Fox New Channel’s embattled primetime host Bill O’Reilly visited Late Show With David Letterman tonight to plug NatGeo Channel’s premiere of Killing Jesus, based on his book, and to declare victory over journalists who have charged O’Reilly with inflating and/or making up claims about some of his reporting during his earlier TV journalism career.
O’Reilly told Letterman everything he’d said was “accurate.”
“We had a controversy, and we put forth what my side was, and they put forth what their side was, and folks decided. And it worked out okay for me – I got even more viewers,” O’Reilly boasted, putting his ratings spike at 20%.
“Twenty percent up, when people thought you were making stuff up?” Letterman marveled.
“But they didn’t think that, because I hit it immediately, hard, and said, ‘Look, this is the facts; this is what happened’,” the Fox News primetime star said.
O’Reilly noted he’s enjoying his 15th season at No. 1 in ratings, adding, “Our ratings are now as high as they’ve ever been,” he said, “so I think people do trust me, and I’m glad they do.”
Letterman poked at that thinking, noting suspended NBC News anchor Brian Williams was trusted by viewers, had been at the top of the evening newscast ratings for many years, and suggested the two should be held to the same standard. In the course of the extended conversation, O’Reilly noted he is now paid to “bloviate” and “give analysis,” but also said he believed NBC News should and would bring Williams back, though not necessarily as anchor of its evening newscast because it was not the best use of Williams’ talents and Lester Holt was doing a good job anchoring Nightly News during Williams’ suspension.
Last month, Brian Williams scrubbed a long-scheduled appearance on Letterman’s show in the wake of an investigation into his inflated claims about taking enemy fire while in a helicopter in Iraq. Some industry navel gazers said he missed a great opportunity by canceling. The booking was made before Stars and Stripes published its report debunking Williams’ claim he was in a Chinook helicopter that took a rocket-propelled grenade in Iraq in 2003. (Williams already had apologized for the Chinook incident and announced he was taking time off from his evening newscast. A few days later, NBC News announced Williams’ six-month suspension).
Those who’d been betting Williams would ixnay the ookingbay insisted the optics would be awful – ducking Nightly News while going on a late-night comedy show, as his division struggled to clean up the brand damage he’d created. Others, however, had argued Letterman’s show was the perfect place for Williams to start doing the Career Salvation Stations of the Cross Tour, noting Letterman has senior statesman status and that he and Williams go way back – like Letterman and O’Reilly.