The Facts On O'Reillys So-Called Working Class Background

In March, editor Michael Kinsley infuriated O'Reilly by suggesting the Fox host's background was less proletarian than he lets on (Washington Post, 3/1/01). O'Reilly makes much of his "working class" upbringing in Levittown, Long Island. His book's dust-jacket bio begins: "Bill O'Reilly rose from humble beginnings to become a nationally known broadcast journalist," and O'Reilly says his father, who retired in 1978, "never earned more than $35,000 a year in his life."

On July 9, O'Reilly harshly criticized his guest James Wolcott for repeating in a Vanity Fair article the claim that O'Reilly's father made $35,000 in the 60's. O'Reilly stated that his father's salary had "topped out at $35,000 in 1980, when he took a disability settlement after 30 years at the company." O'Reilly was so proud of his performance that he posted a transcript on his show's web site.

It's a familiar O'Reilly refrain, peppered throughout his book and salted into conversation. O'Reilly practically fetishizes his "working-class background." He grew up, he often says, in Levittown, N.Y., the famed postwar tract suburb on Long Island. He recalls a childhood of secondhand cars, a small home with one bathroom, summer vacations to Miami aboard a Greyhound bus, a father "who never earned more than $35,000 a year in his life." He frequently tells the story of how, in high school, the better-off kids scorned him for his "two sports coats," bought at the unfashionable Modell's. Even today, O'Reilly says, he drives a used car.

Time out Bill. Let's try that "no spin" thing out here.

"Working class" is formally defined as follows:

The socioeconomic class consisting of people who work for wages, especially low wages, including unskilled and semiskilled laborers and their families. " The American HeritageŽ Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition."

BTW, an Oil Company accountant is NOT working class.


Note from webmaster: my question is, what kind of loser nerd wears a sports coat to high school. In the state I grew up in ( Illinois ) if you wore a sports coat to high school you might as well wear a sign saying " beat me up now " on your back. Working class is what my dad was, he worked on a shipping dock for a union printing company in 1980. He made about $12,000 a year and had a wife and 2 kids.


He could barely afford to make the house payment and the car payment and pay his living expenses, let alone send two kids to college with no financial aid. The only reason Bill O'Reilly thought he was working class, is the fact that he went to a private school where all the other kids parents were multi-millionaires. So he thought he was working class, compared to the other kids parents at his private school. Kids of working class parents don't get to go to private schools either, they go to public schools on the yellow public school bus.


O'Reilly actually grew up in Westbury, Long Island, according to his mother Angela, who still lives in the Levitt-built house Bill grew up in. Westbury Long Island is a "middle-class suburb a few miles from Levittown," where he attended a private school (Washington Post, 12/13/00). His late father, William O'Reilly Sr., was a currency accountant with Caltex, an oil company; Angela "Ann" O'Reilly was a homemaker who also worked as a physical therapist.

While hardly well off, the O'Reillys - Mom, Dad, Bill Jr. and his younger sister, Janet - weren't exactly deprived, either. Both children attended private school, and the family sent Bill to Marist College, a private college in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., as well as the University of London for a year, without financial aid btw.

O'Reilly's father was a frugal man and a wise investor. His son acknowledges in his book that his father bequeathed "a very nice chunk of change" to his mother upon his death in 1986. As for Dad never earning more than $35,000, what O'Reilly doesn't mention is that Dad retired in 1978, when a $35,000 income was the equivalent of $92,000 in today's dollars.

That would put his dad in the top 10% of income earners in 1980. That is not working class !

Want Proof - look up what a $35,000 income in 1978 is worth in todays dollars -

whats a dollar worth: Year to Year $ Conversion Chart

look up what the what the median income was in 1978: Median Income Chart

In Summary, Only someone with real spin doctor skills, if not conscious spin doctor intent, would insist on labeling an oil company accountant "working class!"