Filled with the joy of discussing a PR fiasco that isn’t his own, Bill O’Reilly had a hearty little chuckle over the video of a passenger being dragged from a United Airlines flight, which he shared on Monday’s edition of your nearly commercial-free rock block of bad takes, The O’Reilly Factor. By now you’ve no doubt seen the clip of the 69-year-old man who refused to voluntarily give up his seat so that United employees could have it, stating he was a doctor who had patients to see in the morning, and was subsequently strong-armed by security goons working at the behest of a corporate oligopoly who left him drooling blood, disoriented, and openly wishing for death. (Or as United puts it, “re-accommodated.”)
But amid the subsequent outrage and horror that airlines can openly treat their passengers like talky cargo, because constant mergers and consolidation have left them no other choice besides aisle, window, or getting bodied into the armrest if the airline deems it necessary, perhaps we missed the humor in it? Granted, it’s not funny ha-ha, but funny weird—as in “Ha ha, isn’t it weird that we’ve reached this point of complacency with a system designed to value profits over human life with no alternatives or recourse for redress?”
Or as O’Reilly put it, “I shouldn’t be laughing, but it’s just so bizarre.”
Judging by the online reaction, it seems a lot of people agree with O’Reilly that he shouldn’t be laughing—particularly in this rare instance that seems to have brought everyone from our fractious political spectrum together in agreement that a corporation smashing a paid customer’s face in, just because they’re a pesky inconvenience, is bad.
With O’Reilly currently at the center of a sexual harassment scandal that’s seen him repeatedly accused of the nigh-pathological dehumanization of multiple women, it might also be an especially bad time to yuk it up. Others might even point out that O’Reilly lost custody of his children largely because his daughter told a forensic investigator that he dragged her mother down a staircase by her neck, so hey, maybe stow the giggles at life’s little absurdities.
Then again, O’Reilly is currently hemorrhaging advertisers amid his own tailspin, yet his ratings continue to rise—which likely gives him the same cockiness that United’s Oscar Munoz has in knowing that there are only so many options today’s consumers have for narcissistic, hypocritically moralizing gasbags shouting the news. Nevertheless, O’Reilly did allow at segment’s end, “Can’t have this kind of stuff—it looks like a police state,” offering a heartfelt sentence fragment of compassion that hopefully won’t damage his brand with the audience who still can’t seem to get enough of this shit.