The OReilly factor

Wouldn’t it be nice to live the life of O’Reilly?

You could go around passing off half-baked opinions as incontrovertible fact, stroke your own ego by overestimating your importance and telling anyone who disagrees with you to “shut up.”

Top-ranked Fox News talk-show host Bill O’Reilly has indeed built a fearsome reputation for biting off the heads of guests he doesn’t like in his so-called no-spin zone. It’s very entertaining, and he’s got the ratings to prove it.

Though he calls himself an independent who’s “looking out for you,” O’Reilly is hailed as a conquering hero by the right wing, particularly with so-called “values voters.”

The sanctimonious morality cop dodged a bullet when a scandal involving an attractive former employee, tape-recorded phone sex and loofahs abruptly fell off the radar after a big bucks out-of-court settlement.

But recently O’Reilly crossed a line he may regret. As our story this week describes, O’Reilly on his radio show told a Jewish caller upset about public school Christmas celebrations that if he didn’t like it, he should “go to Israel.”

O’Reilly claimed that America was “a predominantly Christian nation. … You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus and you don’t want to hear about it?”

Further, O’Reilly called Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman “a nut” for demanding an apology.

Maybe O’Reilly should shut up.

The offensive nature of his comments is plain to Jews — and should be to any fair-minded person. The “back to Israel” slur echoes that ugly refrain often hurled at black Americans: “Go back to Africa.” To call Foxman a nut suggests that O’Reilly himself may be a bit unhinged.

That the averted sex scandal exposed O’Reilly as a hypocrite should shock no one. Hypocrisy is as common as collagen among celebrities, most of whom rarely live up to the spotless images they carefully cultivate for themselves.

But when a man spouts blatant religious bigotry, then refuses to apologize to the Jewish community, it’s time to recall the words Joseph Welch uttered in 1954 to a pompous windbag of his own time: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?”

That was the beginning of the end of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

This is not about right vs. left. Conservatives and liberals can agree that deportation orders — even in jest — should not be issued by the likes of a Bill O’Reilly. In this case, the man is an equal opportunity boor, and his viewers should let him know.

Factor that.