O'Reilly debate tactic: Speak first, deny later


When confronted with past remarks that he is unable to defend, FOX News Channel host and radio host Bill O'Reilly appears to have developed a simple strategy: denial. Twice in the last two weeks, callers to O'Reilly's nationally syndicated radio show, The Radio Factor, have taken issue with remarks O'Reilly made earlier in the same broadcast. Rather than apologizing for or defending his remarks, O'Reilly has simply denied making them. And lest the dispute appear to be a case of "He said, she said," O'Reilly has turned to co-host Lis Wiehl to corroborate his false denials.

On the June 28 broadcast of The Radio Factor, in a discussion about the boundaries of legitimate dissent, O'Reilly repeated remarks by author/documentarian Michael Moore that author and New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks quoted in a June 26 New York Times column. O'Reilly concluded from these remarks that Moore believes the United States to be an "evil country":

O'REILLY: So this is the United States, who has freed the world from communism, freed the world from fascism, from the Axis powers, freed the Pacific from the Japanese -- OK? All of this, but [according to Moore] we bring sadness and misery to places all around the globe. This is Michael Moore. He believes this. He believes that we are an evil country.

But less than 30 minutes later, when a caller disputed O'Reilly's characterization of Moore, O'Reilly denied he ever said Moore believes America is evil, again turning to co-host Wiehl for support:

CALLER: I'm going to see the movie Tuesday night with a friend, and you said earlier in -- in your program that Michael Moore was quoted as saying America's bad and America is evil, and I just wanted to know where (overlapping conversations; inaudible) --

O'REILLY: I didn't say "evil." He says -- he calls America a terrorist state, all right?


CALLER: But you -- you said more than twice on your show -- and you said, quote -- that he said America was bad and America was evil.

O'REILLY: Correct. I didn't say --

CALLER: And I'm just concerned about -

O'REILLY: -- I don't think I use[d] the word, "evil." Did I use the word, evil, Lis?

WIEHL: I don't think so. You said that we were dumb, and that he said that we were dumb --

O'REILLY: And bad.

WIEHL: -- and bad.

A similar incident occurred during a discussion of former President Bill Clinton and his new memoir, My Life, on the June 17 Radio Factor, during which O'Reilly explained his interest in interviewing Clinton personally and lamented the easy treatment he felt recent interviewers had given to Clinton:

O'REILLY: And [if I had interviewed Clinton] I would have been respectful to the man, by the way. I would not have been disrespectful for him. But, there would have been some real pointed discussions. And I'm interested in Clinton's philosophy of life. That's what I'm interested in. The guy doesn't seem to have any moral foundation at all.

Barely ten minutes later, when a caller took offense to O'Reilly's suggestion that a former president (whom the caller admires) is amoral, O'Reilly simply denied making the claim:

CALLER: Yeah. I just wanted to comment about Bill Clinton. He was our ex-president, and I feel like you're disrespecting him by slandering him like that.

O'REILLY: OK. Let me -- all right. Give me an example of how I slandered him.

CALLER: You said he has no morals.

O'REILLY: Did I say, Lis Wiehl, that he has no morals?

WIEHL: [Caller]? I think he -- Bill was asking what -- "I want to know this man. What are his morals?"

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