A day after saying it would like an apology from Fox News after Bill O’Reilly described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer” — and hours after the Fox News host wryly told viewers that he might apologize, but not for another six years or so — the Kremlin said the episode was “no big deal,” according to state-run news agency Tass.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Russian government still wants that apology for what O'Reilly said during an interview with President Trump, and that it will wait patiently.
“We do not feel like exaggerating it and have no intention of blowing it out of proportion,” Peskov told journalists Tuesday, the Russian news agency Tass reported. “This is an awkward situation for Fox News rather than for us. … This does little credit to this media outlet.”
On Monday, Peskov had told reporters in a conference call that the Kremlin considered O'Reilly's remark “unacceptable and insulting,” adding: “And, honestly, we would prefer to receive an apology addressed to the Russian president from such a respected television station.”
Trump got into the mix again on Tuesday. In a tweet, Trump asserted that he is being attacked by “haters” for his potential outreach to Russia even though the Obama administration and five other world powers — including Russia — forged the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. The pact set limits on Iran's nuclear program in exchange for easing international sanctions, which opened up Iran's market for Western companies including American firms such as Boeing.
I don't know Putin, have no deals in Russia, and the haters are going crazy - yet Obama can make a deal with Iran, #1 in terror, no problem!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 7, 2017
O’Reilly addressed the matter on his prime-time show Monday night.
“Apparently the Putin administration in Moscow demanding that I, your humble correspondent, apologize for saying old Vlad is a killer,” he said on “The O'Reilly Factor.”
“So I’m working on that apology but it may take a little time. Might want to check in with me around 2023.”
On Tuesday, Peskov that the Kremlin has “a different understanding of good manners and etiquette with this gentleman,” according to Tass. “We are very kind and very patient. We will make a note in the calendar for 2023 and return to him with this question.”
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 4, 2017
During an interview that aired Sunday, before the Super Bowl, O'Reilly asked Trump: “Do you respect Putin?”
“I do respect him,” Trump responded.
“Do you?” O’Reilly said, cutting him off. “Why?”
“Well, I respect a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to get along with him,” Trump responded. “He’s a leader of his country. I say it’s better to get along with Russia than not. And if Russia helps us in the fight against ISIS, which is a major fight, and Islamic terrorism all over the world, major fight — that’s a good thing. Will I get along with him? I have no idea.”
“He’s a killer though,” O’Reilly said. “Putin’s a killer.”
“There are a lot of killers,” Trump said in response. “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
As Reuters noted:
Asked in an interview on Sunday to clarify those comments, Trump told Westwood One Sports Radio: “Well, I don't have to clarify it. The question was do you respect him — he's a head of a major country.”
Putin, in his 17th year of dominating the Russian political landscape, is accused by some Kremlin critics of ordering the killing of opponents. Putin and the Kremlin have repeatedly rejected those allegations as politically motivated and false.
O’Reilly on Monday said he thought Trump was “straightforward and honest” in the interview, “whether you liked his answers or not.”
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) February 6, 2017
.@POTUS statement suggesting moral equivalence between Putin's Russia and the United States of America is deeply troubling and wrong.
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) February 5, 2017
The Kremlin's request for an apology came just days after the office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote to Fox News, asking that it either take down or update a tweet that contained “false and misleading” information about the suspect in the Quebec City mosque attack.
The tweet stated that the suspect in the fatal shooting was “of Moroccan origin.” A man who was born in Morocco was initially detained in the aftermath of the attack, but he was quickly released and cleared. The tweet stayed up for some time before Trudeau's office got involved. Fox, which said that it had sent a new tweet and corrected its story, deleted the erroneous tweet.
Julie Vitkovskaya contributed to this report, which has been updated.