O'Reilly called for MSNBC to boost ratings by reinstating Donahue in Olbermann's timeslot, overlooking MSNBC's lower rated conservative programming

Bill O'Reilly called on MSNBC to reinstate Phil Donahue as a network host, asserting: “His successor [Keith Olbermann], after three long years on the air, actually has fewer viewers now than Donahue did when he left.” However, O'Reilly has yet to express concern for the lower ratings generated by MSNBC programs hosted by two conservatives: former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL) and Tucker Carlson.

During the February 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly called on Fox News Channel rival MSNBC to increase its ratings by replacing Countdown with Keith Olbermann with a show featuring Phil Donahue, who formerly hosted a program on MSNBC during the 8 p.m. ET timeslot -- the same time slot in which O'Reilly's show airs. According to O'Reilly, “His [Donahue's] successor [Keith Olbermann], after three long years on the air, actually has fewer viewers now than Donahue did when he left," a circumstance O'Reilly labeled “a disaster.” O'Reilly has since posted a petition on his website calling on MSNBC to “immediately bring Phil Donahue's show back at 8:00 PM EST before any more damage is done,” specifically mentioning “the continuing ratings failure of the program currently airing weeknights on that network at 8:00 PM EST.” But while expressing concern for “the well-being of MSNBC” by urging MSNBC to replace Olbermann, O'Reilly ignored the lower ratings generated by two MSNBC programs hosted by conservatives: Scarborough Country, which is hosted by former Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-FL), and The Situation with Tucker Carlson. (Carlson is a conservative commentator and magazine writer.)

During the last month of Donahue's tenure at MSNBC -- February 2003 -- CNN reported that Donahue's show averaged 446,000 viewers a night. According to Nielsen Media Research, while MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Countdown, Scarborough Country, and The Situation, all averaged fewer nightly viewers in 2005 than Donahue did in 2003, the shows hosted by conservatives, Scarborough County and The Situation, were the lowest rated of the group:


Nightly viewers over the age of 2

Nightly viewers ages 25-54

Hardball with Chris Matthews



Countdown with Keith Olbermann



Scarborough Country



The Situation with Tucker Carlson



Olbermann and O'Reilly have a long-standing rivalry. For instance, O'Reilly boasted on the September 23, 2004, broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, that “we beat our competitor on MSNBC at 8:00 Eastern Time, 10 to one.” It was on the July 26, 2005, edition of The O'Reilly Factor, that O'Reilly first argued that “Phil Donahue was fired for low ratings at MSNBC, but was actually much more successful than what they put in his place [Olbermann].” In recent weeks, Olbermann has repeatedly honored O'Reilly with his “Worst Person in the World” award during his MSNBC program. O'Reilly has responded in kind by criticizing MSNBC's ratings on several occasions, such as during the January 26 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, when he said, “Outlets like MSNBC, a true ratings disaster, continue to cheap-shot Fox News on a daily basis.”

From the February 23 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Time now for “The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.” Bring back Phil Donahue. It was three years ago this month that MSNBC fired Mr. Donahue for low ratings. We felt bad for Phil. They didn't give him much of a chance.

Phil actually said his firing was a mistake, and he was right. His successor, after three long years on the air, actually has fewer viewers now than Donahue did when he left. That is a disaster.

So, in the interest of fairness, we have a petition on BillOReilly.com to bring Phil back. And Marlo [Thomas, Donahue's wife], too, if she wants. Kind of like that Maury [Povich]-Connie [Chung] thing. If enough of you sign the petition, we'll send it over to NBC and hopefully, Phil Donahue will get the chance he deserves. Let's all go to bat for our pal Phil. To not do so would be ridiculous. Maybe we should get a bumper sticker.