Bill O'Reilly Rips Newspapers at Columnists' Confab

By: Dave Astor Bill O'Reilly said newspapers have a dismal future and also criticized a writer in the audience during a speech Friday at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists (NSNC) conference.

"Newspapers are dying, and there are two reasons why," said the Fox News host and Creators Syndicate newspaper columnist. "One reason is the Internet. The other is ideology."

O'Reilly contended that many newspapers are losing circulation because they've allowed the "liberal" ideology of their editorial pages to "bleed into news coverage" -- despite, he said, there being a greater number of "traditional conservatives" than liberals in the American population.

The result? "Audiences are estranged from most major newspapers," O'Reilly told the columnist attendees. "They hate you. When someone hates you, they're not going to give you their money."

He also said liberal newspaper reporters far outnumber conservative ones. Many newspaper owners and publishers are more conservative than their reporters, however.

O'Reilly specifically criticized The New York Times for not giving Page One play to the story about the men arrested for an alleged terror plot against New York's John F. Kennedy Airport. "They may be clowns, but clowns can kill people," he said. "The 9/11 guys weren't PhDs."

Some observers have said the Times put the story on a section front rather than Page One because previous announcements of alleged terror plots have often been overblown. But O'Reilly contended that the Times did it because of a liberal "political agenda."

O'Reilly said contempt for President Bush is a factor in the way many newspapers cover things. "I know you hate Bush," he told conference attendees, while acknowledging that Bush is "a hatable guy."

The speaker added that "Fox News is derided by the print press all the time."

Humor columnist Judy Epstein, speaking from the audience, criticized O'Reilly for accusing newspapers of being ideological when he and Fox News are ideological themselves.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman asked O'Reilly if any newspaper meets with his approval. "The Chicago Tribune does a pretty good job keeping ideology out of the news pages," replied O'Reilly.

The columnist in the audience criticized by O'Reilly was Mike Leonard of The Herald-Times in Bloomington, Ind. O'Reilly took issue with a Leonard column about the widely reported Indiana University study that claimed O'Reilly used insulting language on the air every few seconds.

O'Reilly called the findings "absurd," and said the so-called insults in the study included him using words like "liberal" to describe people. "Mike, you didn't mention that," O'Reilly told Leonard, whose piece appeared in an NSNC booklet filled with columns written by conference attendees. O'Reilly also criticized other facts and comments in the Leonard column.

When E&P asked Leonard for his response to the Fox News host's remarks, Leonard defended the accuracy and approach of his column. "I take it as a badge of honor to be criticized by Bill O'Reilly," added the past NSNC president.

Another attendee, columnist Dave Lieber of the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, criticized O'Reilly for often being nasty to people who criticize him. "Sometimes it's overkill," said Lieber, who noted that he thinks media people should be "bigger than that."

"I'm not bigger than that," retorted O'Reilly. "I don't mind being criticized with facts, but if you call me a racist or dishonest, I'm coming after you."

Philadelphia Daily News columnist and NSNC conference host Stu Bykofsky introduced O'Reilly to the audience by noting that the Fox News host does take liberal positions on some issues. "He favors gun control and opposes the death penalty," said Bykofsky, by way of example.

Bykofsky also said O'Reilly's description of "the far left" as "Kool-Aid drinkers" explained why conference attendees had small packets of the powdered drink placed in front of them on the meeting-room tables.


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