Turning Ronald Reagan into a divisive political figure, conservative columnist George Will and Fox network personality Bill O’Reilly engaged in an epic bickering match on Friday night, over O’Reilly’s book “Killing Reagan.” O’Reilly brought George Will, who is also a Fox contributor, on air to dispute Will’s critical review of ”Killing Reagan.”
O’Reilly began the interview by accusing Will of breaking an alleged promise to Fox News Executive Vice President Michael Clemente that he would call O’Reilly before the column was published. Will denied the allegation and the two men squabbled back and forth over the charge.
Then the two quarreled over the substance of O’Reilly’s book, which argues that President Reagan spent the waning days of his presidency watching soap operas as he became unable to carry out the duties of the job. Will blasted O’Reilly for not using the resources at the Reagan Library during the writing of the book, and he slammed the book for including “slanderous assessments of the president from some disgruntled Reagan staffers” that had been “refuted by minute-by-minute records in the Reagan Library.”
As the argument got more and more heated, O’Reilly called George Will a liar who was ”actively misleading the American people”. Will shot back, insulting O’Reilly, by saying ”you’re something of an expert on actively misleading people.”
Bill O’Reilly insisted that his book was favorable to Ronald Reagan, but George Will disagreed, arguing:
It is not a laudatory book. It is doing the work of the left, which knows in order to discredit conservatism it must destroy Reagan’s reputation as the president. Your book does the work of the American left with its extreme recklessness.
Shortly thereafter an angry O’Reilly fired back, saying:
That isn’t a lie, and we can prove it. And you are a hack. Bye.
With that O’Reilly brought the interview to an abrupt end.
The problem for both Bill O’Reilly and George Will is that they are each conservative ideologues with big egos, who play loose with the facts when it suits their political agenda. Normally, they compliment one another, because they share the same arrogance and nearly identical right-wing views.
However, just as the Republicans in the House no longer seem to be able to get along, and just as the GOP presidential contenders often devolve into name calling and whining about unfairness, Will and O’Reilly demonstrate that American conservatives do not play well with others. The bickering match between O’Reilly and George Will was a train wreck, but it highlighted the increasing inability of Republican pundits and politicians alike to approach disagreements in a civil manner.