Fox News' Wilson falsely claimed that O'Reilly said "confrontation" with Obama staffer was "just verbal"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On Fox News' Weekend Live, reporting on an incident involving Bill O'Reilly and an aide for Sen. Barack Obama, Brian Wilson said that "Obama staffers now say the confrontation got physical," but that O'Reilly "says it was heated but just verbal." But when Wilson had earlier interviewed O'Reilly about the incident, O'Reilly had repeatedly said he had "removed" or "gently removed" the Obama aide from in front of The O'Reilly Factor's camera.

On the January 5 edition of Fox News' Weekend Live, discussing an incident between Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and Marvin Nicholson, a staffer for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), at an event in Nashua, New Hampshire, anchor Brian Wilson said that "Obama staffers now say the confrontation got physical," but that O'Reilly "says it was heated but just verbal." Wilson then aired a clip from an interview he had conducted with O'Reilly earlier in the program, in which O'Reilly claimed: "I might have called him an SOB. That's possible ... but nothing more than that." In the clip Wilson aired, O'Reilly was responding to Wilson's question, "Were there any profanities uttered?" In fact, while O'Reilly denied there had been a "scuffle" during the same interview, he also repeatedly said that he had "removed" or "gently removed" Nicholson from in front of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor's camera.

Other media reports described O'Reilly's confrontation with Nicholson as physical. Slate.com's John Dickerson reported in a January 5 article that O'Reilly "shoved" Nicholson:

At first, the railing where O'Reilly stood wasn't very populated. Then, as the Obama team saw who was laying in wait, they started to huddle. Staffers started to arrive at the scene. Three policemen showed up, too. One of them stood in front of O'Reilly until O'Reilly asked him to move. One of Obama's staffers, Marvin Nicholson, took up the same post, standing in front of the Fox camera as Obama neared the door.

"You're blocking our shot," yelled O'Reilly.

"Oh, am I?" asked the Obama staffer, not entirely sincerely, and not moving.

This is not a new trick. When staffers block you because you're being too aggressive, the standard thing to do is give them a little business and then move to another spot. O'Reilly didn't do this. He shoved the Obama aide. There was an exchange and a little more shoving. I didn't fully capture it because as I looked at O'Reilly in his black leather Fox jacket, which resembled the kind we wore during football season in high school, I swore I could hear him challenge the staffer to a rumble out by the drive-in.

Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet wrote in a January 5 post to her blog that, according to "several eyewitnesses," "O'Reilly grabbed Nicholson's arm and shoved him," and that "Secret Service agents who were nearby flanked O'Reilly after he pushed Nicholson." And in a January 5 post on The Boston Globe's Political Intelligence blog, staff writer Sasha Issenberg wrote that "Secret Service officials separated O'Reilly and Obama aide Marvin Nicholson after the Fox News Channel personality grabbed Nicholson on a post-speech rope line in a high-school gym here. According to a witness, O'Reilly reached with two hands for Nicholson -- who at 6-foot-8 had a slight height advantage over O'Reilly -- because he stood between O'Reilly's cameraman and Obama as the newsman called out for the candidate's attention."

From the 3 p.m. ET hour of the January 5 edition of Fox News' Weekend Live:

WILSON: Now, I want to mention that, earlier today, there was some sort of incident between Fox's Bill O'Reilly and a staffer for Barack Obama. We thought that we would go straight to the source on this and ask the host of the Factor himself what happened there. There are many, many reports about this; some of them are on the blogs. Bill O'Reilly's on the phone now.

Bill, you're at an Obama event, you're standing in a rope line -- a rope line where the candidate is coming by shaking hands with people in the rope line -- what happened?

O'REILLY: Well, let me set the scene a little bit more than that, Brian. First, we visited [Sen.] Hillary Clinton's [D-NY] campaign and -- trying to get a question in to the senator. Couldn't quite do that, but we did get an interesting back-and-forth from her on the stage to me standing there, and that was -- it went fine, it was no problem. Then we went over to the Nashua event that [Fox News congressional correspondent] Major Garrett just described, and it was a big zoo, thousands of people there, and we set up our camera to try to get a question to Senator Obama.

So a big guy comes over, I guess he's about 6-foot-8, according to the press reports, and he stands right in front of the Factor camera. So I asked him, you know, fairly nicely, "You're blocking our shot, sir, you need to move a little bit" -- and the cameraman that I had actually moved away from him. He moved right in front of the cameraman again to block our shot. So I had to gently remove him from that position, Brian.

WILSON: All right, let me ask you a quick couple more questions. I got about 90 seconds before I have to go to a break. There are reports that there was a scuffle. Was there a scuffle?

O'REILLY: No, no scuffle at all. I just removed him from in front of the camera.

WILSON: We have heard reports that there may have been profanities uttered. Were there any profanities uttered?

O'REILLY: I might have called him an SOB. That's possible --

WILSON: All right.

O'REILL: -- but nothing, nothing more than that.

WILSON: And there's also a report that the Secret Service had to restrain you. Did that happen?

O'REILLY: Oh, that is absolutely ridiculous, because about 10 seconds after I gently removed the man from in front of our camera, I actually spoke to Barack Obama. And the Secret Service guys let me right by, and we had a nice little chat, which you'll hear on the Factor Monday night.

WILSON: Yeah, you're in fact going to show all of -- we have some limited tape of this coming in, in a while, so we'll be able to show some version of it --

O'REILLY: Right.

WILSON: -- but you'll show your version on the Factor Monday, correct?

O'REILLY: That's right. And we're sorry we had to have that little confrontation but no one on this earth is going to block a shot on The O'Reilly Factor. It is not going to happen.

WILSON: Bill O'Reilly, thank you very much for being with us here on Weekend Live.

O'REILLY: OK, Brian.

WILSON: We appreciate you taking the call.

[...]

WILSON: But I want to talk about this incident that occurred earlier today, an incident between Bill -- Fox's Bill O'Reilly and a Barack Obama staffer at an Obama campaign stop. Obama staffers now say the confrontation got physical. We gave the Factor host a call in the last hour to find out what happened; O'Reilly says it was heated but just verbal. Take a listen.

[begin video clip]

NICHOLSON: After he shoved me and after he was done yelling at me, I went -- I just went over and I asked -- I said, "Sir, I'd just really appreciate it if you wouldn't shove me anymore."

[...]

O'REILLY: I might have called him an SOB. That's possible --

WILSON: All right.

O'REILLY: -- but nothing more than that.

[end video clip]

WILSON: So, there you have Bill O'Reilly, and the first gentleman you saw was a man by the name of Marvin Nicholson, who, by the way, is 6-foot-8 inches tall -- big guy. He's considered Barack Obama's body guy, the guy that is always beside Barack Obama. This happened on a rope line and as the cameras came close, Bill came closer -- as the candidate came closer, Bill O'Reilly says he tried to get a shot, that Marvin Nicholson got in the way. There was some kind of confrontation that went on between the two.

Bill O'Reilly says he may have called the guy an SOB. At the end of it all, however, Barack Obama did come over for a moment and talk to Bill O'Reilly. We are told that that conversation lasted less than a minute. Now, Bill O'Reilly has his own tape of this incident, and they're going to show whatever happened in this kerfuffle on Monday on the Factor.

So, we report, you decide. We'll look at Bill's tape -- we'll try to figure out what happened here -- but it is the topic of much discussion here in Manchester today, and, of course, on those ever-present blogs.

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