TUBE TALK George Clooney isn’t the only Hollywood leading man with a beef against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. In the latest issue of Talk magazine, Sean Penn implies that O’Reilly and his fellow talk show hosts are as bad as Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden, if not worse. He says, ”People like the Howard Sterns, the Bill O’Reillys and to a lesser degree the bin Ladens of the world are making a horrible contribution.” Calling O’Reilly ”a grumpy, self-loathing joke,” he says, ”[t]here’s a long history of people who capitalize on the lowest common denominator of people’s impulses. Adolf Hitler being one of them. Not everybody wants to hit the wall in a violent rage and break their knuckles, so he does it for them.” He adds, ”These guys — Joe McCarthy, Bill O’Reilly — die like everyone else. And when they do their legacy is one of damaging the spirit of good things, and they become rather broken, pathetic figures. And it is going to happen to him.”
For his part, O’Reilly seems mystified by Penn’s rancor, though he quips that ”Madonna called me up and told me not to worry about it.” Penn’s rant seems to come out of nowhere, O’Reilly told the New York Post. ”I mean, he doesn’t say, ‘I don’t like O’Reilly because he said this or he did this or that.’ There’s just this ranting and raving. So what am I supposed to do? Take it seriously?”
The ”O’Reilly Factor” host speculates that he’s hit a nerve in Hollywood, as with his taking Clooney to task over alleged improprieties in the post-Sept. 11 fundraising to which the star has lent his name. ”I think the genesis of this is that Hollywood has been pretty much given a free pass forever by the television media. Very rarely have they been criticized…. Now they know that that protection will never be afforded them ever again because what we do here is we watch the powerful and the famous and if they misbehave we report on it…. No one is safe from our scrutiny.” He said Penn has an open invitation to air his grievances on ”The O’Reilly Factor” but doubts Penn will take him up on it.