So… Bill O’Reilly Despises Progressives, But He’s Okay with Liberals… Progressive Leaders Comment

Big Bill: A big bag of hot toxic air, and a mean-spirited bastard to boot.


O’Reilly said, literally, “I despise progressives.” He then went on to say something, and this in not necessarily the literal quote, “but liberals are okay.” So I asked leading progressives what they thought about it.


Earlier this month, on May 8th, I gritted my teeth to do what I do less and less anymore– switched to Fox News to check out the “enemy.”  Bill O’Reilly was on, interviewing John Lovitz, who’d recently been critical of Obama. During the ten minutes I tolerated watching the Faux network, O’Reilly said, literally, “I despise progressives.” He then went on to say something, and this in not necessarily the literal quote, “but liberals are okay.”

That really struck me, especially in light of Chris Hedges book, Death of the Liberal Class, which I discussed with him in an interview on my radio show about 18 months ago (podcast here: Chris Hedges; Death of the Liberal Class and a Call For Rebellion )

The truth is some people consider the words liberal and progressive interchangeable. Others see progressives as different. In polls I commissioned by the Zogby organization in 2006, I found that progressives considered themselves left of liberal. That’s my take and I think the take of Hedges and others.

O’Reilly’s stark remark got me thinking. Why would he be okay with liberals but despise progressives?  Me, I tend to lump liberals with Obama Democrats– who have been lulled, like boiling frogs, to accept more and more evil through the lesser of two-evilism that they keep embracing as they’ve accepted Democratic leaders who look more and more like Republicans. Hell, I think Obama is, outside of women’s rights, to the right of Reagan and Nixon. 

But I wanted to get an idea how other progressives thought about O’Reilly’s remarks. So I wrote to some of the people I think of as progressive leaders– but only people I thought might reply. Here’s what I wrote to the first ones;

yesterday Bill O’Reilly said he “despises progressives”

But he’s okay with liberals. 

Any thoughts on this? I’m working on an article in response to it. Would love a sentence or paragraph from you.

 Once I got started, I began thinking of other progressive leaders, and then I thought, “who really are the progressive leaders. What do I know? I call my radio show bottom up radio, and try to walk the bottom up talk, so I put the question to my readers at, with an article, Who are the Leading, Top Progressives?   Commenters added some great suggestions– some people I didn’t have contact information for and some I did. I emailed the ones I thought would respond. 

Here are the responses that came in. 

Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report, 

A progressive seeks change that radically transforms power relationships in society, with the goal of eliminating, to the greatest extent possible, material and other socially-produced disparities among human beings. Progressives will argue about what is possible, but not about the goal: a truly democratic human polity.

Ray MGovern, former CIA Intelligence Analyst

Rob, I’m actually a progressive conservative. You are no doubt aware of JFK’s great quote on liberals, cited below:

John F. Kennedy said this about liberals:  If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party nomination ( 14 September 1960 )

Here, for what worth, is my comment:

So why in the world would Bill O’Reilly be “okay with liberals?”  Perhaps for the same reason the military-industrial-congressional-intelligence-media complex (MICMIC) is “okay” with drone strikes that multiply the “enemy.”

Deprived of the chance to excoriate people who (in the words John Kennedy used to define liberals) “welcome new ideas and care about the welfare of people,” O’Reilly would be unable to cater to people who resist new ideas and think only of themselves.  Similarly, deprived of the exponential growth in the number of “enemies” from drone strikes, the MICMIC, too, would fall on hard times.

Ray explained what he meant by conservative progressive:

Fifty-one years ago when I was commissioned a 2/Lt in the U.S. Army, I swore a solemn oath to protect and defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States of America from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  I took that oath freely, without reservation, and with the clear understanding that it carried NO expiration date.

I still take this very seriously.  To “protect and defend the Constitution:” That is conservative to the core.

I have talked to other officers who take their oath just as seriously.  Many of them, like me, are trying to be faithful conservatives: faithful to our oath; faithful to the Constitution.  We are not shying away from tough discernment as to what this “worst of times” for the Constitution requires from us, if we are to be faithful.

This has nothing to do with “patriotic” rhetoric and flag waving.  It has to do with deciding who are the present-day enemies of the Constitution — and putting our bodies where our oaths dictate they must go.

Many of us, including me, consider ourselves progressive, as well, inasmuch as we are not hide-bound to the past and are open to new ideas EXCEPT FOR our sworn duty to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  Hide-bound to the Constitution, yes; hide-bound to the past, no.

Noam Chomsky

The US has the most massive and effective propaganda system the world has ever seen.  It includes the huge public relations industry (which in more honest days, described itself as dedicated to “propaganda”), the corporate media, and in fact a lot more.  The US is the only industrial country where one cannot (on pain of exclusion from polite society) describe oneself as a socialist (and Communist parties function freely elsewhere).  After “socialist” was demonized, attention turned next to “liberal” — now almost a term of abuse.  So the people who in other societies would be called social democrats, socialist, etc. (“liberal” is a special US term) now call themselves “progressives,” which seems to have less dangerous connotations, though people who are dedicated slaves of private power are working hard to demonize that term too.

Jane Hamsher

It’s a little weird, because historically the progressive movement was defined by muckrakers who fought for transparency and holding government accountable, whereas liberals are identified with the social safety net, the New Deal and “big government.”  O’Reilly claims to champion the former and despise the latter.

I imagine he means he hates young people, who are more likely to call themselves “progressives,” as opposed to their grandparents who still use the word “liberal.”  He’s probably just pandering to his geriatric audience and doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

Cindy Sheehan

Of course he is okay with “liberals” because it seems that liberal has grown to mean a person who is slightly left of center and supports the status quo as much as possible. I am not too crazy about liberals as they stand now and have (not too surprisingly) an opposing viewpoint of O’Reilly. To me, “progressive” is  farther to the left of liberal and advocates for progress to the left in particularly social programs domestically and for the end to foreign wars of aggression–that’s why O’Reilly “despises” them. But, he’s a moron and we shouldn’t really fret about anything he says.

John Nichols

I give Bill O’Reilly credit for recognizing a distinction between progressives and liberals. It’s real. Progressivism is a distinct political stream within the left politics of the United States. Rooted in rural populist traditions, progressivism has traditionally been more questioning of political and economic elites, more supportive of direct democracy (initiatives, referendums, recalls) and far more inclined to believe that politics is not just about elections. The great progressive leader of the early 20th century, Robert M. La Follette, said it best: “democracy is a life.” His point was that activists have to be constantly engaged, constantly pushing for real and radical change. That sort of engagement is what elites fear, as it takes away the advantages they historically have gained as a result of their dominance of parties, government institutions and the media. This is why Bill O’Reilly despises progressives. He fears a political force that, historically, has gotten Americans focused on and active around core economic and social justice issues. And if we look at recent developments in the U.S., especially the uprisings in Wisconsin and Ohio and other states, he has reason to be frightened. Cautious liberalism is being rejected as a growing number of Americans determine that they want a real politics and a real democracy.

Danny Schechter of media

I am among the few progressives that appeared on O’Reilly’s “SHOW” years ago. It is a show, showing off a parade of attitudes calculated to build audience among his think alikes. His problem is now, Glenn Beck, who out flanked him on the right with many of those who tired of Bill’s well-honed shticks, now considering him a ‘liberal,” a sign of how effective Foxygen programming has been on viewers who only await the sound of familiar message points.

When big Bill wanders into being serious, and taking himself even more seriously, he is forced to acknowledge the limits of his blather, but always with one eye over his shoulder to see how his kool aid is playing. From time to time, he has to make a correction, not of facts but language, and that’s what he’s doing now with the distinction he is trying to make between liberals and progressives. He knows his role is to divide without being conquered. That is one way to do it, to try to wean liberals and give them reasons to watch.

Kevin Gosztola of, formerly of

I tend to use “liberal” to describe activity by left-leaning people, who presumably support the Democratic Party. I use liberal to describe people who are willing to be gutless and not try and force President Barack Obama (or any Democratic president or politician) to make the changes they think are needed in government and society. 

I use “progressive” to describe people who are doing good work. They are engaged in activism. They believe in the system but are willing to push up against Democratic Party politics much more than “liberals.” They aren’t “lefties.” They aren’t completely radical. They do go to the root of a lot of problems, but they may still find the system can be salvaged and isn’t as broken as “lefties” think.  

The reality is that both liberals or progressives fold to Democrats and can be weak in their activism because they find incremental change acceptable, they don’t think a politician will budge, they want to take what they can get from the system, they aren’t “purists” or “sanctimonious.” 

People at Firedoglake actually get called “Firebaggers.” It’s a pejorative slung by “liberals” to describe a crowd of people who think what Obama or liberal politicians do is never enough. This is a term that people at the website have embraced. “Firebaggers” now means people who stick to their principles. If something was wrong when Bush did it, it is most definitely wrong and to be opposed if Obama continues it and does it too.

Kevin Zeese

Not surprised modern liberals have come to work inside the system [and] seek modest and insufficient reforms; and even support war while many progressives seek radical transformational change and challenge the system. O’Reilly and many liberals are part of the system while progressives see it as corrupt, dysfunctional and non-responsive.

Thom Hartmann

Sad to hear that Bill O’Reilly rejects such good progressive Republicans as Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt…

After doing this little project, I finally got around to interviewing Bruce Levine on my radio show: Learned Helplessness in America; Bruce E. Levine Author of Get Up Stand Up; Uniting populists, energizing the defeated and battling the corporate elite

He writes and talks about how many Americans have been victims of learned helplessness. I think the liberals O’Reilly approves of are among these. They are cowed and beaten down and have lost hope that they can do much of anything. Good liberals. Well behaved liberals, not the same as progressives liberals.

Are you a liberal and think I’m wrong? Prove me wrong. DO something! Get active. 

Are you a progressive? Aren’t you proud Bill O’Reilly despises you?

Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and site architect of, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), President of Futurehealth, Inc, inventor . He is also published regularly on the








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