The former king of cable news enters THR's no-spin zone to discuss his exit amid harassment claims, the president's Charlottesville remarks, Megyn Kelly's Putin sit-down and his latest 'Killing' book.
Bill O'Reilly has scores to settle — with his accusers, the media and the "far-left precincts" that have "viciously attacked" and plotted to "destroy" him. But on this September afternoon, the former king of conservative cable — host for 20 years of Fox News' top-rated The O'Reilly Factor — is trying his best to play nice. He (gently) chides President Trump for his comments about some neo-Nazis being "very fine people" before coming to his old friend's defense ("He acts and he speaks emotionally, OK?"). He compliments Megyn Kelly's interview with Vladimir Putin ("She asked the right questions"), albeit in a backhanded way ("but I'd get right into his face"). He shows restraint when asked about his former employers at Fox, who in April fired O'Reilly, then making $25 million a year, after accusations of sexual harassment. Those accusations are false, he insists, hinting that "stuff will come out."
What O'Reilly, 67, does want to talk about is the latest historical book in his best-selling Killing series (17 million copies in print): Killing England, out Sept. 19, which tells the story of the American Revolution through the eyes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. He's also eager to share plans for the expansion of his online empire, billoreilly.com (now produced out of his Long Island home but soon to move into studios in Manhattan), as well as his thoughts on someday returning to cable TV (he's been pursued by One America News, and his name keeps popping up in reports about the Sinclair-Tribune merger that could spawn a competitor to Fox News). "I've got to feel the odds of success are high," he says, "because I don't need to do a project just for the sake of doing a project. I got plenty of stuff."
You mentioned on a recent podcast that you've had offers to return to TV. Are you near a decision?
I haven't decided. There are some interesting projects in development, as they say in Hollywood, but it has to be the right situation. I'm waiting to see very specific details of the projects that people have pitched to us. And there have been many. I think by early October, we should have a pretty good vision of what we're going to do.
Did you pass on One America News? After publicly pursuing you, the head of that company tweeted in June that he was "pulling" his offer.
Yeah. I didn't make any yes or no one that. He was a very nice guy, and I thought I treated him very respectfully. But at that point, you know, we weren't going to make any decisions about long-term projects. So they, I guess, lost patience.