Who is Bill O'Reilly? Is he a patriot? A blowhard? A braggart? A bully?
Well, it turns out, there's a lot more to him than any of that. Since Mike Wallace sat down with him in 2004, he has maintained his domination of cable news, competitors have tried to copy him, and four nights a week, perhaps the ultimate flattery, Steven Colbert parodies him on Comedy Central. But Wallace found the man, talking about himself, full of surprises, and he began with one.
"You know, you're responsible for this O'Reilly deal," he said to Wallace. "And I always tell everybody, 'You got a problem with me? You call Mike Wallace. He's responsible for the O'Reilly deal.'"
"What are you talking about?" asks Wallace.
"When I was growing up, I didn't care about the news at all. I had no interest in the news. But my father liked you," says O'Reilly. "And I said, 'That guy, he's pretty interesting because he's giving people a hard time.' Which is what you did. So then, when I got older, there were three guys that I watched: you, Howard Cosell … and Tom Snyder, because Snyder knew how to work that camera. You were the three. So you're responsible."
Wallace called O'Reilly on his constant finger pointing. "I can't stop," says O'Reilly, who does a lot of pointing on his nightly Fox News Channel program, "The O'Reilly Factor."
Does O'Reilly enjoy the arguing? Does he enjoy taking on people on his show?
"Sure. It's a battle of wits, who's the quicker draw intellectually," says O'Reilly. "I enjoy the joust. And I think people enjoy watching the joust – one of the reasons we're real successful."
"The O'Reilly Factor" is the highest-rated hours on any cable news channel. O'Reilly told Wallace that over 20 million people a week watch the show. But there are millions more who hear him on radio stations.
He's also a syndicated columnist and a best-selling author – all of it made possible by the enormous success of his cable show.
The concept was simple enough: bring the Op-Ed page to television. "The O'Reilly Factor" is all about opinions: O'Reilly's opinions.
And the Factor Formula works. It's made him incredibly popular and incredibly unpopular, too.
"When I tell people I'm gonna do a profile of O'Reilly, 'Oh, wonderful, wonderful. Don't let 'em off the hook. Go get 'em. Bring 'em down. You're the guy who can do it,'" says Wallace on reaction to his interview with O'Reilly.
So why do they want to bring O'Reilly down? "I don't know who you hang around with," says O'Reilly. "I suspect they're 'pinheads,' but I don't know for sure."
People dislike O'Reilly because of statements like these:
"I'm more angry about it than you are!"
"What about George Bush? He had nothing to do with it."
"Why did you have to tell them you were an atheist if you didn't have any trouble reading the oath? Why didn't you just shut up?"
"That's not an interview," Wallace remarks. "That's a lecture."
"Oh, I lecture, where I'm a commentator. We went back and did research on the last six years of 'The Factor.' Do you know how many times I told people to shut up? Six. Three times in anger and three times just, 'Ahhh, he didn't want to shut up about things,'" says O'Reilly.
"My program, my house. You're disrespectful in my house, you're putting things out there that are defamatory in my house, you're gonna get taken to the cleaners."