×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

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

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.”

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.

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.

More TV

  • Federation Entertainment Acquires Israeli Series 'In

    Federation Entertainment Acquires Popular Israeli Series 'In The Spectrum' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Federation Entertainment has acquired distribution rights to Dana Idisis and Yuval Shafferman’s critically acclaimed original Israeli series “On The Spectrum” which took home the top Grand Jury Prize at Series Mania last year after premiering at Tribeca. Produced by Sumayoko Productions and YesStudios, “On The Spectrum” was commissioned and broadcast on Israel’s premium platform YesTV [...]

  • European Union Placeholder

    European Parliament Gives Final Approval to Controversial Article 13 Copyright Directive

    The European Parliament on Tuesday gave final approval of Article 13, a controversial directive that shakes up the rules around copyright in the continent with ramifications for online platforms, content owners and creators, and the general public. The proposed new framework, now approved, has sparked widespread debate among the platforms, public, and content firms. The platforms, [...]

  • Fox Disney Layoffs

    Fox Studio Quickly Fades Away as Disney Starts Work on Integration

    In the waning days of 21st Century Fox, there was a run on the searchlight. As Disney neared the completion of its $71.3 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox, employees on the Fox lot rushed into the studio’s gift shop to pick up mugs, shot glasses, sweatshirts, hats and T-shirts emblazoned with 20th Century Fox’s [...]

  • Purple

    French Women’s Drama ‘Purple’ Wins Series Mania Co-Pro Pitching Sessions

    LILLE, France — At an awards ceremony on Monday night, French drama series “Purple” was announced as the winner of the Series Mania Co-Pro Pitching Sessions, scoring a cash prize of €50,000 ($56,500), the TV festival’s main industry award. The ceremony was hosted by Series Mania founder and general director Laurence Herszberg and jury president [...]

  • Osmosis

    Netflix Unveils Four More French Originals, 'Gims,' 'Anelka,' 'Move,' 'Of Earth And Blood'

    As it prepares to open a fully-staffed office in France and ramp up its investment in local originals, Netflix has unveiled three new documentaries, “Move” (working title), “Gims” (working title), and “Anelka” (working title), and the feature film “Of Earth And Blood” while at Series Mania in Lille. Announced during a panel with Netflix’s commissioning [...]

  • Charmed -- "Let This Mother Out"

    'Charmed' Showrunner Exits, Craig Shapiro & Elizabeth Kruger Board Series

    The CW’s reboot of “Charmed” is changing showrunners. Variety has learned that Carter Covington has stepped down as showrunner on the series, which has already been renewed for a second season. Husband and wife team Craig Shapiro and Elizabeth Kruger have been brought on to helm the series going forward. Shapiro and Kruger are currently [...]

  • Apple TV Plus Reese Witherspoon Jennifer

    What We Know About 'Amazing Stories' And Other Shows Coming to Apple TV+

    Viewers got a sneak peek of upcoming shows coming to Apple TV+, Apple’s newly unveiled streaming service, during the company’s live-streamed event in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday. The stars and creators of the most highly anticipated projects like Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and “The Morning Show” from Reese Witherspoon appeared on stage to reveal more [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content