Video: Bill O’Reilly confrontation
(originally published 5:45 Thursday; updated 10 p.m.)
Celebrities: Don’t get into a fight with anyone carrying a video camera. It’s the newest weapon in the ideological arsenal, and never ends well.
On Wednesday night, Bill O’Reilly shoved a camera-wielding man with his umbrella while on his way to a White House holiday party. The Fox News star upped the stakes by telling a nearby policeman he wanted to press charges against the protester. Within hours, it was all on YouTube, fodder for his critics across the Web.
Which is pretty much the point of videorazzi: Show the target in an embarrassing light. North Carolina Rep. Bob Etheridge lost his seat in 2010 after a nasty video confrontation with two “students” on a D.C. sidewalk, which went viral. Etheridge apologized, but the damage was done — by what turned out to be GOP strategists.
Better to play nice: Sen. Orrin Hatch gave a friendly fist bump to a paparazzo waiting at L.A.’s airport. Or not play at all: Sen. Mitch McConnell walked silently past a TMZ reporter peppering him with questions.
O’Reilly’s case was a little different because Branden Lane didn’t plan to ambush him. Lane, a paid organizer for Wisconsin Jobs Now, was filming outside the Willard Hotel Wednesday because Newt Gingrich was holding a fundraiser inside. Someone spotted O’Reilly on the sidewalk, and Lane jogged through the pouring rain to catch up.
“Leave me alone right now,” warned O’Reilly. Lane asked, “Mr. O’Reilly, were you at Gingrich’s fundraiser?” He wasn’t, it turns out — but that’s when O’Reilly knocked Lane into the street with his umbrella and taunted, “Hey, sorry about that.”
“I was so upset because I had just put on dry socks, and he knocked me into a puddle,” Lane told us Thursday. He continued to film as O’Reilly approached a cop at the White House gate and accused Lane of attacking him. Reason prevailed: After doing a background check on Lane, the cops sent him on his way; he said he has no plans to press charges against O’Reilly: “There’s no need. This isn’t about him.”
O’Reilly didn’t return our calls. But on Thursday night's “The O'Reilly Factor,” he said that he felt threatened by Lane and wanted to call the police because “I thought the guy was out of control.” O’Reilly said he “felt like the Penguin in the ‘Batman’ show . . . shielding myself with an umbrella. And I'm lucky I had it — otherwise I would have punched the guy, and I would have been arrested.” O’Reilly went on to condemn D.C. laws and the “anarchists”: “I told you bad things were going to happen, because these Occupy protesters are becoming increasingly aggressive. But I never thought it was going to happen to me.”