Fox News' demure 8 p.m. host Bill O'Reilly took a serious moment on Wednesday night to warn the country that rich people are in imminent danger, because one time a lottery winner got murdered. Yes, the myth of the embattled rich is back, thanks to the news peg of a half-billion-dollar Mega Millions jackpot.
In the wake of the Occupy Wall Street movement and, more importantly, in the run-up to the 2012 election, rich people found themselves under attack. In 2011, well before he became a vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan worried that the "politics of division are making a big comeback," concerned about a trend toward trying to "exploit fear and envy." As President Obama has turned new attention to income inequality, the rich are again in need of champions. (Well, not "in need of," but being nice to rich people has never been a losing strategy.) On Monday, National Review's Kevin Williamson called envy (of the rich) "the most embarrassing" sin. You should be embarrassed of being angry at inequality, America!
Bill O'Reilly issues dire warning to rich people: Run for your lives! pic.twitter.com/WK6axYYr0X— Angelo Carusone (@GoAngelo) December 19, 2013
Enter Bill O'Reilly. To be fair, the argument he made in his segment was slightly more complicated than our articulation above. Slightly. The tweet at right, which tipped us off to the segment, is the golden center of O'Reilly's argument. As that was on-screen, O'Reilly somberly intoned, "Every affluent person in America is in danger. Every one." Really hammering it home.
How he gets to "pity the rich" from "two people won the lottery" is pretty terrific / creative / amazing. Here's the segment, which led the show, and then some key quotes so you can walk through the arguments.
We have two new one-percenters in America tonight. …
Here's what happens when a person is wealthy. First, he or she becomes a target … so rich people have to hire lawyers. Lots of lawyers because they will be sued, extorted and stolen from. …
Take the case of 42-year-old Abraham Shakespeare, who won $30 million in the Florida lottery four years ago. … One year ago this woman, Doris Moore, was convicted of murdering Mr. Shakespeare, part of a scheme to get his money. …
There are legions of lawyers lined up to bludgeon wealthy Americans and corporations. They work for a piece of the action. They don't charge you up front. So ruthless people can hire them to try to extort money in civil court. If they lose, so what? Every affluent person in America is in danger. Every one.
See that? One, some people won the lottery. Two, lottery winners get murdered and are stolen from. Three, the rich — at large — are in danger. Bill O'Reilly, who is rich — note the "us" when he notes that half of America makes more than $52,000 a year — used the occasion of people winning the lottery to complain about things that he doesn't like, but mostly to garner sympathy for him and other rich people. Nicely done.
It's an innovation that Ryan and Williamson can only envy. People want to kill the rich and steal their money! It's practically feudal. And here poor dumb America didn't even realize this risk existed, assuming that wealth was a lark. "Yes, we are a rich nation," O'Reilly concluded, "but the cost of living well is out of sight." He had one request of his audience, only 29 percent of whom earn more than $75,000 a year, one thing that he asked they do for those unfortunate lottery winners and, presumably, their wealthy brethren. Pray.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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