William James O’Reilly, Jr. (born September 10, 1949), known as Bill O’Reilly, is an American television host, author, historian, journalist, syndicated columnist, and political commentator. He is the host of the political commentary program The O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel. During the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked as a news reporter for various local television stations in the United States and eventually for CBS News and ABC News. From 1989 to 1995, he was anchor of the news magazine program Inside Edition.
O’Reilly is widely considered a conservative commentator, though some of his positions diverge from conservative orthodoxy. O’Reilly is registered as a member of the Independence Party of New York, and was formerly registered as a Republican (see: Political views of Bill O’Reilly) and characterizes himself as a “traditionalist.” O’Reilly is the author of over a dozen books, and hosted The Radio Factor until early 2009
O’Reilly was born on September 10, 1949, at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, to parents William James, Sr., (deceased) and Winifred Angela (Drake) O’Reilly, from Brooklyn and Teaneck, New Jersey, respectively. O’Reilly is of Irish descent, along with a small amount of English (Colonial American) ancestry. Some of his father’s ancestors lived in County Cavan, Ireland, since the early eighteenth century, and on his mother’s side, he has ancestry from Northern Ireland. The O’Reilly family lived in a small apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey, when their son was born. In 1951 his family moved to Levittown, on Long Island. O’Reilly has a sister, Janet.
He attended St. Brigid parochial school in Westbury, and Chaminade High School, a private Catholic boys high school in Mineola. His father wanted him to attend Chaminade, but Bill wanted to attend W. Tresper Clarke High School, the public school most of his closest friends would attend. Bill O’Reilly played Little League baseball and was the goalie on the Chaminade varsity hockey team. During his high school years, O’Reilly met future pop-singer icon Billy Joel, whom O’Reilly described as a “hoodlum”. O’Reilly recollected in an interview with Michael Kay on the YES Network show CenterStage that Joel “was in the Hicksville section—the same age as me—and he was a hood. He used to slick it [his hair] back like this. And we knew him, because his guys would smoke and this and that, and we were more jocks.”
After graduating from high school in 1967, O’Reilly attended Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, his father’s choice. While at Marist, O’Reilly played punter in the National Club Football Association and was also a writer for the school’s newspaper, The Circle. An honors student, he majored in history. He spent his junior year of college abroad, attending Queen Mary College at the University of London. O’Reilly received his bachelor of arts degree in history in 1971. He played semi-professional baseball during this time as a pitcher for the New York Monarchs. After graduating from Marist College, O’Reilly moved to Miami, where he taught English and history at Monsignor Pace High School from 1970 to 1972. O’Reilly returned to school in 1973 and earned a master of arts degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. While attending Boston University, he was a reporter and columnist for various local newspapers and alternative news weeklies, including the Boston Phoenix, and did an internship in the newsroom of WBZ-TV. During his time at BU, O’Reilly also was a classmate of future radio talk show host Howard Stern, whom O’Reilly noticed because Stern was the only student on campus taller than he was. In 1995, having established himself as a national media personality, O’Reilly was accepted to Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; he received a master of public administration degree in 1996. At Harvard, he was a student of Marvin Kalb.
O’Reilly’s early television news career included reporting and anchoring positions at WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he also reported the weather. At WFAA-TV in Dallas, O’Reilly was awarded the Dallas Press Club Award for excellence in investigative reporting. He then moved to KMGH-TV in Denver, where he won a local Emmy Award for his coverage of a skyjacking. O’Reilly also worked for KATU in Portland, Oregon, WFSB in Hartford, Connecticut, and WNEV-TV (now WHDH-TV) in Boston.
In 1980 O’Reilly anchored the local news-feature program 7:30 Magazine at WCBS-TV in New York. Soon after, as a WCBS News anchor and correspondent, he won his second local Emmy, for an investigation of corrupt city marshals. In 1982 he was promoted to the network as a CBS News correspondent.
For CBS, O’Reilly covered the wars in El Salvador on location, and in the Falkland Islands from his base in Buenos Aires, Argentina. O’Reilly left CBS over a dispute concerning the uncredited use in a report by Bob Schieffer of footage of a riot in response to the military junta’s surrender, shot by O’Reilly’s crew in Buenos Aires shortly after the conclusion of the war.
In 1986, O’Reilly joined ABC News as a correspondent. He had delivered a eulogy for his friend Joe Spencer, an ABC News correspondent who died in a helicopter crash on January 22, 1986, en route to covering the Hormel meatpacker strike. ABC News president Roone Arledge, who attended Spencer’s funeral, decided to hire O’Reilly after hearing the eulogy. At ABC, O’Reilly hosted daytime news briefs that previewed stories to be reported on the day’s World News Tonight and worked as a general assignment reporter for ABC News programs, including Good Morning America, Nightline, and World News Tonight.
O’Reilly has said that his interest and style in media came from several CBS and ABC personalities, including Mike Wallace, Howard Cosell, Dick Snyder and Peter Jennings.
Main article: Inside Edition
In 1989 O’Reilly joined the nationally syndicated King World (now CBS Television Distribution)-produced Inside Edition, a tabloid/gossip television program in competition with A Current Affair. He became the program’s anchor three weeks into its run, after the termination of original anchor David Frost. In addition to being one of the first American broadcasters to cover the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, O’Reilly also obtained the first exclusive interview with murderer Joel Steinberg and was the first television host from a national current affairs program on the scene of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Former NBC News and CBS News anchor Deborah Norville replaced O’Reilly on Inside Edition in 1995; O’Reilly had expressed a desire to quit the show in July 1994. He then enrolled in September 1995 at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he received a master’s degree in public administration. His graduate thesis, which he researched in Singapore, was titled Theory of Coerced Drug Rehabilitation. In his thesis, O’Reilly asserted that supervised mandatory drug rehabilitation would reduce crime, based on the rate of prison return for criminals in Alabama who enrolled in such a program.
The O’Reilly Factor
Main article: The O’Reilly Factor
After Harvard, he was hired by Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of the then startup Fox News Channel, to anchor The O’Reilly Report in October 1996. The show was renamed The O’Reilly Factor, after O’Reilly’s friend and branding expert John Tantillo’s remarks upon the “O’Reilly Factor” in any of the stories O’Reilly told. The program is routinely the highest-rated show of the three major U.S. 24-hour cable news television channels and began the trend toward more opinion-oriented prime-time cable news programming. The show is taped late in the afternoon at a studio in New York City and airs every weekday on the Fox News Channel at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time and is rebroadcast at 11:00 p.m.
Until early 2009, O’Reilly hosted a radio program that had more than 3.26 million listeners and was carried by more than 400 radio stations. According to the talk radio industry publication Talkers Magazine, O’Reilly was No. 11 on the “Heavy Hundred”, a list of the 100 most important talk show hosts in America. Conservative Internet news site NewsMax’s “Top 25 Talk Radio Host” list selected O’Reilly to the No. 2 spot as most influential host in the nation.
O’Reilly’s life and career have not been without controversy. Progressive media watchdog organizations such as Media Matters and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have criticized O’Reilly’s reporting on a variety of issues, accusing him of distorting facts and using misleading or erroneous statistics.
After the September 11 attacks, O’Reilly accused the United Way of America and American Red Cross of failing to deliver millions of dollars in donated money, raised by the organizations in the name of the disaster, to the families of those killed in the attacks. O’Reilly reported that the organizations misrepresented their intentions for the money being raised by not distributing all of the 9/11 relief fund to the victims. Actor George Clooney responded, accusing O’Reilly of misstating facts and harming the relief effort by inciting “panic” among potential donors.
Beginning in 2005, O’Reilly periodically denounced George Tiller, a Kansas-based physician who specialized in second- and third-trimester abortions, often referring to him as “Tiller the baby killer”. Tiller was murdered on May 31, 2009, by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion activist. Critics such as Salon.com’s Gabriel Winant have asserted that O’Reilly’s anti-Tiller rhetoric helped to create an atmosphere of violence around the doctor. Jay Bookman of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that O’Reilly “clearly went overboard in his condemnation and demonization of Tiller”, but added that it was “irresponsible to link O’Reilly” to Tiller’s murder. O’Reilly has responded to the criticism by saying “no backpedaling here … every single thing we said about Tiller was true.”
In early 2007, researchers from the Indiana University School of Journalism published a report that analyzed O’Reilly’s “Talking Points Memo” segment. Using analysis techniques developed in the 1930s by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, the study concluded that O’Reilly used propaganda, frequently engaged in name calling, and consistently cast non-Americans as threats and never “in the role of victim or hero.” O’Reilly responded, asserting that “the terms ‘conservative’, ‘liberal’, ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘progressive’, ‘traditional’ and ‘centrist’ were considered name-calling if they were associated with a problem or social ill.” The study’s authors said that those terms were only considered name-calling when linked to derogatory qualifiers. Fox News producer Ron Mitchell wrote an op-ed in which he accused the study’s authors of seeking to manipulate their research to fit a predetermined outcome. Mitchell argued that by using tools developed for examining propaganda, the researchers presupposed that O’Reilly propagandized.
O’Reilly was the main inspiration for comedian Stephen Colbert’s satirical character on the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, which featured Colbert in a “full-dress parody” of The O’Reilly Factor. On the show, Colbert referred to O’Reilly as “Papa Bear”. O’Reilly and Colbert exchanged appearances on each other’s shows in January 2007.
Speaking on ABC’s Good Morning America on March 18, 2003, O’Reilly promised that “[i]f the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it’s clean [of weapons of mass destruction] … I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again.” In another appearance on the same program on February 10, 2004, O’Reilly responded to repeated requests for him to honor his pledge: “My analysis was wrong and I’m sorry. I was wrong. I’m not pleased about it at all.” With regard to never again trusting the current U.S. government, he said, “I am much more skeptical of the Bush administration now than I was at that time.”
On May 10, 2008, O’Reilly was presented with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Governors’ Award at an Emmy awards show dinner
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