conservatism, the way Rush Limbaugh, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell once were. But O'Reilly is more of an iconoclast than you might imagine. He opposes the death penalty, admires Susan Sarandon, doesn't think much of Jesse Helms, and supports the decriminalization (but not legalization) of marijuana. He also states flatly that gays and lesbians deserve the same rights in the workplace as everyone else and shouldn't be fired because of who they are. He thinks gay-inclusive antidiscrimination laws should be enacted in every state and opposes the repeal effort against such an ordinance that's on the ballot September 10 in Florida's Miami-Dade County.
And he wouldn't mind in the least if someone thought he was gay.
"If people want to think I'm gay, fine," he says. "In fact, I wish I were gay. I'd get a lot more free meals, OK? Somebody take me out to the movies once in a while. I'm sure in my career -- because I didn't get married until very late in life -- that people said I was gay. I'm sure they did. I never heard it. But I'm sure it was said once in a while. I wasn't going to say, 'No, I'm not gay.' I don't care what they say about me. I couldn't care less. Because that was empowering those people. I learned that very early in life."