When Fox News host Bill O’Reilly chose to bring his interview on ESPN Radio to an abrupt halt on Monday, nobody was more confused than the show’s host, Dan Le Batard.
“Do you know why he reacted like that?” Le Batard asked TPM in an email on Tuesday. “Was weird to me given that he asks tough questions for a living and that was a pretty gentle one.”
O’Reilly seemed fine for much of the interview, comfortably responding to questions about his latest book, his days as a young athlete and even his ability to dance. He didn’t even get too bent out of shape when he was asked a question about his arch-nemesis, former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann.
But when Le Batard asked for an example of anything in O’Reilly’s career that has brought him “shame,” the Fox host tensed up.
“Nope,” O’Reilly said, choosing to discuss only the achievements of his top-rated Fox News program.
Unsatisfied with those perfunctory answers, Le Batard pressed, imploring O’Reilly to identify the episode that caused him the “most unrest” in his career. That was the last straw for O’Reilly, who thanked Le Batard before ending the phone interview.
O’Reilly’s defensive reaction to the questioning, which Le Batard has appropriately described as “gentle,” left listeners to wonder he suddenly didn’t like the direction of the interview. Le Batard insisted he wasn’t angling for O’Reilly to delve into anything specific.
“I was not getting at anything,” Le Batard told TPM. “I was curious.”
One instance of professional turbulence that Le Batard could have asked about was a 2004 sexual harassment lawsuit against O’Reilly. The suit by former “O’Reilly Factor” producer Andrea Mackris was eventually settled, but not before the release of a lurid transcript of O’Reilly’s phone calls to the plaintiff. Was any of that on Le Batard’s mind?
“Didn’t even know about it til after the interview,” he told TPM.
Le Batard said he probably wouldn’t have gone there even if he had been aware of the case, but he always planned on playing the viral clip of a young O’Reilly losing his cool on the set of “Inside Edition.”
Le Batard also defended himself after the interview, telling listeners that O’Reilly had agreed to a “transaction” when he came on the show. O’Reilly had a book to sell, Le Batard explained, and he could use the radio show to promote said book as long as he answered the host’s questions.
The decision to book the cable news conquerer appears to have been nothing more than that.
“I watch him very little. We take famous people that are promoting stuff,” Le Batard told TPM.