When Confronted By Letterman, O'Reilly Denies Fabrications, Cites Ratings

In his first TV interview outside Fox News since it emerged that he lied about his past reporting, Bill O'Reilly claimed his statements had been “accurate” and attempted to use his show's ratings as proof that he is a trusted reporter.

“So we had a controversy there,” O'Reilly said on the March 24 edition of The Late Show with David Letterman, “and we put forth what my side was, they put forth what their side was, folks decided, and it worked out okay for me, and I got even more viewers.” In the edited clip, released before the show airs, O'Reilly used his show's ratings to claim viewers trust him, saying, “I've been on the air 19 seasons, 15 years at number one, our ratings now are as high as they've ever been, so I think they do trust me and I'm glad they do.”

Despite O'Reilly's claim that “what I said was accurate,” the Fox News host has been mired in controversy since news emerged of his numerous fabrications about his past reporting. O'Reilly has claimed he was in a “combat situation” in the Falklands, which is disputed by reporters and historians. The Fox host also said that he personally heard the suicide of figure in the JFK assassination, when in fact he himself said in a phone call that he was not in Florida at the time. And after it was revealed that O'Reilly's claim to have witnessed the murder of nuns in El Salvador could not possibly be true because he arrived in the country after the murders occurred -- a claim denounced as “reprehensible” by a lawyer who represented the victim's families -- O'Reilly explained that he only meant he had seen pictures of the murder, not the event itself. O'Reilly used a similar defense when questions arose about his claim to have seen “Irish terrorists kill and maim their fellow citizens in Belfast with bombs”: a Fox spokesperson said that O'Reilly meant he was shown photos of such bombings by Belfast police. 

As Rachel Maddow has pointed out, O'Reilly's defense “that it's okay if they lie on the air as long as it rates” is absurd, even if his show's ratings come close to those of popular TV shows like AMC's Walking Dead-based talk show “Talking Dead” and Discovery Channel's reality show about gold miners “Gold Rush.”