It’s safe to say that Bill O’Reilly isn’t a happy camper this weekend. That’s because George Will wrote this column that questioned the intellectual integrity or Mr. O’Reilly’s book Killing Reagan. After Will wrote the column, Mr. O’Reilly invited him onto the O’Reilly Factor to be interviewed. Mr. O’Reilly’s first question to Will was “Fox News Hard News Chief Michael Clemente, who you know, told us that you told him that you would call me before the column was published. Did you call me?” Mr. Will’s response was “No and I didn’t promise to call you. You have my phone number and if you wanted to call me…” That’s when Mr. O’Reilly interrupted, saying “I couldn’t care less about it. I didn’t know what you were writing. Now are you calling Mr. Clemente a liar?”
At that point, it’s clear that O’Reilly’s temper got the better of him. Will refused to take the bait, instead saying “No I’m not. I’m saying that you either got it wrong — it would not be the first time.” Despite Mr. Will’s attempt to lower the temperature, O’Reilly refused. Eventually, things devolved to the point of Mr. O’Reilly called George Will a “hack.”
Though they didn’t talk about it during the interview, it’s highly possible that Will’s characterization that O’Reilly fancies himself as an “investigative historian” got Mr. O’Reilly upset. What Will wrote is important:
When Reagan’s unsatisfactory Chief of Staff Don Regan was replaced by Howard Baker, a Baker aide wrote a memo that included slanderous assessments of the president from some disgruntled Regan staffers. This memo, later regretted by its author, became, O’Reilly says, the “centerpiece” of his book. On this flimsy reed he leans the fiction (refuted by minute-by-minute records in the Reagan Library) that, in O’Reilly’s words, “a lot of days” Reagan never left the White House’s second floor, where he watched “soap operas all day long.”
First, O’Reilly accepts as Gospel fact that Will promised to call O’Reilly. O’Reilly knows this because O’Reilly’s staff said that they’d heard that Will promised Michael Clemente that he’d call O’Reilly after he’d written the article. O’Reilly didn’t even say that he spoke directly with Mr. Clemente. If that had happened, then it would be potentially believable. O’Reilly said himself that he didn’t hear directly from Mr. Clemente. In a court of law, that’s ‘s called hearsay and it’s inadmissible. It has the intellectual heft of gossip, which is why it isn’t admissible in court.
It’s important to note that the White House keeps track of the President’s comings and goings. It also tracks who visits the White House, including the time and date of the visit. It’s more than strange that a supposedly well-researched book like Killing Reagan didn’t say specifically how many times “Reagan never left the White House’s second floor.” We’re left to believe that unnamed White House staffers didn’t accurately record President Reagan’s movements.
That’s difficult to believe considering the fact that the Reagan Library has “minute-by-minute records” refuting O’Reilly’s statements in the book. Perhaps that’s why O’Reilly didn’t use the information stored in the Reagan Library.
One of the people that Will cites in his article is a woman known as Mari Maseng. Here’s that paragraph:
For example, Mari Maseng worked with Reagan at the beginning and the end of his presidency. She worked with him as a speechwriter from 1981 to 1983. (As author of the speech he delivered at the Washington Hilton, she was walking ahead of him when the would-be assassin fired.) She returned to the White House in 1986 as director of public liaison. In 1988, as communications director, she worked down the hall from the Oval Office, having constant interactions with him. She saw no diminution of his physical energy or mental acuity.
According the Washington Post, “Mari Maseng is now Mari Will, the writer’s wife.” Mari Will’s birds-eye account of Reagan is credible because it’s a firsthand report from a person with nothing to gain.