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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 02:02 PM ET, 08/30/2011

Gawker piece on O’Reilly leaves some unfinished biz

Gawker today comes out with an explosive scoop on Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly. The skinny: O’Reilly “pulled strings” to get the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) to investigate “one of their own”---a detective---whom he suspected of having an affair with his wife.

So this is what had Fox so upset at Gawker.

According to Gawker: The detective allegedly began dating O’Reilly’s wife, Maureen McPhilmy, during a trial separation. The detective is unmarried. The internal affairs department allegedly ordered a longtime cop to investigate the detective and tell him to cut things off with McPhilmy---all as some kind of favor to O’Reilly.

The website’s main source for the story provides this quote:

“The order was to investigate this detective not for any misdeeds but to see if they could get anything on him. Delargy also told him to tell the detective to back off.”

The Gawker piece reflects tons of digging and patience. Reporter John Cook uses public records, photography, and other means to establish rockiness in the O’Reilly-McPhilmy union; he bangs away at FOIA but gets rejected, which is absolutely no surprise; and he gets deep enough inside Fox’s business to throw off the channel’s programming.

Yet Cook hasn’t reached the detective, bolded above to emphasize his centrality to the story. It’s that detective who can provide details on every dimension of the story; or, alternatively, tell Cook to mind his own business.

In an interview, Cook says he did all he could to track down said detective. “I certainly tried to report it out,” he says, noting that he worked other detectives in the department in an attempt to get a good name. “I ran into a lot of people who I would ask, ‘Just can you tell me the names of detectives,’ and they’d say, ‘I’m not going to give out names of detectives,” recalls Cook, who added that he’d heard that other reporters who’d requested lists of NCPD officers under state public-records had received denials.

Gawker chose an awkward time to drop such a bomb---right in one of the most heavily vacationed weeks of the year. Why not wait things out a few weeks and keep snooping around for your detective? Cook says, “We basically published it as quickly as we practicably could.”

The O’Reilly piece will doubtless reverse that awful 75 percent drop in Gawker traffic reported by one media outlet (O’Reilly’s employer, that is). And as the story spreads out, it should generate new sources for Cook---sources that should help finish off the story.

By  |  02:02 PM ET, 08/30/2011

 
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