Guess what? Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is conceding virtually no wrongdoing in connection with his April ouster from the network. In an interview with Matt Lauer of the “Today” show, the hard-headed commentator:
Said of his dismissal: “If you look in totality, this was a hit job — a political and financial hit job.”
Counterfact: The New York Times reported in April that O’Reilly and Fox News had reached settlements with five women over the years for a range of alleged misconduct including outright verbal abuse, harassment, not to mention “unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if Mr. O’Reilly was masturbating.” As a result of all that, organizations such as Media Matters and the advocacy group Color of Change orchestrated actions against O’Reilly and advertisers that supported his program.
Also: Every time O’Reilly found himself under fire from critics, he made noise about some lefty plot. After his program deployed Jesse Watters in 2016 to produce a stereotype-heavy feature on Chinatown, he complained to colleague Chris Wallace that the resulting backlash was the work of “an organized campaign” that came from “far left websites, far left precincts.”
Said: “It was a business decision that they made.”
Counterfact: Sure it was, but not in the way that O’Reilly presented things. In questioning O’Reilly, Lauer presented the dead-on reality that Fox News had every reason to keep O’Reilly on staff, considering that he served for ages as the King of Cable News. No one could touch him on ratings, as O’Reilly himself liked to mention when it was relevant and irrelevant. Somehow, though, O’Reilly attempted to tell Lauer that Fox News saw a positive in ousting the host. “There are billions of dollars of stake in business deals and they made a business decision that they could possibly prosper more without me. It was as simple as that. It was a business decision,” O’Reilly told Lauer.
As it turns out, Lauer’s premise was 100 percent correct. Fox News renewed O’Reilly’s contract with full knowledge of the upcoming New York Times article about alleged sexual harassment and the like — a clear indication that management wanted O’Reilly to stick around. His actions, and the response to them, proved too much. When Media Matters and Color of Change weren’t making noise — and O’Reilly was racking up complaints from women — the network simply kept him on board.
Said: “In 42 years, I’ve been in this business. I’ve worked for 12 companies. Not one time did I have any interaction with HR, any complaints filed against me.”
Counterfact: The HR department at Fox News was a notorious hive of operatives working for longtime (and late) Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who himself was ousted in summer 2016 over his own sexual harassment scandal. “Going to human resources in a company like that is like going to the KGB to complain about Putin,” said one lawyer who represented a sexual-harassment victim at Fox News.
Said: “I’m not privy to what Fox News did.”
Counterfact: This declaration came in response to Lauer’s question about why the network would settle with women to secure their silence. The problem here is that O’Reilly himself reached settlements in some of the cases. When Lauer asked O’Reilly why he didn’t sue any of the accusers, he said, “Because you can’t win those lawsuits if you’re a public figure. … Every allegation in this area is a conviction. They don’t look for the truth.”
The former host plays victim so well because he spent 20 years slamming other people for playing victim.
Said: “If you go to Newsmax.com or BillOReilly.com, you will see an article about one of the accusers of me who was arrested for filing a false police report. … I want people to read it and make up their own minds.”
Counterfact: We will.
Said: “There are more things to come.”
Counterfact: O’Reilly appears to be promising “more” pushback against the case for firing him. That assertion is premised on the notion that there has been any to begin with.
Said: “My conscience is clear.”
Counterfact: Actually, no counterfact. We believe him.