Fox New Channel’s embattled primetime host Bill O’Reilly will rush in where Brian Williams, embattled NBC News anchor, feared to tread: on David Letterman’s Late Show. O’Reilly will be Letterman’s guest Tuesday night, purportedly to plug NatGeo Channel’s premiere of Killing Jesus, an adaptation of O’Reilly’s book of the same name.
But expect Letterman to lob at least one question O’Reilly’s way regarding the mass of reports that O’Reilly inflated and/or made up claims about some of his reporting during his earlier TV journalism career.
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 announced he was taking time off from his evening newscast and, 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’s 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. Plus, Letterman’s show was one of the places were Williams made his bogus claim about having been on the helicopter that took the RPG attack.
An apology to Letterman on his show would actually look good, said enthusiasts of that aborted booking. Letterman, they’d insisted, would be the perfect person to hold Williams’ hand as he did a TV mea culpa — having himself demonstrated in 2009 how to make Late Show a platform for a confession, using the studio audience’s applause and laughter to begin the process of public forgiveness.