To: Bill O'Reilly
The O'Reilly Factor
Fox News Network
You lost the bet. Time to pay up!
When I appeared on your show in July, you were so certain that the Southern Poverty Law Center's call for CNN to fire Lou Dobbs was a waste of time that you bet $10,000 (with the proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity) that it wouldn't happen.
"CNN's never going to fire him – you know that," you said.
I told you that I disagreed, because I wasn't as cynical as you. I believed that if enough people spoke out – and they did – that CNN would do the right thing.
I expect you will argue that Lou didn't get fired – that he got fed up and quit the network he had been with for three decades.
But as a litigator, I'd like to present Exhibit A: Dobbs' $8 million severance package, which was reported today by the New York Post. I think you'll agree that Mr. Murdoch's Post would never report such a thing were it not, indeed, a fact.
And would CNN fork over $8 million – enough money to pay for 13 miles of electric border fence – to an employee who simply wanted to walk away from his multimillion-dollar contract because he couldn't constrain his opinions on a news show?
I doubt it!
Maybe your fall-back position is that it wasn't a real bet. I don't know. But I think that if you'll stop spinning for a moment, you'll agree that in the court of public opinion, you lose. I know it hurts deeply to be wrong. (Although Lou won't admit it, it happens to the best of us.) You can be assured that your loss will be a big win for a family in need of housing.
CNN did the right thing. Now it's your turn!
J. Richard Cohen
President, Southern Poverty Law Center