Bill O’Reilly, Mike Pence and the Billy Graham rule

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Bill O’Reilly out at Fox News, denies wrongdoing; Tucker Carlson will take over timeslot

Updated: April 19, 2017 — 5:46 PM EDT | by Nick Vadala, Staff Writer

Bill O’Reilly is no longer with Fox News.

21st Century Fox issued a statement on O’Reilly’s departure, writing that the host “will not be returning” to the network:

Tucker Carlson will take over the 8 p.m. timeslot once occupied by O’Reilly starting Monday. Dana Perino and Greg Gutfeld will continue to guest host in O’Reilly’s absence on Thursday and Friday, respectively. The Five will move to the 9 p.m. slot.

O’Reilly, in a statement obtained by The Washington Post Wednesday afternoon, again denied any wrongdoing.

He added that he was incredibly proud of his a 20-year career at Fox News.

“It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims,” he said. “But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”

There’s more at the original.

Mr O’Reilly denied the allegations of sexual harassment, but the fact that Fox paid out millions to settle some sexual harassment claims against him sure doesn’t count in his favor. I have no position on his guilt or innocence, realizing that the truth in a he said/she said situation can never really be known, but one thing is clear: Mr O’Reilly was obviously in some situations in which allegations of sexual harassment could at least be credible, and Dylan Byers of CNN reported that part of his problem was that Mr O’Reilly wasn’t really all that well liked by his colleagues.

Is that true? CNN certainly has no reason to be fair to Mr O’Reilly, and the executives must be overjoyed that Fox News Channel’s top performer, and the number one show in its time slot, are gone. But all of this demonstrates, to me, the wisdom of Vice President Mike Pence and his following of the ‘Billy Graham rule’:

How Mike Pence’s Marriage Became Fodder for the Culture Wars

Outrage over the vice president’s approach to marriage reveals how deeply gender divides American culture.

by Emma Green | March 30, 2017

The Washington Post ran a profile of Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, on Wednesday. The piece talks about the closeness of the Pences’ relationship, and cites something Pence told The Hill in 2002: Unless his wife is there, he never eats alone with another woman or attends an event where alcohol is being served. (It’s unclear whether, 15 years later, this remains Pence’s practice.) It’s not in the Post piece, but here’s the original quote from 2002: “‘If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,’ Pence said.”

Some folks—mostly journalists and entertainers on Twitter—have reacted with surprise, anger, and sarcasm to the Pence family rule. Socially liberal or non-religious people may see Pence’s practice as misogynistic or bizarre. For a lot of conservative religious people, though, this set-up probably sounds normal, or even wise. The dust-up shows how radically notions of gender divide American culture.

Pence is not the first contemporary public figure to set these kinds of boundaries around his marriage. He seems to be following a version of the so-called Billy Graham rule, named for the famous evangelist who established similar guidelines for the pastors working in his ministry. In his autobiography, Graham notes that he and his colleagues worried about the temptations of sexual immorality that come from long days on the road and a lot of time away from family. They resolved to “avoid any situation that would even have the appearance of compromise or suspicion.” From that day on, Graham said, he “did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife.” It was a way of following Paul’s advice to Timothy in the Bible, Graham wrote: to “flee … youthful lusts.”

The Hill article gives more context on how the Pences were thinking about this, at least back in 2002. Pence told the paper he often refused dinner or cocktail invitations from male colleagues, too: “It’s about building a zone around your marriage,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a predatory town, but I think you can inadvertently send the wrong message by being in [certain] situations.”

The 2002 article notes that Pence arrived in Congress a half decade after the 1994 “Republican revolution,” when Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the House. Several congressional marriages, including Gingrich’s, encountered difficulty that year. Pence seemed wary of this. “I’ve lost more elections than I’ve won,” he said. “I’ve seen friends lose their families. I’d rather lose an election.” He even said he gets fingers wagged in his face by concerned Indianans. “Little old ladies come and say, ‘Honey, whatever you need to do, keep your family together,’” he told The Hill.

These comments show that the Pences have a distinctively conservative approach toward family, sex, and gender. This is by no means the way that all Christians, or even all evangelical Christians like the Pences, navigate married life. But traditional religious people from other backgrounds may practice something similar. Many Orthodox Jews follow the laws of yichud, which prohibit unmarried men and women from being alone in a closed room together. Some Muslim men and women also refuse to be together alone if they’re not married. These practices all have different histories and origins, but they’re rooted in the same belief: The sanctity of marriage should be protected, and sexual immorality should be guarded against at all costs.

The left attacked the Vice President over that, claiming that such a policy undercut women in the professions. Slate, of all places, had a rational response, by a liberal writer:

Lists of government staffers are widely available, and in 2012, for example, Pence’s roster of 19 Congressional employees included nine women, including his press secretary and staff director, the latter of whom he made his deputy chief of staff when he moved to Washington this year. No one would call Mike Pence a champion of gender equality—he spent part of the day Thursday casting a tie-breaking Senate vote to give states permission to deny funding to abortion providers—but he is not incapable of working with women.

And, in the concluding paragraph:

Socially conservative politicians who are discovered cheating on their spouses earn a lot of well-deserved scorn for their hypocrisy. But this week we’ve seen that socially conservative politicians who bend over backwards not to cheat on their wives are also subject to mockery and derision. The Pences’ approach is far too onerous and paranoid for my own relationship, and perhaps for yours, too. But something is obviously working for Mike and Karen Pence, who have been married for 31 years despite the kind of high-power, high-demand career that has derailed many other Washington marriages.

Is Mr O’Reilly really innocent of all of the allegations? Were they really all set-ups by gold diggers? I neither know nor care, but had he employed the Billy Graham rule — perhaps we can now refer to it as the Mike Pence rule? — he’d still have his job today.


  1. Pingback: Moral consistency: don’t bemoan Bill O’Reilly’s ouster over sexual harassment if you thought Bill Clinton should be impeached for a consensual sexual encounter – The First Street Journal.

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