Fox News host Bill O'Reilly responded to criticism from Fox contributor George Will, who called O'Reilly's newest book Killing Reagan, a “nonsensical history and execrable citizenship.” O'Reilly called criticism Will's commentary “libel” and questioned his courage to face him on his show.
In a November 5 opinion piece for The Washington Post, Will criticized the book for “distort[ing]” the public's understanding of Reagan's presidency. Will writes that Killing Reagan has “two and a half pages of 'sources,'” which “unspecifically and implausibly” refer to the FBI, CIA, presidential libraries, and world travels. However, Will reported that there is no record of either O'Reilly or Dugard using the Reagan presidential library for research. The piece noted that several of Reagan's advisers, including his Secretary of State George Shultz and Chief of Staff James Baker, were not interviewed for the book. Will concluded that Killing Reagan's “perfunctory pieties about Reagan's greatness are inundated by its flood of regurgitated slanders about his supposed lassitude and manipulability. This book is nonsensical history and execrable citizenship, and should come with a warning: 'Caution -- you are about to enter a no-facts zone.'”
O'Reilly addressed Will's criticism during the final segment of his show, calling Will's column “libel” and challenging Will to appear on his show. From the November 5 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY: George Will wrote a column entitled “Bill O'Reilly Slander's Ronald Reagan.” But it is his column that is the libel.
George Will regurgitates attacks on the book from Reagan loyalists who tried to get Killing Reagan spiked even before it was published, because they wanted a deification of the president, not an honest look at him. Will never called me, even though it's not direct dial. I mean, he can just punch up a little extension and there I am, because he works at Fox News. But, even so, we harbor no ill will, pun intended, and invited George on the Factor tomorrow. We'll see if he has the courage factor.
Will is not the first to criticize O'Reilly's scholarship on Reagan. Past Reagan aides and biographers have called out O'Reilly's work in Killing Reagan, with one biographer calling the book “garbage, total B.S.,” and a former Reagan national security advisor saying the book contains “plagiarism, simplicity and deception.”