On his radio and television programs, Bill O'Reilly repeatedly stated that Oprah Winfrey has hosted more “secular-progressives” and “liberals” than “conservatives” and “traditionalists” on her television show. He also complained that “Oprah has declined to interview me, even though I had four number-one best-selling books.” After days of attention to the subject, O'Reilly announced on ABC's The View that he would be appearing on Winfrey's show.
On October 13, 16, and 17, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly featured segments or discussions on his television program and his nationally syndicated radio show about his allegation that talk-show host Oprah Winfrey has hosted more “secular-progressives” and “liberals” than “conservatives” and “traditionalists” on her television show, the King World-syndicated Oprah Winfrey Show. Moreover, for three consecutive shows, O'Reilly complained, as he did on the October 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, that “Oprah has declined to interview me, even though I had four number-one best-selling books.” On the same program, O'Reilly asserted that while “Oprah Winfrey has the perfect right to book any guest she wants and on any topic she wants,” it is a “legitimate story” that her show allegedly “is leaning left in a big way.” On October 18, O'Reilly announced both on ABC's The View and The O'Reilly Factor that he had been invited to appear on Oprah on October 27.
Yet, despite his criticism of Winfrey, O'Reilly wrote on Page 64 of his book Culture Warrior that he refuses to host most “S-Ps” on his show because “it is hard to imagine a more loathsome group.” Additionally, as Media Matters for America has noted, O'Reilly's own guest list on The O'Reilly Factor skews heavily to the right, with conservative guests significantly outnumbering progressives. A Media Matters study of The O'Reilly Factor for the first four months of 2006 found that Republican or conservative guests, especially public officials, greatly outnumbered Democratic or progressive guests. Eighty percent of public officials were Republicans, while only 20 percent were Democrats. Conservatives represented 37 percent of all journalists/pundits, while progressives represented only 11 percent. Republicans/conservatives represented 34 percent of all solo interviews, which was double the percentage of Democrats/progressives. And guest panels on The O'Reilly Factor tilted right more than four times as often as they tilted left.
While attacking Oprah's guest list, O'Reilly used the terms “liberals” and “secular-progressives” interchangeably to describe the purported ideology of her guests, despite asserting on the October 18 edition of The View that not all “liberal[s]” are “secular-progressives.” As O'Reilly explained then, “You can be traditionalist and liberal,” and he named Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (CT) as a “liberal” “traditionalist.”
How O'Reilly “goaded Oprah into having” him on her show
- O'Reilly's fixation on Oprah appears to have begun when a caller to his October 13 radio show complained that author and New York Times columnist Frank Rich had appeared on Oprah on October 12. O'Reilly asked his caller if “what you're telling me” is that “Oprah Winfrey gave an hour of her program to a Bush-hater with no other guests,” and promised to “find out what the hell's going on, because I can never get on her show, even though I've had four number-one New York Times best-sellers.” O'Reilly concluded that he would “deal with it” on Monday, October 16.
- During the October 16 edition of Fox News' O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly announced that, while you have to “admire Oprah Winfrey ... an analysis of the program shows that liberal guests far outnumber conservatives and traditionalists in the arena.” O'Reilly asserted that "[w]e can only find four traditional guests in the past few years -- four. President Bush, [former New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani [R], [Republican California Gov.] Arnold Schwarzenegger, and [actor] Mel Gibson." O'Reilly then declared: “On the other side, there are literally dozens of liberal people who have been given a forum on Oprah's program.” O'Reilly provided some examples of “liberal people” who have appeared on Oprah, but offered no other insight into how he had categorized Oprah's guests or otherwise came to the conclusion that “liberal people” greatly outnumbered “traditional guests” on the show. O'Reilly again complained that “Oprah has declined to interview me, even though I've had four number-one best-selling books,” and concluded: “Now, you can call it sour grapes if you want. I know I'm going to get those kind of letters, but facts are facts.”
- On October 17, O'Reilly continued to attack Winfrey on his radio show for purportedly having a preference for liberal guests. O'Reilly asserted that Winfrey “should be upfront” about her liberal tendencies, saying that “if she believes that secular-progressive people are better for the United States, then she should say that.” This time, O'Reilly complained that Winfrey's guest list was “10 to 1” liberals versus conservatives, and continued to harp on what he said was Winfrey's “personal animus,” claiming that she refused to have him as a guest when his book The O'Reilly Factor for Kids: A Survival Guide for America's Families (HarperEntertainment, 2004) was released. O'Reilly concluded, “I'm not whining, I'm reporting, lady.” Paraphrasing two lines in the movie A Few Good Men (Columbia Pictures, 1992), O'Reilly added, "[a]nd if you can't handle the truth, you can't handle the truth. You need me on that wall."
- On October 18, O'Reilly announced during his appearance on The View that he would be appearing on Oprah “next week.” Later that evening on The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly elaborated:
O'REILLY: The good people at the Oprah Winfrey program have invited me on to talk with the most powerful woman in America.
After seeing my report earlier this week analyzing Oprah's guest list, where secularist-progressives far outnumber traditionalists, we received the invitation. And that is a good thing.
- On the October 19 broadcast of The Radio Factor, O'Reilly discussed his upcoming appearance on Oprah, stating that when he is a guest on someone else's program “they're allowed to take [the conversation] wherever they want, as long as they're respectful.” “If they are disrespectful, then I'm gonna have to take some action,” O'Reilly warned. When co-host Lis Wiehl chided O'Reilly for “kinda goad[ing] Oprah into having” O'Reilly on her program, O'Reilly retorted, “I did not. I reported accurately what happened. I didn't go to anybody to do anything.” He then informed Wiehl that “as usual,” she was “misinformed and misguided.”
From the October 13 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
CALLER: Well, I appreciate that. It was an experience I'll remember forever. The main reason for my call -- besides to thank you -- is, yesterday, I'm home, I'm watching The Oprah Winfrey Show, and I get to catch Frank Ritz [sic: Rich] of The New York Times on promoting his book, and the title of the show was called “Truth in America,” and he just bashed the whole hour.
A couple people from the audience, you know, stood up and made their point, but Oprah didn't have anybody on the show to rebut anything that he had to say or anything. I --
O'REILLY: Was it just him?
CALLER: He was -- he was there himself promoting his book. I forget the title. It was --
O'REILLY: Yeah, I know. I know. But were there any other guests?
CALLER: No other guests. He had the whole hour, and he just bashed --
O'REILLY: All right, so Winfrey let Rich just bash Bush for an hour.
CALLER: Yep. She -- she came on with a couple of things, just asking some questions, but she let the audience ask questions, but a lot of 'em were -- I could tell -- were S-Ps, and they were talking about the media and saying how the media's horrible --
O'REILLY: OK. So -- so Oprah Winfrey gave an hour of her program to a Bush-hater with no other guests. That's what you're telling me?
CALLER: No other guests. It was grossly irresponsible.
O'REILLY: All right, I'm gonna deal with that on Monday.
CALLER: I appreciate that.
O'REILLY: I'm gonna deal with it on Monday.
CALLER: I sent you an e-mail --
O'REILLY: All right. No, we'll deal with it. We'll deal with Miss Winfrey. We'll absolutely deal with her. For years, I've been wanting -- I've been, you know, back and forth on her. But I think the time has come to deal with her. So, we will do it on Monday.
I want the transcript of that show, please. Let's get the whole thing. We'll do it on television, and maybe radio on Monday. We'll find out what the hell's going on, because I can never get on her show, even though I've had four number one New York Times best-sellers. I can't get on the program. Why? You know, I'm gonna flat out ask for an explanation. So, Oprah becomes a big story for us on Monday. And we'll -- we'll do it fair. We'll give her her say; invite her on, and we'll see where it follows, all right. That'll be interesting.
From the October 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly.
In the “Personal Story” segment tonight, you have to admire Oprah Winfrey. She is the most powerful woman in the country and comes from a very humble background. The woman has succeeded on talent and energy.
Her daytime talk program is a launch pad for books, movies, TV shows, and records. Most who appear on Miss Winfrey's show benefit from the experience greatly. But an analysis of the programs shows that liberal guests far outnumber conservatives and traditionalists in the arena.
We can only find four traditional guests in the past few years -- four: President Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Mel Gibson.
On the other side, there are literally dozens of liberal people who have been given a forum on Oprah's program. Just last week, Bush-hater Frank Rich was given an hour to pontificate -- one hour. I had no idea Mr. Rich was so popular among daytime viewers.
Also on Oprah's show, Michael Moore, Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Al Gore, Barbra Streisand, Sean Penn, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, George Clooney, Jim McGreevey, on and on and on. You got three weeks? I can keep listing them.
In the interest of full disclosure, Oprah has declined to interview me, even though I've had four number one best-selling books, including the current one, Culture Warrior.
But it was The O'Reilly Factor for Kids that really confused me. Here we have the best-selling children's non-fiction book in 2005. Oprah, as you know, is very interested in protecting the kids, so why then was there no interest in talking about the Factor for Kids?
Now, you can call it sour grapes if you want. I know I'm going to get those kind of letters, but facts are facts.
One more thing: Oprah Winfrey has a perfect right to book any guest she wants and on any topic she wants. Her program. Right now, looks like her show is leaning left in a big way, and that is a legitimate story.
From the October 17 Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: So, I don't -- I don't think, you know, there's a clamor among women of America to see this guy [Frank Rich]. It were Brad Pitt I'd understand. OK? Not him. So there's a reason why he's on there. And, well, where's Pat Buchanan? He's got a best-selling book. OK, where's John Stossel? He's got a best-selling book. I asked Stossel. I said, “You ever try to get on Oprah?” He said, “No, they don't put me on.”
And then, here I am. What am I? You know, I mean, I go on her show, we'd get a huge rating. So, it can't be ratings. She can use the numbers if she puts me on. I'm going on The View tomorrow with Rosie. They'll get a big number tomorrow, and we'll play you some of that on The Radio Factor. So, it can't be ratings. So, it's got to be that Ms. Winfrey just wants to have her point of view presented on the program.
Now, she's entitled to that. It's her show. I mean this is a woman that came from nothing to rise up to be the most powerful woman, I think, in the world. I think Oprah Winfrey is the most power woman in the world, not just in America. That's -- anybody who goes on her program immediately benefits through the roof. I mean, she has a loyal following; she has credibility; she has talent; and she's done it on her own to become fabulously wealthy and fabulously powerful. All right.
So, I have no problem with Oprah Winfrey at all. She has the perfect right to run whatever segment she wants with whatever guest she wants to put on her program. But I think she should be upfront. Am I wrong?
HILL: No. I think she should.
O'REILLY: She should be upfront. If she -- if she believes that secular-progressive people are better for the United States, then she should say that. She should say, she should say, “Look, I'm not gonna put O'Reilly or Stossel, Buchanan, or Laura Ingram, or any of the best-selling right-wing authors on” -- I'm not a right wing author but I'm sure she would feel that way -- “I'm not gonna put them on because I disagree with them and I'm only gonna use my show to promote my point of view.”
HILL: But do you think that's necessarily what she's doing?
O'REILLY: Well, we did an analysis and we're gonna play you the clip in a minute. It's 10 to one. There have only, since 2005 --
HILL: So, it's a little lopsided.
O'REILLY: Oh! Since the year 2000, there have been only four Republicans on her program featured.
O'REILLY: Giuliani, Schwarzenegger, President Bush, and Mel Gibson. And Gibson I don't even think he's a Republican, but he's traditionalist. OK? That's it. That's it. Stunning, isn't it.
HILL: It really is.
O'REILLY: OK. So, we do a segment last night and, you know, we asked for Oprah to come on -- of course, she's not gonna come on with me, I'm a barbarian. And then -- but what really -- what really got me interested in this topic, and I've held off for years doing it, was, you remember I had The O'Reilly Factor for Kids, and it's a best-selling book for kids of the year 2005, non-fiction. Huge, enormous success.
She's interested in the kids, right?
HILL: Hmm-mm. Yeah.
O'REILLY: So, my publisher, HarperCollins, went to her and said, “Gee, you know, you and O'Reilly are on the same page -- both want Jessica's Law, both looking out for the kids, here's a good book that helps kids. How about you guys kicking it around?”
O'REILLY: No reason.
HILL: That was a good kid -- that was a good kid's book.
O'REILLY: No reason. No reason. So I said, aha! Now, there's a personal animus. I do know her a little. I've never had a cross word with her, but I know her a little. Now I know -- but I didn't say anything because that would sound like sour grapes, right? That would sound like, “Oh, O'Reilly's whining.” And I got the emails from -- “Oh you're whining.” I'm not whining, I'm reporting, lady. And if you can't handle the truth, you can't handle the truth. You need me on that wall.
From the October 18 edition of ABC's The View:
O'REILLY: There's a big culture war in this country between traditionalists, like me, you, I believe [Barbara Walters], certainly Elisabeth. I think Rosie and Joy are S-Ps: secular-progressives. There's a struggle --
ELISABETH HASSELBECK (co-host): Wait a second, what are you talking about?
O'REILLY: That's not pejorative. That's not --
JOY BEHAR (co-host): Progressive: that's the key word here.
O'REILLY: That's -- Well, I'm the guest. That's -- that's not a pejorative.
ROSIE O'DONNELL (co-host): Define the two things. Define them.
O'REILLY: All right. Traditionalists believe the country is noble and makes mistakes, but the Judeo Christian philosophy on which the country was founded is good, and that we have freed billions of people; that we provide opportunity for 300 million people plus anyone else who can sneak in here. That it is a good country. Secular-progressives believe --
O'DONNELL: Just so you know, we believe it's a good country, too. Joy and I --
O'REILLY: All right. OK.
O'DONNELL: -- we believe it's a great country.
BEHAR: And also --
O'REILLY: Secular-progressives --
BEHAR: Now, wait a minute, the other thing you said that I object to is that -- as if we don't believe in the Judeo Christian --
O'REILLY: No, no, no. Just -- just --
BEHAR: -- ethics. We're both Catholic girls.
O'REILLY: Just listen to me for a minute. I'm glad you're all on my side. It will make the interview a lot better.
O'REILLY: I can say you all agree with me.
O'DONNELL: Well, that actually is the first time we don't all agree with you on everything. But, go ahead. Go ahead.
O'REILLY: Secular-progressives, if you read the book, are people who feel the country is fundamentally flawed and needs big changes, socially, economically, foreign policy wise -- in almost every area. That's secular-progressives.
WALTERS: OK, you name -- you name certain people, some of whom are secular-progressives, some of whom are liberal that you're not too crazy about. Tom Brokaw, you say is ultra-liberal.
BEHAR: Al Franken
WALTERS: Jon Stewart. Oprah, you've picked on Oprah, you've said that she only has secular-progressives on her show.
WALTERS: So, if you're liberal, you're a secular-progressive?
O'REILLY: No, no. You can be --
WALTERS: Well, there's a fine line --
O'REILLY: You can be a traditionalist and liberal. Let me name a few people: Lieberman, up in Connecticut, the Senator.
WALTERS: What is he?
O'REILLY: He is a traditionalist, but he's a liberal.
O'DONNELL: I think he's going to lose to [Democratic Senate candidate] Ned Lamont.
O'REILLY: But he's a liberal.
WALTERS: Can I just stick with Oprah? What about Oprah? What's her [inaudible]?
O'REILLY: Oprah's -- Oprah's -- I'm going on her program next week.
WALTERS: But you picked on her already.
From the October 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Time now for “The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.” The good people at the Oprah Winfrey program have invited me on to talk with the most powerful woman in America.
After seeing my report earlier this week, analyzing Oprah's guest list where secularist-progressives far outnumber traditionalists, we received the invitation. And that is a good thing.
So, I'll fly out to Chicago and tape the program next week. It's set to run a week from this Friday, October 27, just before Halloween.
Ridiculous? It shouldn't be, but you always make the call about that. So, we appreciate that. That's a good thing.
From the October 19 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: So, we got Oprah in the afternoon, Letterman at night, and everybody's taking bets on what'll happen. And I'm gonna predict Oprah'd be nice to me, and Letterman will be a little contentious, but I think it'll be funny if it is; and if it's tragic, then we'll roll with it, you know.
O'REILLY: When I go on these shows, you know, my strategy is I roll with it. You know, I don't go on with an agenda. I mean, he's the -- he's the host, she's the hostess, and they're allowed to take it wherever they want, as long as they're respectful. If they're disrespectful, then I'm gonna have to take some action.
WIEHL: I don't see Oprah being disrespectful. I'm sorry.
O'REILLY: I don't either. I don't think so. I think Oprah will be fair and balanced. But, you know, last time I was a little restrained with Dave [Letterman] and this time I told his guys, “Look, I'm going in to be nice. But if it isn't -- not nice, I'm not gonna be as restrained as I was last time.”
WIEHL: How did they respond to that?
WIEHL: Nothing? Zero. Phone went dead.
O'REILLY: No. No. Nothing. So, anyway, it's a TiVo moment, obviously, you know, and I appreciate both Oprah and Letterman, both of them, inviting me on the program. I really do. I mean, I'm not one of these arrogant guys -- “Oh, you need me on your show.” They don't need me.
WIEHL: You kinda goaded Oprah into having you on.
O'REILLY: I did not. I reported accurately what happened. I didn't go to anybody to do anything. And you are as usual misinformed and misguided. OK?
WIEHL: I see. I see.