On MSNBC's Countdown, host Keith Olbermann devoted an entire segment to responding to Bill O'Reilly's 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. Olbermann commented: "Bill thinks he has his own police."
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On the March 3 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 O'Reilly's "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 the website." 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.
Olbermann concluded: "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 28, 2004.
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 visit.
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. Eastern. O'Reilly, 309,000; 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 ain't perfect. Then again, he's been on for nearly 10 years, and we're still a month away from our third anniversary. So, now I'm expecting that soon I'll be getting a visit from the Bill O'Reilly police, armed with loofahs.