The Bill O’Reilly controversy has been floating around for several weeks, without really gaining much traction in the so-called liberal media. Now, a former colleague of O’Reilly’s at Fox News has come forward to say that what some have been saying about O’Reilly for years — that he lies to pad his resume — is 100 percent correct.
Eric Burns, who hosted the show “Fox News Watch” for ten years, sat down with CNN’s Brian Stelter on March 8. What he tells Stelter about O’Reilly, and the controversy surrounding him, is eye opening.
Stelter introduces his conversation with Burns by bringing up O’Reilly’s claim that he saw nuns get shot in El Salvador. O’Reilly has been forced to backtrack on those claims, and even nuns are criticizing him for making false statements about what he witnessed.
“Does this make sense to you, that he’s [O’Reilly’s] been puffing up his credentials?” Stelter asks Burns.
Burns observes that O’Reilly has not just been “puffing up his credentials,” but that in fact O’Reilly’s ratings are up since the controversy about his statements surrounding his “war zone” coverage began.
“I think the way to understand this, is to make a distinction between the words ‘culture,’ and ‘cult,'” Burns says. “I’m saying the people who watch Fox News are cult-ish.”
Burns explains why he thinks that is the case.
The extreme right. They never had their own television station. When they got one, their appreciation, their audience loyalty — and I know what the audience loyalty was like when I was there — their audience loyalty soared. And so O’Reilly as the head of the cult is not held to the same standards as Brian Williams, who was part of the media culture, the larger culture.
Keith Olbermann was documenting O’Reilly’s lies, and no one was paying attention.
Next, Burns says something that many of us have known for years: Keith Olbermann had the goods on O’Reilly long ago. Burns mentions Olbermann’s book, “The Worst Person In the World,” in which O’Reilly appears a number of times. Burns says that Olbermann’s claims about O’Reilly’s repeated lying were completely accurate. “Olbermann had all the evidence possible,” Burns tells Stelter.
“No one expects much out of O’Reilly, as a Fox News host,” Burns says. “No one expects the truth. He’s been caught in numerous lies, and those have never been a story.” Burns also says that O’Reilly is only a story now because of Brian Williams, and because O’Reilly made up his stories while working for CBS.
“To the Fox News cult, this kind of thing doesn’t matter. It’s a lie from the liberal media. Who cares what it is? The point is, it doesn’t matter,” Burns concludes.
Burns also has some interesting comments about Fox News boss Roger Ailes, and the direction he has taken the network. Burns says, “I thought that as Fox got more and more popular, that Roger Ailes, who runs the network, would think, ‘well, the right has nowhere else to go. So If I move a little more to the center, I can get a bigger audience, and not lose my core audience.’ He did just the opposite.”
Here’s the video, via Media Matters: