If you followed politics and media in the early 2000s, you’ll remember the huge rift between Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken. It was one of the most vicious media battles in history. It especially came to fruition with Al Franken’s best selling Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. In the book, he especially goes after Bill O’Reilly, who was a rising media star at the time.
In a New York Times review of the book on September 1, 2003, critic Janet Maslin noted that Franken correctly called out O’Reilly for lying about receiving a Peabody award. But there’s more — Franken dug up a novel by O’Reilly called Those Who Trespass, which was borderline pornographic. This seemed hypocritical from a man who built his brand criticizing sexuality, especially female sexuality. Then, Franken dug up O’Reilly’s 1996 voter registration form, which listed the Fox News star as a Republican. O’Reilly claimed he never had an affiliation with a particular political party.
A couple months before the official release of the book, O’Reilly and Franken faced off at a book convention. CBS News described what happened. Apparently, O’Reilly became Angry when Al Franken called out his hypocrisy in a speech and shouted for Franken to “Shut up!”
“This idiot has been going on for 35 minutes,” O’Reilly said.
The two battled it out for the next year or so. And it was rumored (but never proven) that Franken was the one who persuaded former Fox News producer Andrea Mackris to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against O’Reilly in 2004. According to the Los Angeles Times, O’Reilly allegedly masturbated while talking to Mackris, who recorded the conversations. He told her about his sexual fantasies that included objects such as vibrators and falafels. And he even hinted that Franken would be assassinated.
The lawsuit was eventually dropped, and both the careers of Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken continued to skyrocket. The O’Reilly Factor continued to be the highest-rated show on cable television for years while Al Franken became Senator Al Franken in 2009. For several years, it had looked like there was no clear winner in the O’Reilly vs. Franken battle. But now, it’s quite clear that they have both ended up as losers.
Al Franken must have been having a party when, earlier this year, Bill O’Reilly was forced out at Fox News after several allegations of sexual harassment came forward. It was revealed that Fox News and O’Reilly had settled five cases of sexual harassment. Since then, other cases, including one where the accuser was paid $32 million, have come into light.
Then, several months later, Al Franken became the target of allegations. As CNN reported, Franken said he was embarrassed and ashamed over several allegations of groping an harassment. One was a radio broadcaster, Leeann Tweeden, who had pretty direct proof of her allegations against Franken.
According to the Guardian, two more women have come forward with allegations against Franken. One is Stephanie Kemplin, an Ohio Army veteran, who claimed that Franken groped her breast in 2003 while she was deployed in Kuwait as Franken as doing a comedy tour of the Middle East to entertain troops. Then, an anonymous woman came forward and said Franken attempted to kiss her at an event in 2006. You can bet more women will come forward soon.
It’s interesting that Al Franken has yet to step down from his Senate position, while O’Reilly has clearly been punished for his deeds. But who knew that after all these years, Bill O’Reilly and Al Franken had more in common than anybody had ever imagined?