It’s always easy to tell when you’ve hit a nerve with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly because he loses that condescending laugh of his and goes on the uber-attack. It’s clear that he’s currently on the feminist warpath after being called out for attacking journalistic icon Helen Thomas by comparing her to the Wicked Witch of the East.

I know I talked about this latest attack on a woman earlier this week, but since O’Reilly won’t let it go, I figure I can write about it again!

At age 88, Helen (I met her once, so I hope she doesn’t mind if I call her by her first name), is a shining role model for all girls. A member of the White House press corps for almost 50 years, she’s still at it, even though the George W. Bush administration moved her from her traditional front row seat in the press room to the back of the bus. She’s in front again and after her question to President Obama this week, O’Reilly and his Fox News pals had a field day in the guise of journalistic criticism by mocking everything they could think of, including their suggestion that their moms were better suited to cover President Obama than Thomas.

Then, never one to to let a moment in the spotlight go to waste, O’Reilly suggested that those of us upset by his shenanigans don’t have a leg to stand on because he didn’t perceive enough liberal outrage over Saturday Night Live’s portrayal og Sarah Palin (nice bait and switch, Bill). As author Courtney Martin pointed out when she bravely took on the O’Reilly machine, SNL skewers everyone and uses physical characteristics to do it for comedy’s sake; SNL isn’t a purported news show where we expect at least some modicum of respect toward others in the field.

Here’s the diff in my book — when so-called male journalists attack women reporters and suggest to the world that one of the most accomplished in the field is too old, too ugly, dresses funny and is like the Wicked Witch of the East, that’s not good-natured fun. That’s a wholesale sexist attack, right up there with Dick Armey who, while debating tax policy with Salon’s Joan Walsh, couldn’t come up with a substantive response to her point, so blithely proclaimed, “Give it a rest,” and “I’m so damn glad you can never be my wife, so I wouldn’t have to listen to that prattle from you!”

I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to suggest that if an equally qualified, yet elderly, male reporter, had asked the same question Thomas did that there would have been nothing but respect for a person who was still working in their chosen field when they could be taking it easy on a beach sipping pina coladas or in their recliner with the TV remote.

O’Reilly and his goon squad (sorry, Sarah) know the difference between legitimate cirticism and sexist rants, they’re just hoping we can’t tell that they’re blurring the line. O’Reilly now claims his comments about Helen were just all in good fun and that he even sent her flowers as a peace offering, all the while maintaining that his comments were fair game.

Sounds like the not-so-powerful Oz wants us to pay no attention to that man behind the curtains.

I’m appalled at one more thing in this latest sexist attack. O’Reilly has a nine-year-old daughter, as do I. Does he let his daughter watch him trash women this way, especially a woman who is a trailblazer and an icon with professional accomplishments that O’Reilly can only hope for? When she’s an adult, would O’Reilly be OK with someone else dishing out the same sexist treatment to her?

If you’re sufficiently riled up over this latest O’Reilly travesty, go over to the Women’s Media Center site and sign the petition calling for him to truly apologize to Helen Thomas. I guess no one told him we girls like sincere apologies with our flowers.

I’m also hanging out today over at Gina Chen’s blog, Family Life. I really love her blog, but this is the closest I’m getting the Syracuse weather in February! 😉