The Bill O'Reilly truthism scandal is dead.
It's well and truly over despite an ever-growing list of allegations that the Fox News commentator misrepresented events during his career as a TV journalist while covering the aftermath of the Falkland Wars, the troubles in Northern Ireland, and the Nicaraguan Contras, not to mention the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
It will soon be forgotten even if new accusations arise daily.
For people who matter - O'Reilly's fans and his employers - the question of whether he lied is essentially moot.
The proof is there for all to see: Though the charges against NBC News anchor Brian Williams led to his suspension, Fox News is standing by O'Reilly. It's no wonder: The O'Reilly Factor brings Fox News nearly three million viewers a night. (The fracas actually has given his numbers a boost, reports Variety.)
Then again, it's worth asking: Are the two men's alleged transgressions comparable?
"Not at all! Williams is a managing editor on a nightly network news program, and O'Reilly is a bloviator on an opinionated show," said Temple University journalism professor Christopher Harper, who has worked as a reporter for Newsweek and a producer on ABC's 20/20. "The expectation of NBC's audience is that they will have a neutral, unbiased newscast, whereas they turn to The O'Reilly Factor for analysis and opinion, not necessarily facts."
O'Reilly in his analysis is more of an entertainer, a TV personality who cultivates a persona.
O'Reilly doesn't even work with that many facts, said Robert Jensen, who teaches journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. "According to one study, only 12 percent of what he says every night counts as a fact that's subject to verification."
Jensen, whose books include Arguing for Our Lives: Critical Thinking in Crisis Times, added, "While he has more leeway on his type of show, O'Reilly still cannot stand outside the criteria and standards of journalism. The factual claims . . . must be subject to verification."
Eric Boehlert, who writes for the progressive watchdog organization Media Matters for America, says he doubts O'Reilly thinks of himself as an entertainer.
"The bottom line is that O'Reilly is the face of Fox News, and Fox is the most popular news network in America," Boehlert said.
That's why he believes it's imperative for Fox News to subject O'Reilly to the same critical scrutiny the network demanded that NBC News apply to Williams.
Geoff Nunberg, a linguist and social critic at UC Berkeley, said O'Reilly and many of his colleagues at Fox News couldn't be judged by the same criteria as Williams because O'Reilly and his fans believe conservatives and liberals have such radically different notions of the world they cannot share the same notion of truth about anything.
In that way of thinking, O'Reilly can brush off criticism as politically motivated.
"You have no obligation to believe anyone about anything. It's the same with some radical liberals," said Nunberg, author of The Way We Talk Now and Going Nucular: Language, Politics, and Culture in Controversial Times.
O'Reilly's and Williams' apparent transgressions do have one similarity, Jensen said.
"The spirit behind both cases is quite similar - to increase one's status by portraying oneself as a reporter who was in real danger," he said. "Today, it's not enough for a reporter merely to be a recorder of events, but a hero."