Matt Lauer from NBC’s Today Show interviewed Bill O’Reilly from Fox’s The Factor and got into a disagreement over the media’s handling of Whitney Houston’s passing. O’Reilly took the position that Houston’s addiction was never covered by the press except for a few sensational stories. In his column he spoke candidly saying, “The media has no bleeping clue how to cover the death of Whitney Houston.” When Lauer questioned him on this statement, O’Reilly further explained he felt all the major news outlets turned a blind eye to Houston’s problem.
Lauer And O’Reilly Debate If News Coverage of Celebrity Addiction Is Sensationalistic
Lauer took the counterpoint and stated that for years there had been coverage “detailing the addiction, the erratic behavior, the denial of addiction on the part of Whitney Houston.” However, O’Reilly responded that any of these stories were for shock value and not as a means to help the flailing star. O’Reilly made the point that he believes stars such as Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg who have openly acknowledged their own regular drug use are treated with a “wink, wink” by the media. He feels this is a form of subtle encouragement and sends a message that substance abuse is acceptable. Lauer felt this was “comparing apples and oranges” and said the confusion comes in when the news covered Houston’s personal troubles, but at the same time “celebrated her talent.”
What Is the Media’s Role in Celebrity Drug Addiction?
Perhaps the conundrum of covering celebrity addiction responsibly is that two opposing aspects of the individual are true – the addict and the amazing talent. Since it is the media’s job to report the truth, they must simultaneously put someone on a pedestal and discuss their weaknesses.
O’Reilly believes that sober celebrities should be taking part in public service announcements in the wake of Houston’s passing (despite the fact no one at this point knows the exact cause of death). He wants stars to come forward and publicly denounce celebrity drug use by saying “to the American public, you know, you don’t want to be like Whitney Houston, don’t be like Elvis, don’t be like Janice Joplin?”
Lauer questioned O’Reilly’s idea by asking if the media is “supposed to be in the position of conducting interventions.” O’Reilly evaded the question by saying they are in “the business of telling the truth.”
The disagreement between the two TV personalities highlights an issue that is ever present in the media nowadays. How do you think the media can handle a celebrity’s addiction responsibly? Do you think the media is responsible for intervening in a celebrity’s personal life if they are worried for their safety?