ViacomCBS’ entertainment and youth brands went dark for eight minutes and 46 seconds in support of Black Lives Matter and as a tribute to George Floyd, the unarmed black man whose killing by a white police officer last week has sparked nationwide protests.
The following day, conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly uploaded a YouTube video where he cited a New York Times report that said George Floyd had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died in Minneapolis. Immediately after, O’Reilly questioned whether “the taxpayer should give trillions to African Americans” before noting that he his “No Spin News” web show would be returning to television. O’Reilly’s “No Spin News” began broadcasting on several platforms on June 1, including the ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV, according to a report by Axios.
O’Reilly’s show began airing on Pluto TV, a free ad-supported service that offers a variety of channels, on the same day ViacomCBS aired its Floyd tribute. Though Pluto TV does not produce or is otherwise involved in the programming of O’Reilly’s show, the timing was questionable, given O’Reilly’s history of racist comments about African Americans.
O’Reilly’s misleading statement regarding Floyd’s alleged drug use — the New York Times article referenced fentanyl and methamphetamine but did not indicate those drugs factored into his death or influenced his actions — and comment about reparations are not new territory for O’Reilly. O’Reilly, a former Fox News host who was fired from the company in 2017 after the New York Times reported that O’Reilly and Fox News had paid $13 million to settle the pundit’s various sexual harassment lawsuits, has a long track record of spreading racist statements about African Americans.
O’Reilly has previously weighed in on other killings of African Americans, including the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013. O’Reilly suggested that Martin was killed because he was wearing a hoodie and looked like a “gangsta” and wouldn’t have been shot if he was wearing a suit and tie. In 2016, O’Reilly said that Black Lives Matter was “killing Americans” before arguing that “much of the violent crime in America is being committed right now by young black men.” O’Reilly has also courted controversy for his comments on other issues: He previously referred to 18-year-old rape and murder victim Jennifer Moore as “moronic” for wearing a miniskirt and suggested that gay marriage would lead to interspecies marriage.
Spokespersons for ViacomCBS and Pluto TV declined to comment on the record regarding the decision to give O’Reilly a platform on the Pluto TV brand, given his history of controversial remarks.
O’Reilly’s show is a new addition to Pluto TV, but the network began working with the entity behind “No Spin News” several months ago. “No Spin News” airs on The First, a Red Seat Ventures-backed conservative channel that is available on several platforms, including Pluto TV. Pluto TV introduced The First to its lineup in October 2019.
Spokespersons for Red Seat Ventures, the firm behind The First, did not return a request for comment on its work with O’Reilly.
O’Reilly is one of several conservatives who records shows for The First. One of the network’s other hosts is conservative pundit Dana Loesch, the former NRA spokesperson who once depicted the trains on the “Thomas & Friends” animated children’s series with KKK hoods to make a statement about the show’s increased diversity.