bill-oreilly 2006

Research/Study Research/Study

Progressives factored out: The O'Reilly Factor dominated by Republicans, conservatives

A Media Matters study of guests on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor shows that Republican and conservative guests have dominated The O'Reilly Factor during the first four months of 2006.

  • In 2000, Bill O'Reilly, host of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, read a message from viewer Elden Neufeld, who stated, “O'Reilly, please don't say you're fair and balanced. You are liberal and have far more liberals on the air than conservatives.” To which O'Reilly replied, “Not true, Mr. Neufeld. We balance it out.” In 2002, O'Reilly once again asserted that his show has a balanced guest list: “Here on The Factor, we have just as many liberals as conservatives on the broadcast.” Most recently, O'Reilly stated during the April 26 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show:

    O'REILLY: And if you do an analysis every day of the voices and the time given to stories and people, you'll see that liberal people get just as much time as conservative people on the Fox News Channel, and the commentators are pretty much split down the middle on their ideological bent.

    During the same month, Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News, claimed in an interview with that “we [at Fox News] treat the conservative point of view with as much respect as we treat the liberal point of view.” Ailes, added, for good measure: “O'Reilly is an equal-opportunity basher!” But are Ailes and O'Reilly truthful in their claims about Fox News in general and The O'Reilly Factor in particular? As this Media Matters for America study shows, Republicans and conservatives have received dramatically more face time on Fox News' flagship program than Democrats and progressives.

    Using the same methodology employed in the Media Matters study, "If It's Sunday, It's Conservative," and the follow-up study, "If It's Sunday, It's Still Conservative," to examine the guest lists of Sunday morning talk shows, this study codes the guests on The O'Reilly Factor as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral (nonpartisan or centrist). Each guest was coded by his or her general partisan affiliation or ideological orientation, not for what he or she said that day on the program. Other programs analyzed by Media Matters using this methodology include MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, and MSNBC's Scarborough Country.

    Media Matters conducted this study of The O'Reilly Factor for the first four months of 2006. In January, an analysis of the total guest appearances revealed that Republicans/conservatives led Democrats/progressives by 42 percent to 18 percent, with neutrals appearing 40 percent of the time. In February, the difference was 35 percent to 18 percent, again favoring Republicans/conservatives, with neutrals appearing 46 percent of the time. Republicans/conservatives continued to lead in March with the highest disparity between the right and the left of the total guest count, 39 percent to 14 percent, with neutrals appearing 47 percent of the time. Finally, Republicans/conservatives still led Democrats/progressives by 39 percent to 19 percent in April, with neutrals appearing 41 percent of the time.

    An analysis of elected and administration officials appearing on the program showed that Republicans led Democrats by a four-to-one ratio: 80 percent were Republican, while only 20 percent were Democratic.

    A similar disparity can be seen among journalists and pundits. While the majority of journalists/pundits were centrist or nonpartisan -- 53 percent -- conservatives represented 37 percent of all journalists/pundits, while progressives represented only 11 percent.

    Republicans and conservatives also led Democrats and progressives in solo interviews. Republicans/conservatives represented 34 percent of all solo interviews, which was double the percentage of Democrats/progressives. Neutrals appeared 49 percent of the time for solo interviews.

    Finally, guest panels on The O'Reilly Factor tilted right more than four times as often as they tilted left. While exactly half were balanced, 40 percent of panels tilted right and only 9 percent tilted left.

    O'Reilly has previously expressed his interest in hearing from the left “because it has worthy ideas.” O'Reilly has also claimed that “there's no question that liberal theory is better than conservative theory. It is.” But the numbers do not support O'Reilly's claim that he gives progressive views a fair hearing.

    List of guests on The O'Reilly Factor, January-April 2006