Bill O’Reilly Faces Super Bowl Challenge: Tackling President Trump

Bill O'Reilly sexual harassment
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Bill O’Reilly has tangled with celebrities and Congressional representatives, usually without apology. But even the Fox News veteran might feel pressure this weekend.

The longtime host of “The O’Reilly Factor” will sit down with President Donald Trump in a taped interview set to run as part of the pre-game proceedings during Fox Broadcasting’s telecast of Super Bowl LI. O’Reilly, who says he won’t carry a set of written questions with him so he can concentrate more directly on the conversation, is gearing up for a challenge.

“I would say it’s the most important interview of my life,” O’Reilly noted during a recent conversation. “There is so much happening and so much controversy and so many things in play. I need to get to the heart of the matter, and I will.”

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The Fox News mainstay is no stranger to what is, for TV-news anchors, a strange setting. Snaring a sit-down interview with the President has become a regular segment in the pre-game proceedings each Super Bowl Sunday, but the audience has tuned in largely to get away from the outside world. Even so, expectations are high: Can the correspondent get the Commander-in-Chief off his talking points without getting mouthy in front of an audience noshing on buffalo wings? And can that journalist get the President to make a few headlines that will bring attention to the news organization from which he or she hails? In years past, the interview has been conducted live on camera, adding another tough dimension to the exchange: There are only so many minutes to try to dig for news. He won’t have much more in the taped exchange, but expects some portion of it to air exclusively on his “Factor” the Monday after the big game.

O’Reilly has been here before. He interviewed President Barack Obama on two pre-game occasions – once in 2011 and once in 2014 – and even interrupted when he thought he had to. “He ate up the clock, and that’s why I thought I had to interrupt,” said O’Reilly. Others have navigated this path as well. Last year, CBS’ Gayle King interviewed both President and Mrs. Obama, and the year before, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie talked to President Obama in front of a White House display of Super Bowl treats.

Sometimes, networks have negotiated settings they feel might be more attractive to an audience that may not be the most interested in conversations about national policy. Not this time, O’Reilly said. “We are not going to be doing finger painting,” he said.

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O’Reilly says he intends to ask President Trump basic questions. “It’s mostly on the things happening around his executive orders, and how he sees the reaction to that and what he hopes to accomplish with them,” he says. He intends to pivot to some more personal questions about how President Trump is transitioning into the job.

What will he do if he feels he’s not getting a correct answer? When ABC News anchor David Muir interviewed Trump last week about the recent theories about voter fraud he had espoused, the President cited a Pew Research study and Muir countered that he had called the author of the research and gotten a different interpretation than the President’s. “What the President says is what he says, and after that, it will be verified. I’m not a fact-checking machine,” O’Reilly said, noting that he can’t hold up an interview with only a limited time frame. He expects the media will immediately do its own analysis of the session. “My job is to do questions that draw him out into very important areas.”

O’Reilly raised some questions about his job last July, when he told an interviewer from AdWeek that he could consider stepping away from his signature show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” which is arguably the linchpin of Fox News’ primetime lineup. “I don’t want to work this hard much longer,” he said at the time. He is believed to be in the last year of his current contract.

He is still considering what he might do, he said. He has seen his already sizable audience grow in recent weeks, and wants to consider what that means for him. “What I have to deal with is an enormous audience. The audience for the ‘Factor’ is in the stratosphere, and we believe it’s because in a polarizing time, we are not doing the polarizing game,” he said, noting that he feels his show tells viewers what happened and how he feels about it. His show averaged 4 million viewers in January as Fox News Channel marked 15 years as the most-watched U.S. cable-news network.  “I haven’t made any decision about anything.”

In his more immediate timeline stands the Super Bowl and an interview with a President who seems to make headlines at every turn.

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  1. Sheila Randall says:

    Here is my question. President Trump will you please stop texting the small and petty stuff? (Like this Arnold Swartzenagger texting.) You gave the main stream media something to concentrate on instead of the important things you texted. You make such an impact with your texts when it is about our country, and I think you are going to really need this important tool in this up coming year. Thank you for a proud deplorable.

  2. Sheryl Madden says:

    President Trump, I am a deplorable, living in a very blue state, surrounded by other blue states. While I see much of the protesting as representing a two-year-old’s tantrum for not getting one’s way, when I stand up for you, God and country, I, too, receive backlash and hateful comments. It’s easy on social media to simply un-follow or un-friend those who annoy me, but real life is a bit trickier. Sadly, the mute button doesn’t work on people! How do you recommend I/we deplorables handle the anger being spewed all across our great nation?

  3. Fran Markus says:

    Please ask President Trump to rise above any pettiness printed/said about him and to keep his own remarks Presidential and positive about this country— I am so upset that he asked our clergy to pray for Arnold Swartzenagger—-IMHO, that was so inappropriate,—

  4. Sue Reading says:

    Jeff Zucker – Pres. of CNN – says “One of the things I think this administration hasn’t figured out yet is that there’s only one television network that is seen in Beijing, Moscow, Seoul, Tokyo, Pyongyang, Baghdad, Tehran and Damascus — and that’s CNN,” Zucker said. “The perception of Donald Trump in capitals around the world is shaped, in many ways, by CNN. Continuing to have an adversarial relationship with that network is a mistake.” Is this true? and what can you do to correct their misinformation they’ve put out about yourself and the USA ?????

  5. Gale says:

    Mr. O’Reilly, Please tell President Trump Thank You and your wonderful family for all you have given up to make this country great again. God Bless you!

  6. JOSEPH FARNEY says:

    Mr. O’Reilly. Please ask President Trump if he could move our military bases to our borders and they would become our wall. We Americans today just can’t walk on our military bases. Anybody crossing our borders would not be aloud also.

  7. Lynnette says:

    Please ask. The President, if there is some way to improve mental Heath care in America, so few states have mental Heath care for the homeless, young people over 26 cannot aford health care once the insurance finds out they are bi-polar, costs soar, so they go off meds and end up with out help.

  8. Mary Spivey says:

    What about the McCarran-Walter Act? I believe several presidents have used it to keep out those who would harm our country.

  9. Bobbie Navone says:

    Ask President Trump about McCarran-Walter Act of 1952. Jimmy Carter utilized this in 1979 to keep out Iranians.

  10. donna mcconehea says:

    Bill I watch your show every night and love it! I have ALWAYS supported president Trump from the first day. I don’t know how much longer I can! I cannot stand to hear him brag on himself so much. To say publicly Tillerson had no support because of Putin, to brag about his numbers and so much more. Every appearance I’m on the edge of my seat WAITING for bragging and saying SOMETHING negative about someone and how great(er) he is. For the first time I’m flipping to other channels from FOX. PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!

  11. Carole Lee Halsey says:

    Why doesn’t he wear his wedding ring? I’m a 73 year old lady & it was the only thing I see wrong with him.

  12. Kimberly Hancock says:

    Questions for President Trump, Why can’t we have Prisoners build the wall. We have to pay them anyway while incarcerated. If Congress members do not show up for work, do they still get paid? Why is it things said I see different then how other see it? God Bless you! Make America Great Again!

  13. Yvonne Burns says:

    My question for our President. There is a great deal of concern about where the funding will come from to rebuild the infrastructure of our nation. Is it possible the monies gained when the Sanctuary Cities are defunded can be transferred to a fund that will help pay to rebuild the infrastructure of our nation?

  14. Janice Whitaker says:

    What will you do to ensure that S.S. will not be raided?

  15. Charles J. Carmdoy says:

    I would like to know, if my president would consider providing federal funding so each separate state could provide “vetting” of all inclusive immigrants considered illegal and legal within the country? In this way, the whole united states would become (as in the past) a sanctuary county while retaining a high security monitoring status. In addition, states that because of obvious reasons with considerable immigrants would be required via comparative census poles to show compliance. We would be using existing system infrastructure to accomplish this. We would all be on the same page. Thanks.

  16. Dan Tingle says:

    What kind of pens dose the President use when signing his executive orders.

  17. Ronald J. Mulholland says:

    Question for Mr. Trump. How do you plan on reversing the curse that Obama brought on the U.S. by abstaining from the UN resolution vote?

  18. Mr. O’Reilly please approach,Pres. Trump with the question of what he thinks about senior citizens in 2016 not receiving an increase in living because gas prices were low, as if, we use that much gas and in 2017 an increase of 0.03%(what a slap in the face) then increasing Medicare so that for two straight years no increases at all. The government is killing us!

  19. SANDRA DROZDZEWSKI says:

    I would really like to know why you have not had Hillary Clinton arrested yet. This is one reason you had a lot of voters on your side.

  20. Lola Scamahorn for Skyler Hodges says:

    I asked my 14 year old Grandson ( Skyler Hodges) what he would ask Pres. Trump. He said he would have to think about it. @ hours later he replied” Are you trying to make Russia our Allies? ” I than asked him ” Do you think we should?” His reply ” I think in someways yes. ‘Cuz if Korea does not stop threatening the world with Nukes we need an Alliance with a country that can get things dealt with right away”. Skyler goes to school at Mooseheart Child City in Il. He is in a school with a strong Democratic following and has stood his ground defending President Trump. I am so proud of him.

  21. Barb Hankins says:

    Questions for My President Trump. When is the law and order of your campaign promise especially in the case of the violent protests all around the country. Peaceful protest is ok but things destroyed by the violence being paid for by the tax payers has got to stop

  22. Cheryl Jones says:

    Question for President Trump: While you are waiting for the confirmation of your cabinet and other appointees, why don’t you declare them as interim heads of these departments?

  23. Joan Fosmore says:

    IF I MISS A DAY OF WORK I DON’T GET PAID , WHY DON’T THEY DO THAT TO THE DEMOCRATS IF THEY DON’T SHOW UP TO VOTE ON OUR SUPREME COURT, ETC.

  24. Rex says:

    “What the President says is what he says, and after that, it will be verified. I’m not a fact-checking machine.”

    And that’s EXACTLY how Trump wants it to play out, because that’s how he plays with ALL media. He knows more people will hear the bullshit upfront than will hear about whether it’s verified later on, especially his supporters who only hear what they want to hear. And I’m sure O’Reilly will be more than happy to softball him while using the usual posturing and mannerisms that make him LOOK like he’s taking a hard line with Trump when he really isn’t.

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