When John McCain announced he had a brain tumor last year, condolences and support came alongside the whispered speculations: How would the death of the Republican senator from Arizona change the political calculus in Washington?
The cycle repeated itself on Friday. The Supreme Court announced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, had two malignant nodules removed from her left lung — prompting conservative bomb-thrower Bill O’Reilly to offer what some have called a crass analysis.
“Justice Ginsburg is very ill. Another Justice appointment inevitable and soon,” O’Reilly wrote on Twitter. “Bad news for the left.”
McCain’s daughter Meghan McCain took notice, and it appeared her father was on her mind in a stinging rebuke for the disgraced former Fox News host.
“There’s really nothing more gross and ghoulish than people in the media pontificating on a public persons health and the hypothetical political ramifications of their death,” Meghan, an ABC News contributor and co-host of “The View,” wrote in a tweet quoting O’Reilly’s original remarks. “Join me in praying for RBG to have a speedy and healthy recovery — we are Christians, aren’t we Bill?”
Meghan McCain and O’Reilly could not be reached for comment.
Ginsburg does not appear to be in any grave condition despite O’Reilly’s assertion. She is “resting comfortably” and will remain in the hospital for several days, court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said in a statement. The nodules were discovered in exams after she fell and broke three ribs in November.
O’Reilly lorded over a popular Fox News program for two decades. While his commentary brought huge numbers of viewers, he brought chaos behind the scenes for most of that period.
Fox News and O’Reilly settled five sexual harassment accusations against him over a 15-year period. O’Reilly and the network paid a combined $13 million in those settlements in exchange for silence of the accused (previous reports have said the figure was $15 million).
One settlement paid by O’Reilly amounted to $9 million alone.
A sixth accuser and revelations of the settlements published by the New York Times prompted waves of backlash, including advertiser pullouts, and led to his ouster by the network in April 2017.
O’Reilly’s remarks about Ginsburg triggered what is called a ratio — which is when a tweet’s endorsements measured in retweets and likes are vastly outnumbered by criticism in the form of replies. Many social media users referenced his harassment allegations and removal from his perch at Fox News.
His remarks also come at perhaps the height of Ginsburg’s popularity.
Her sharp dissenting opinions as the court moves increasingly to the right has cemented her status as a legal and pop culture feminist icon, decades after her 1973 Supreme Court victory opened the door for equal protection rights for women.
She was coined “Notorious RBG” by admirers — a reference to the rapper Notorious B.I.G. The newfound notoriety has sent her on speaking tours, where she is swamped with selfie requests.
Ginsburg’s legal career was the subject of a documentary released this year, and her recent popularity also spurred a feature film. “On The Basis of Sex,” a film dramatizing the 1973 case and starring Felicity Jones, opens on Christmas Day.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Fox News paid for settlements against Bill O’Reilly. Both he and the network paid them. This story has been updated.