Why Bill O'Reilly Won't Suffer Same Fate as Brian Williams

Bill O'Reilly - P 2015
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Bill O'Reilly - P 2015

The Fox New Channel personality — who has been accused of exaggerating the danger he faced covering the 1982 Falklands conflict — is considered more of an opinion host rather than the face of a brand, which earns him more leeway, experts say.

This story first appeared in the March 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Bill O'Reilly offered on Feb. 23 his most forceful rebuttal yet of charges he exaggerated the danger he faced covering the 1982 Falklands conflict, playing footage from CBS News and an interview with a former NBC News bureau chief who bolstered O'Reilly's claims. At the same time, he warned a New York Times reporter in a phone conversation to tread carefully. "I am coming after you with everything I have," said O'Reilly. "You can take it as a threat."

The media has made parallels between Brian Williams' misstatements about a 2003 reporting trip to Iraq and O'Reilly's recollections about being in Buenos Aires. But news experts agree O'Reilly, 65, does not face the same loss of credibility as the suspended Williams, who, as the anchor of NBC's Nightly News, is the face of the company's news brand rather than an opinion host. "They are very different cases," says Dan Hill, president of Washington's Ervin Hill Strategy. "People know what they're getting with Bill O'Reilly."

Fox News executives have unequivocally supported O'Reilly.

"Fox News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes and all senior management are in full support of Bill O'Reilly,” the network has said in a statement. 

Meanwhile NBC has suspended Williams for six months without pay and announced an investigation. "These revelations, whether they're true or not, conform to O'Reilly's image rather than contradict it," notes analyst Andrew Tyndall. "So in what way is he being undermined by them?"