Roger Ebert Puts Bill O’Reilly on Blast

Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz Hammelsmith Ebert at the 2007 Gotham Awards (Courtesy: IFPIsIndieFilm)

Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz Hammelsmith Ebert at the 2007 Gotham Awards (Courtesy: IFPIsIndieFilm)

When I heard that the Chicago Sun-Times was in financial straits, I was concerned about only one person. “Who’s going to help pay Roger Ebert’s medical bills?” Ebert, who I sometimes refer to as Roger “married to a sista” Ebert (I say that for any celebrity or successful white guy who is married to a black woman, from Robert DeNiro to Peter Norton), is still the film critic for the newspaper. He’s just as he was when he was on Sneak Previews (and its other incarnations) with the late Chicago Tribune film critic Gene Siskel.

Siskel and Ebert were my guides to films (hell, everyone who cared about film) from the late Seventies until Siskel died, and then Ebert went on alone with other critics to keep up the franchise. Frankly, it wasn’t the same, but I kept watching out of loyalty, sometimes wondering how the show might have gone if Siskel had said something different about a film and succeeded in making Ebert’s face turn puce. The pair had been funny and serious, and sometimes downright juvenile, like two brothers (Twins, anyone?) separated from birth. Even Robert Townsend spoofed them in his first film, Hollywood Shuffle, using two homies who liked to sneak onto the balcony and critique films. When they appeared on other programs like The Tonight Show, “the fat one” and “the thin one” sometimes upstaged the host.

Ebert’s physical voice is gone, that voice that used to lend itself to argument and put-down, felled by thyroid cancer. Last year’s operation to restore his speech failed; however, the man can still write, and his brain is just as clear and facile, and his affiliation as a liberal is just as solid. Take his response to Bill-O. When it was announced that the Sun-Times was having financial problems and had to drop some columns–Bill O’Reilly’s included–Bill-O took it as a personal affront, and bawled that he had decided to add the newspaper to some drawn-up list of shame–of liberal media that have broken faith with the people or something; you choose. Ebert decided to respond in kind. Take a look:

Thoughts on Bill O’Reilly and Squeaky the Chicago Mouse

By Roger Ebert /April 7, 2009

To: Bill O’Reilly
From: Roger Ebert

Dear Bill: Thanks for including the Chicago Sun-Times on your exclusive list of newspapers on your “Hall of Shame.” To be in an O’Reilly Hall of Fame would be a cruel blow to any newspaper. It would place us in the favor of a man who turns red and starts screaming when anyone disagrees with him. My grade-school teacher, wise Sister Nathan, would have called in your parents and recommended counseling with Father Hogben.

Yes, the Sun-Times is liberal, having recently endorsed our first Democrat for President since LBJ. We were founded by Marshall Field one week before Pearl Harbor to provide a liberal voice in Chicago to counter the Tribune, which opposed an American war against Hitler. I’m sure you would have sided with the Trib at the time.

I understand you believe one of the Sun-Times misdemeanors was dropping your syndicated column. My editor informs me that “very few” readers complained about the disappearance of your column, adding, “many more complained about Nancy.” I know I did. That was the famous Ernie Bushmiller comic strip in which Sluggo explained that “wow” was “mom” spelled upside-down.

Your column ran in our paper while it was owned by the right-wing polemicists Conrad Black (Baron Black of Coldharbour) and David Radler. We dropped it to save a little money after they looted the paper of millions. Now you call for an advertising boycott. It is unusual to observe a journalist cheering for a newspaper to fail. At present the Sun-Times has no bank debt, but labors under the weight of millions of dollars in tax penalties incurred by Lord Black, who is serving an eight-year stretch for mail fraud and obstruction of justice. We also had to pay for his legal expenses.

There is a major difference between Conrad Black and you: Lord Black is a much better writer and thinker, and authored a respected biography about Roosevelt, who we were founded to defend. That newspapers continue to run your column is a mystery to me, since it is composed of knee-jerk frothings and ravings. If I were an editor searching for a conservative, I wouldn’t choose a mad dog. My recommendation: The admirable Charles Krauthammer.

Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently. Did you really say you are more powerful than any politician?

That reminds me of the famous story about Squeaky the Chicago Mouse. It seems that Squeaky was floating on his back along the Chicago River one day. Approaching the Michigan Avenue lift bridge, he called out: Raise the bridge! I have an erection!

Glorious…

~ by blksista on April 9, 2009.

One Response to “Roger Ebert Puts Bill O’Reilly on Blast”

  1. Well I learned one new thing today. The thing I already knew was that Bill O’Reilly is a jackass. Go Ebert!

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