November 10, 2015
George Will goes on The O’Reilly Factor to explain why O’Reilly’s book is “nonsensical”
by Mark Krotov
Poor Bill O’Reilly can’t seem to catch a break. Last time we checked in with America’s most insecure blowhard, the writer and TV host was trying—unsuccessfully—to wage war against Publishers Weekly over the magazine’s (non-)treatment of Killing Reagan, the newest book in his assassination fan-fiction series. A very diplomatic magazine, Publishers Weekly very diplomatically told O’Reilly that he was full of it, and the scandal died down.
But O’Reilly’s avant-garde promotional strategy for Reagan extends beyond esoteric conflicts with publishing industry trade publications. Last Friday, for example, O’Reilly decided that the best way to get some extra attention for Killing Reagan—a book about how Ronald Reagan was not killed—was to give airtime to Republican columnist and human-owl hybrid George Will, who really hated Killing Reagan.
Like the Publishers Weekly fight, the showdown did not go well for O’Reilly.
In a column published in last Thursday’s Washington Post titled “Bill O’Reilly slanders Ronald Reagan,” Will accused O’Reilly of slandering Reagan. According to Will, O’Reilly, and his cowriter Martin Dugard, “will distort public understanding of Ronald Reagan’s presidency more than hostile but conscientious scholars could.” Will’s column reads like an angry Mad Libs:
cultural pathology of self-validating vehemence with blustery certitudes substituting for evidence . . . tissue of unsubstantiated assertions . . . flimsy . . . pretense of scholarship . . . lurid . . . irrelevant tidbits . . . unspecifically and implausibly . . . sexual factoids . . . preposterous premise . . . perfunctory . . . regurgitated slanders . . . nonsensical history and execrable citizenship
Hey, look, I think I’ve just written the cover copy for the paperback release!
Anyway, O’Reilly wasn’t happy about Will’s column, and so he invited Will on his show, The O’Reilly Factor, presumably so he could say mean things to his guest. However the result was, in the words of the Washington Post, an “epic clash.”
In case you don’t have your headphones with you, O’Reilly calls Will a hack (twice) and says Will “libeled Bill O’Reilly.” Will, meanwhile, says that O’Reilly is “something of an expert on actively misleading people.” Which is to say that the entire video is delicious and absurd, and only the most Panglossian book publicist could argue that the segment made the author of Killing Reagan look anything other than, well, shrill and untrustworthy.
If you’re desperate to learn more about what O’Reilly and Will’s historic tussle really means, be sure to read Gabriel Sherman’s fascinating and thorough assessment in New York. Sherman, who wrote a biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes, says that the O’Reilly segment was, in part, the result of a power struggle at the network.
We can only hope that this power struggle brings us more delightful misadventures in book publicity.
Mark Krotov was a senior editor at Melville House.