Opinion: Thinking about Mike Pence and Bill O’Reilly

Last week, we spent six or seven days gawping at Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, for their supposedly bizarre or retro marriage rules. Pence, as even villagers in Bora Bora doubtless know by now, does not attend one-on-one dinners with women other than Karen, and he does not drink alcohol in social settings when Karen is not with him.

Progressives were by turns confused and disgusted. They assumed that this conveyed a primitive view of relations between men and women. Does he imagine that all women are sirens, some wondered, prone to turn an innocent dinner into an opportunity for sexual adventure? What a caveman view! Or was he so vain as to think himself an Adonis whom women would be unable to resist? Besides, this private rule between spouses represents a setback for women in the workplace. Don’t most deals take place over dinner? Wouldn’t women be the losers if all men had such rules?

Conservatives had a bracing time with rebuttal. Mike Pence’s lieutenant governor was a woman! Avoiding “occasions of sin” isn’t primitive; it’s actually kind of elevated. Each couple may draw the line in a different place, but drawing lines around marriage is a very healthy impulse, not a weird one.

My own take on the Pence brouhaha is that feminists who demand respect for women should never disdain the honor that good men show their wives by their constancy. Extremism in defense of fidelity is no vice.

So last week was an enjoyable culture-war moment. It felt almost like 2012 again, when progressives were sneering about Mitt Romney’s five sons as somehow “creepy,” and we on the right marveled at what a corrupt view of the world you must entertain to come to that conclusion.

This week is another cultural battle, but the troops are not as motivated because the lines are not as clear. We are the ones who uphold gentlemanly standards of behavior, right? So if a TV star many conservatives enjoy watching turns out to be a serial sexual harasser, that would violate our norms, yes?

Bill O’Reilly has settled no fewer than five lawsuits alleging gross misbehavior toward women. The payouts have totaled $13 million ($10 million paid by O’Reilly, $3 million by Fox). Those kinds of settlements are not what you pay to make nuisance claims go away.

Of course, it’s possible that some of the (many) women who have complained or filed suits against O’Reilly are disappointed aspirants to TV stardom themselves. But surely not all. One was his producer.

But there’s an awful lot of smoke here. Megyn Kelly said it happened to her. Andrea Tantaros has also sued Fox, and there are credible reports of more.

Julie Roginsky has filed a separate suit against Roger Ailes and Fox News alleging that Ailes pressured her for sex and then retaliated against her by withdrawing a contract offer when she rebuffed him. A telling detail, for those on all sides of the Pence imbroglio: Ailes allegedly intimated that he was interested in a sexual encounter with Roginsky by, among other things, saying that she ought to have sex with “older, married, conservative men,” and that “if it wouldn’t get us both into so much trouble” he would take her “out for a drink.” He suggested a private drink instead.

Wendy Walsh says she did have dinner with Bill O’Reilly to discuss becoming a paid contributor to his show. When she declined, after the meal, to go up to his room, the offer was allegedly withdrawn.

Wouldn’t everyone be better off following Mike Pence’s rules?

Writes for Creators Syndicate.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Letters: Control of time not so cut and dried

Control of time not so cut and dried The Florida Legislature recently passed a bill to keep daylight saving time all year. Sen. Marco Rubio has submitted two bills to Congress on the subject: One bill to keep daylight saving time all year for the entire country, the second to allow Florida to remain on DST even if the rest of the county does not. The...
Editorial cartoon
Editorial cartoon

POINT OF VIEW: America is getting older, and so are its drivers

The U.S. population will exceed 400 million by 2060, according to Census Bureau projections released this month. That includes an increase in the older population that will have major implications for transportation. While the size of each age group is expected to grow, the teenage population will rise only 8 percent as the group over 65 nearly doubles...
Letters: Government, insurers at root of opioid issue

Government, insurers at root of opioid issue Re the opioid problem: The government and the insurance companies are responsible. They pay only for drugs or surgeries. They will not cover any alternative measures. In my 30s, I had a sports injury to my spine. After years of pain, the only hope I had was the painkillers. They worked for a time but I had...
POINT OF VIEW: Everyone can support common-sense insurance reforms

In a recent letter published in The Palm Beach Post, a representative of the insurance industry incorrectly claims that public adjusters have been lobbying against Assignment of Benefits (AOB) reform — along with lobbyists for trial lawyers and water restoration companies. This statement is wrong on so many levels that it demands a response....
More Stories