Bart Simpson, scourge of 'No 1 network for racists'

Used to hectoring real-life public figures for views he considers unpatriotic, right-wing US television presenter Bill O'Reilly has expanded his range of targets to include America's most beloved family, the Simpsons. The host was not amused when the popular cartoon included a scene in which a Fox News helicopter is shown bearing the slogan "Not racist, but #1 with racists".

Since The Simpsons goes out on Fox, the joke struck O'Reilly as misplaced. "Pinheads? I believe so," he said. "Continuing to bite the hand that feeds part of it, Fox Broadcasting once again allows its cartoon characters to run wild." The "pinhead" insult is a regular refrain for O'Reilly, whose show includes a section called "Pinhead or Patriot", where he either dismisses or praises an individual or group. Previous figures to be dubbed "pinheads" include actress Jessica Alba and musicians Kanye West and Willie Nelson.

But if 61-year-old O'Reilly is taken aback by The Simpsons' ribbing, he shouldn't be. It is not the first time the show, which is believed to have an agreement of no creative interference from Fox, has insulted the news channel.

In a dig that suggested O'Reilly and his colleagues favoured the Republican party in the presidential election, a 2004 episode included a scene featuring a Fox News van displaying a banner for "Bush-Cheney 2004", while playing "We Are the Champions" by Queen. At the time a spokesman for Fox News said: "We're flattered by the attention." The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has previously defended his team's approach.

"It seems to me that unless subversion is at least an element of what you're doing, then it's no fun," he said.

At least Rupert Murdoch, the owner of Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox News – perhaps with an eye on the enormous contribution to his bottom line that the stalwart show makes – seems to be a little more understanding than O'Reilly.

Mr Murdoch has appeared in two episodes of the show, including one where he describes himself as "the billionaire tyrant", before kicking Homer Simpson and his friends out of his private box at the Superbowl.

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