O'Reilly offered differing stories on guest's failure to appear

››› ››› SAM GILL

Lauding the Hillsborough County, Florida, school board's reversal on November 8 of its decision to end school closings for certain religious holidays, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly offered differing accounts of why a potential guest, Bishop Chuck Leigh of the Apostolic Catholic Church in Tampa, Florida, failed to appear on The O'Reilly Factor. On the November 9 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly read from a St. Petersburg Times article by reporter Melanie Ave:

Bishop Chuck Leigh, pastor of the Apostolic Catholic Church in Tampa, said he was invited to speak on O'Reilly's show but was turned away after he refused to say the secular calendar was an affront to Christians.

"I said this is more of an attack on Muslims," he said. "If it had been anything but the Muslims, it never would have appeared in the press and on TV and certainly not on national TV. It's become nothing more than a way to justify hate."

O'Reilly condemned Ave as "simply lying" and retorted:

O'REILLY: As for Pastor Leigh, he was one of many potential guests interviewed by Factor producer Kim Harvey. He was not selected. At no time was the pastor ever told what to say.

However, on the November 9 broadcast of the nationally syndicated radio show The Radio Factor, which aired earlier that day, O'Reilly called the same report "a lie" but offered a different explanation for Leigh's absence:

O'REILLY: That's a lie. That's a lie. Flat-out lie. We invited the guy on the program along with four or five other people. And we evaluated who would be the best guest. He didn't call back until late in the afternoon. And then told us, well, thanks for the invitation, maybe next time. We said sure, bishop.

This is not the first time that discrepancies have arisen over guests asked to comment on the Hillsborough situation. As Media Matters for America has noted, O'Reilly claimed that Jennifer Faliero, the lone dissenter in the original school board decision to eliminate school closings on religious holidays, declined to appear on the program due to "pressure" from opponents. Tampa Tribune columnist Dan Ruth reported a different reason, writing of Faliero: " 'I told them I had a conflict,' Faliero explained. Her daughter had a soccer game Thursday."

From the November 9 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Predictably, The St. Petersburg Times, a radical-left newspaper, is all for the religious holiday ban and framed the issue as anti-Muslim. Reporter Melanie Ave wrote, "The Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly has focused on the involvement of Muslims. ... Bishop Chuck Leigh, pastor of the Apostolic Catholic Church in Tampa, said he was invited to speak on O'Reilly's show but was turned away after he refused to say the secular calendar was an affront to Christians."

Ms. Ave is simply lying. If you watched our coverage last week, the only Muslim angle was explaining how the controversy began and my comment that the request was like asking Pakistan to declare All Saints Day a holiday. That was it.

As for Pastor Leigh, he was one of many potential guests interviewed by Factor producer Kim Harvey. He was not selected. At no time was the pastor ever told what to say.

Ms. Ave did not even call us for a comment, a major sin in journalism, but I'm not surprised. Again, The St. Petersburg Times is a dishonest, far-left publication that does not deserve reader or advertiser support, period.

Now the school board's decision and its reversal is not due to me. It happened because the folks have simply had enough.

From the November 9 broadcast of Fox News' The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: Then the St. Petersburg Times goes on to say, "Bishop Chuck Leigh, pastor of the Apostolic Catholic Church in Tampa" -- that's not Roman Catholic, by the way -- "said he was invited to speak on the O'Reilly show but was turned away after he refused to say the secular calendar was an affront to Christians."

That's a lie. That's a lie. Flat-out lie. We invited the guy on the program along with four or five other people. And we evaluated who would be the best guest. He didn't call back until late in the afternoon. And then told us, well, thanks for the invitation, maybe next time. We said sure, bishop. Just a lie. And the St. Petersburg Times never called The Factor to find out if that was accurate, that quote was accurate, never.

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