Bill O’Reilly fiercely defended his coverage and questioning of Donald Trump on his show Thursday night, a day after Univision anchor Jorge Ramos accused the Fox News host of not being “tough” enough on the Republican presidential front-runner in calling out what Ramos said was “racist” language directed toward immigrants, minorities and women.
“It is becoming clear that many, perhaps most, in the media believe that journalists are not acting responsibly unless they are condemning Trump, labeling the man a bigot or worse,” O’Reilly said at the outset of a segment of his eponymous program, adding, “Not since the pre-civil rights South has the vicious head of bigotry been raised so prominently in political circles. No question the racist tag will be front and center in the upcoming presidential campaign, should Donald Trump get the Republican nomination. That will be the centerpiece of attacks against him.”
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The race card, O’Reilly declared, “is being used as an ax.” Following his interview with Trump on Wednesday night, O’Reilly said he received some 3,000 emails with decidedly varied verdicts, as usual. “I’m too kind to him, I’m condescending, I’m unfair to the candidate, I’m in the tank. Same interview. On and on,” the host said, summarizing the contents.
“As far as Mr. Ramos is concerned, he seems to be on another planet,” O’Reilly mused, referring to his sitdown with the anchor during his Wednesday show. O’Reilly defended himself against Ramos’ accusations of lightly handling Trump during their on-air discussion, telling him, “I have confronted Donald Trump in ways that he has told me that I’m unfair, OK? So I’m not gonna get into me. I want to get back to you.”
On Thursday night, O’Reilly emphasized how he has challenged Trump’s claims about building a wall between Mexico and the United States, including his declaration that the Mexican government would pay for its construction. His comments about temporarily banning Muslims, O’Reilly said, have also been challenged by his show, along with his “exaggerated” statement that Muslims in New Jersey were spotted celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“Also, I told Donald Trump that John McCain is a hero, Carly Fiorina’s appearance was no issue, that Megyn Kelly’s question about women was legit, and just last night, I said that rhetorical mudslinging will not make America great again. I said all of this to Mr. Trump’s face. I can list dozens of other issues where I’ve challenged Donald Trump, sometimes to his great annoyance,” O’Reilly said. “But I also allow him his say, and to his credit, he comes into this tough forum. He’s not afraid, as many other politicians are.”
Trump is “accessible to the voters,” O’Reilly continued, adding that the “press does not intimidate him.”
While qualifying that he personally likes Ramos and does not think he is a “phony,” O’Reilly said he is “absolutely blind on the Trump issue and he has no bleeping clue about what we do here.”
“It is not racist to shut down illegal immigration or brand Islamic terrorism a global terrorism threat. That’s not racist. It is not a mark of fascism to hold other countries accountable for treating America unfairly,” he said, adding, “I’m not in the nitpicking business. Trump and every other politician misspeak at times. The gotcha game is cheap and boring.”
He then cited his show’s ratings in sticking up for his coverage.
“You don’t stay No. 1 for 16 years by spinning, shilling or selling out,” O’Reilly said, vowing to cover Trump fairly. “For that, we will be demonized and attacked by those who despise Trump. To quote President Bush the elder, ‘Read my lips,’ I don’t care.”