Political host makes 'defamation' accusations
A correction was made to this article on Oct. 14, 2003.
NEW YORK — With Bill O’Reilly, self-promotion often brings commotion.
The Fox News Channel mainstay, appearing to promote his new book on NPR’s “Fresh Air” show last week, ended up walking out on interviewer Terry Gross and then restoking old fires against leftie public media getting government handouts.
O’Reilly aborted the Oct. 7 interview after accusing her of throwing “every kind of defamation you can in my face.”
What set him off?
Gross, hardly known as the confrontational sort, was asking O’Reilly whether his comments against book reviewers on his “O’Reilly Factor” show might have a chilling effect on future reviews of his own books.
The conservative yakker — whose book “Who’s Looking Out for You?” hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list Oct. 5 — began ranting that Gross hadn’t been as hard on his nemesis, political satirist Al Franken.
(O’Reilly and Franken had a legal tussle earlier this year over the use of the phrase “fair and balanced” — a Fox News catchphrase — as a subtitle on Franken’s book, but O’Reilly’s request for an injunction was denied.)
“We had a different interview,” Gross replied to O’Reilly’s accusation.
“Okay. Fine. ‘Fresh Air’? Is this what ‘fresh air’ is? I’ll get a transcript of this interview, you want me to? And of the Al Franken interview? You want me to do that, and compare the two? O’Reilly fumed.
The rant didn’t end there.
In a regular feature on his own show that night, O’Reilly named Gross and her show the “Most Ridiculous Item of the Day.”
And on Oct. 8, O’Reilly devoted a whole segment to Gross and NPR, rehashing the old saw that government shouldn’t fund a public radio network that is a bastion for ungrateful lefties.
But the “fair and balanced” beacon didn’t give Gross equal time.
O’Reilly didn’t invite her to appear on his show and respond, even though he played a snippet of their interview.
“I feel like I am in a hall of mirrors,” Gross says. “He accused me of being really unfair and biased, and then he plays a short bit of our interview on his show and accuses me of things without letting viewers hear from me, or hear the whole interview.”
Listeners from both the left and right will get a chance to make up their own minds: “Fresh Air” will rebroadcast the O’Reilly interview Oct. 10.