March 6, 2006
On the February 24 edition of MSNBC's
Countdown with Keith Olbermann, host Keith Olbermann
devoted an entire segment to responding to Fox News host Bill
O'Reilly's March 2 threat to turn over to "Fox security" the
personal information of a caller to O'Reilly's radio show because
the caller mentioned Olbermann's name.
Describing the incident as evidence of
"trolley coming completely off the
tracks merely when my name gets mentioned," Olbermann said,
"Bill thinks he has his own police."
Olbermann also noted that O'Reilly's
threat, made on the March 2 edition of the nationally syndicated
Radio Factor and temporarily featured on the program's website,
"has been expurgated, erased from
Olbermann was referring to the fact
that, in an apparent effort to expurgate the threat, O'Reilly's
website links to a audio file of the radio show purporting to
represent the entire broadcast but is missing the section containing
the caller who mentioned Olbermann.
A Media Matters for America search
turned up the unedited version on the site as well, but it can be
found only by manually altering the URL of the edited version and is
not linked anywhere on the site. These links are available only to
"Premium Members" of billoreilly.com.
"So, now I'm expecting that soon
I'll be getting a visit from the Bill O'Reilly police, armed
with loofahs," an apparent reference to O'Reilly's October 2004
sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former Fox News producer,
in which the use of a loofah played a prominent role.
The lawsuit was settled for an
undisclosed amount of money, reportedly in the millions, on October
As Media Matters has noted, Olbermann has repeatedly awarded
O'Reilly with Countdown's "Worst Person" awards designation.
O'Reilly has responded by asserting that MSNBC "is a true ratings
disaster" and has launched a petition on his website calling for the
reinstatement of Phil Donahue, who previously hosted a show on MSNBC
in the same 8 p.m. ET time slot as Olbermann's show - and also the
same time slot in which O'Reilly's show airs on Fox News.
From the March 3 broadcast of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:
OLBERMANN: Bill O'Reilly is now
threatening callers to his radio show, at least one of whom
mentioned my name. Our third story on the Countdown -- oh, here
we go. First, it was the warnings to NBC chairman Robert Wright,
then the phone calls to NBC president Jeff Zucker, then the
petition to get me fired and Phil Donahue brought back, then the
erroneous ratings information he gave out.
Even in that context, though, this
is pretty special. Ted Baxter telling uncooperative listeners
that he'll turn their phone numbers over to Fox security, and
that Fox security will in turn contact the local authorities.
Bill thinks he has his own police.
A caller got through to O'Reilly's radio show yesterday. He
insists he used no foul language, that all he did was mention my
name, compliment my show, and ask, "Why are you always smearing
him, Bill?" And the host, using the dump button all talk radio
shows have and the seven-second delay, cut him off.
We're not certain what actually got
on the air, but this was what was posted on O'Reilly's website
as the air check for that part of the show.
O'REILLY (audio clip): Orlando, Florida. Mike, go.
CALLER: Hey, Bill, I appreciate your taking my call.
CALLER: I like to listen to you during the day. I think Keith
Olbermann's show --
O'REILLY: There you go, Mike is -- he's a gone guy. You know, we
have his -- we have your phone numbers, by the way, so if you're
listening, Mike, we have your phone number. And we're going to
turn it over to Fox security, and you'll be getting a little
E.D. HILL (co-host): Maybe Mike is from the mothership.
O'REILLY: No, maybe Mike's going to get in big trouble, because
we're not gonna play around. When you call us, ladies and
gentlemen, just so you know, we do have your phone number. And
if you say anything untoward, obscene, or anything like that,
Fox security then will contact your local authorities, and you
will be held accountable. Fair?
HILL: That's fair.
O'REILLY: So just -- all you guys who do this kind of a thing,
you know, I know some shock jocks, whatever -- you will be held
accountable. Believe it. We'll be right back.
OLBERMANN: Fox security: Hannity and Colmes come to your house
with billy clubs. Now, there is a serious part to this. What do
you mean, "We have your phone numbers"? What do you mean,
"You'll be getting a little visit"? It's a radio show. Even if a
caller swears, it's a radio show. Radio show over here, trip to
Gitmo over there. Several of the callers now claim they have
been contacted by someone identifying himself as the director of
Fox News security.
We'll get to the legalities in a
moment with a former prosecutor. First, there's this giddying
aspect of seeing the host's trolley coming completely off the
tracks merely when my name gets mentioned. This is how bad it
is. Go to the O'Reilly website now, and the call from Mike in
Orlando has been expurgated, erased from the website.
O'REILLY (audio clip): We'll be right back.
ANNOUNCER: You're in the "no spin zone" with Bill O'Reilly.
OLBERMANN: Which raises one more thing. You may recall Shepard
Smith on his afternoon newscast on Fox News on Monday:
SMITH (video clip): And take a live look at the back of the
newsroom. The floor mat says, "The spin stops here." And look at
that. O'Reilly is schooling somebody on his staff. Turn it over
to Macada (ph), his longtime assistant. And now he's asking the
cameraman, "You're not putting me on television, are you?" There
is ang -- No, O'Reilly's angry. Where's Olbermann? Let's just
throw something at Olbermann, Bill. See you in a minute. We love
you, Bill. Thank God for you.
O'REILLY: She likes it, too.
OLBERMANN: I wonder if Bill got Shepard Smith's phone number and
turned it over to Fox security. As we mentioned, this little
trip into the parallel universe of Bill O'Reilly does underscore
a fascinating point: he seems to think, or wants his listeners
to think, that if they don't cooperate, they can get into some
kind of legal trouble with Fox security. Joining me now, former
Connecticut state prosecutor Susan Filan.
OLBERMANN: One last thing. We all know Mr. O'Reilly cannot stop
himself from responding. Fail in this business for 25
uninterrupted years, then have a success, and you do wind up a
mixture of paranoia and a Napoleonic complex. So I'm going to
save him the trouble. I'm going to respond for him. Bill
O'Reilly answering this story:
"The abuse of the airwaves is a
critical problem with which the First Amendment -- MSNBC's
ratings are a disaster. Nobody pays attention to them. I do.
I watch, addicted, unable to change the channel. But they're
a disaster. So don't pay attention to MSNBC. Nobody watch
MSNBC. Nobody is watching MSNBC. If you watch, we have your
phone number, by the way. I'll turn it over to Fox security.
I told you I'd shoot, but you didn't believe me. Why didn't
you believe me?"
OK. And just so we get this ratings
thing cleared up, if you want to know what this is really all
about: On the air, Billy called this the key demos, and Fox
owners call it the money demo.
Here are the official ratings,
adults 25 to 54 for Wednesday night of this week at 8 p.m.
this program, 231,000
Nancy Grace Knows What You Did
Last Summer [CNN Headline News' Nancy Grace], 131,000
[CNN's] Paula Zahn Now, 81,000
Our audience was 75 percent of Ted
Baxter's. It isn't perfect. Then again, he's been on for nearly
10 years, and we're still a month away from our third
So, now I'm expecting that soon I'll
be getting a visit from the Bill O'Reilly police, armed with