The former king of cable news enters THR's no-spin zone to discuss his exit amid harassment claims, the president's Charlottesville remarks, Megyn Kelly's Putin sit-down and his latest 'Killing' book.
Bill O'Reilly has scores to settle — with his accusers, the media and the "far-left precincts" that have "viciously attacked" and plotted to "destroy" him. But on this September afternoon, the former king of conservative cable — host for 20 years of Fox News' top-rated The O'Reilly Factor — is trying his best to play nice. He (gently) chides President Trump for his comments about some neo-Nazis being "very fine people" before coming to his old friend's defense ("He acts and he speaks emotionally, OK?"). He compliments Megyn Kelly's interview with Vladimir Putin ("She asked the right questions"), albeit in a backhanded way ("but I'd get right into his face"). He shows restraint when asked about his former employers at Fox, who in April fired O'Reilly, then making $25 million a year, after accusations of sexual harassment. Those accusations are false, he insists, hinting that "stuff will come out."
What O'Reilly, 67, does want to talk about is the latest historical book in his best-selling Killingseries (17 million copies in print): Killing England, out Sept. 19, which tells the story of the American Revolution through the eyes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. He's also eager to share plans for the expansion of his online empire, billoreilly.com (now produced out of his Long Island home but soon to move into studios in Manhattan), as well as his thoughts on someday returning to cable TV (he's been pursued by One America News, and his name keeps popping up in reports about the Sinclair-Tribune merger that could spawn a competitor to Fox News). "I've got to feel the odds of success are high," he says, "because I don't need to do a project just for the sake of doing a project. I got plenty of stuff."
Read some more of the interview below:
Have you watched Megyn's Kelly's NBC News show?
I watched it. I feel bad for her because it's the same old game; you build them up and tear them down. I mean, what has Megyn Kelly done wrong? I don't get [the media criticism]. She worked her way up from being a reporter, and now she's making good money, and she's in a good position. So what has she done wrong? You don't like her haircut? Is that it? I don't get it. Megyn and I, we worked well together at Fox. She was very successful on The Factor. And after me, at 9 p.m., she did very well. So I don't get it. What is the hysteria about this?
Did you see her interview with Alex Jones?
No, I didn't. I'm busy. I watched the Putin interview because I want to interview Putin. And if Putin and I ever got together, that would be an event. But Alex Jones? You know, with all due respect, I'm not going to learn anything from that.
What did you think of her interview with Putin?
Well, Putin is scary. And I knew as soon as I saw Putin's facial expression what he was going to do with Megyn Kelly. That he was going to deny everything. It doesn't matter how much evidence she had, he was going to deny it. So right away, you've got a guy talking in Russian — who understands English, by the way; it's the old Fidel Castro trick — and he's looking at her and he's got this little sneer on his face going, "Look, lady, you can ask me anything, and I'm just going to deny it and I'm going to try to make you look stupid." And that's what he did. And with me, that's not going to work because I'd get right in his face. But again, it's not Megyn's fault. Megyn asked the right questions.