O'Reilly retreats in "war on Christmas," declaring: " 'Happy Holidays' is fine'

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

On The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly apparently reversed his previous position that the phrase "Happy Holidays" is offensive, stating, " 'Happy Holidays' is fine, just don't ban 'Merry Christmas.' " O'Reilly has previously claimed the term "Happy Holidays" is offensive to "millions of Christians" and 'insulting to Christian America."

On the December 19 edition of Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly apparently reversed his previous position that the phrase "Happy Holidays" is offensive, stating, " 'Happy Holidays' is fine, just don't ban 'Merry Christmas.'" O'Reilly has previously claimed the term "Happy Holidays" is offensive to "millions of Christians" and "insulting to Christian America."

O'Reilly's comment came during an interview with Fox News analyst and former House speaker Newt Gingrich in which the two discussed the so-called "war" on Christmas. During their discussion the two criticized ABC News national correspondent Sam Donaldson for his December 18 comments on ABC's This Week that O'Reilly was hyping the "war" on Christmas to garner ratings. Gingrich declared Donaldson's remarks to be a "perfect illustration of the mainstream media's elitism," while O'Reilly stated Donaldson's remarks were evidence of "organized left-wing secular bias" in the media.

From the December 19 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Continuing now with Fox News analyst Newt Gingrich, who's been following the Christmas controversy with some interest. Our pal Sam Donaldson weighed in over the weekend on that.

DONALDSON [ABC This Week video clip]: We're accusing this media of ours of trying to get ratings. Well, Bill O'Reilly wants ratings. He wants to stroke the yahoos -- where is [writer H.L.] Mencken when we need him? -- in his audience by saying there's a war on Christmas. You can say "Merry Christmas." You can say "Happy Holidays," "Happy Hanukkah." Say whatever you want. The fact that he's simply trying to get ratings on this should not engage us to think that there's a war on Christmas.

O'REILLY: Yahoos? So --

GINGRICH: I don't think --

O'REILLY: What do you think's going on here? I mean, it's reached -- it's reached hysteria with The New York Times column yesterday [by Nicholas D. Kristof], you know, Donaldson and all these people. It has reached hysteria.

GINGRICH: Well, let me say first of all, Bill, I don't think I've ever heard a more perfect illustration of the mainstream media's elitism than what Sam Donaldson just said. Ninety-one percent of the American people believe they have the right to say, "One nation under God." Overwhelmingly, the American people believe you should be allowed to say "Merry Christmas." Seventy-eight percent of the American people believe you should be allowed to have a prayer in school. You go down this long list of beliefs. And then Donaldson describes all of those people as yahoos? Makes me wonder who he thinks his audience has been all these years.

O'REILLY: Well --

GINGRICH: The fact, you know, it just -- it tells you how elitist some of the folks are in the media.

O'REILLY: There's no question that this Christmas controversy -- there are two good things that come out of it. Number one, we won. All right, even today, and we're going to do this, Wal-Mart is the last holdout. They're now Merry Christmasing. So that's a clear victory. And number two is, it exposed the secular media for what it is, because they have all come together, with the exception of the Ventura County Star, the only newspaper that's taken our point of view. All right? Or at least, you know, said they had some kind of good argument. But for people who didn't think there was an organized left-wing secular bias, here it is, right here.

GINGRICH: You know, you're the first secular person, I think, and -- at least that I can remember, who has had the courage to stand up and take on this whole issue. And you're not a religious leader. You don't -- you're not speaking from a pulpit. You're not -- you know, normally, that's where you get this kind of response. And you've had the courage for weeks now, and I've on several occasions been with you on this, to raise this issue and raise this issue and raise this issue. And I think you have done something important for America in legitimizing that it's OK for those of us who believe in Christmas. It's OK for those of us who believe we ought to say "one nation under God." We have every right to stand up, too. And it turns out when we stand up, we overwhelmingly outnumber those who would like this to be a European secular-style society.

O'REILLY: You know, I like the debate. It's an interesting debate, but the personal attacks leveled at me and other people who have taken the position that Christmas should be respected should be -- "Happy Holidays" is fine. Just don't ban "Merry Christmas," that's all we're saying. But the personal attacks just show you how vicious and how, you know, intense this whole thing is. Give you the last word, Mr. Speaker, as always.

GINGRICH: Well, look, I think it's this intense, Bill, because in their world, they want a future that radically different. And they recognize if you're allowed to talk honestly about it, the people are going to side with you.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.