Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly, the host of "The O'Reilly Factor," expressed doubt Friday about how serious Texas Gov. Rick Perry still is in his run for the presidency.
O'Reilly said on "The Early Show" his show offered Perry eight minutes of airtime for Friday night. "This is the highest-rated prime-time news program in the world," O'Reilly noted. "We said, 'Hey, governor, we have eight minutes for you on a Friday night. Come on in.' He's not coming in. I'm sitting there going, 'I don't even think he wants it now.' My theory, I could be wrong, but I think he got so beat up the first three or four weeks in there that he says, 'You know what? I don't really want it.' Because if he wanted it, you don't pass up eight minutes."
O'Reilly, who appeared on the broadcast to promote his new New York Times best-seller, "Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever (Read an excerpt), said, "Look. I'm here in the morning getting up early so I can sell a few copies of this book because you, millions of people watch you. This is what you do. If you want to get your message out, you go and you do it. (Perry) is turning down eight minutes on 'The Factor'? It doesn't make any sense."
As for the other Republican candidates, O'Reilly said Herman Cain "can't win."
"Early Show" co-anchor Betty Nguyen pointed out that, "Some people say, if he doesn't win, maybe he is (positioning) himself for a spot on a cable news program -- and could become the competition."
O'Reilly said, "Herman can do whatever he wants. And by the way, when I say no, I think everybody should understand that I thought Hillary Clinton would beat Barack Obama. So I could be wrong."
He continued, "Herman Cain doesn't have any money and he doesn't have much of an organization in the states that matter. I'm thrilled with Herman Cain. I think he has injected a lot of interest in this campaign. He's not stiff. He's straightforward."
However, when referring to Cain's tax plan, O'Reilly said, "The '999' thing is never going to work and he'd never get it passed. But just the fact he is there and he's getting people to talk is a good thing. But he's a populist. And these polls are based on likely Republican primary voters. When you take it wide to a general election, he doesn't compete nearly as well. And I can tell you this as a fact, Barack Obama would love to run against Herman Cain. That would be his No. 1 choice now that (Sarah) Palin is out of the race."
When asked about where the Republican Party stands on Cain, O'Reilly said Cain should be viewed fairly and in a balanced way. Give Herman the forum, see what the folks want, stay out of it, (and) let the best man win," he said. "I don't know what they are thinking. I don't know what these pinheads are thinking. Everybody (says), 'Everybody on Fox is Republican!' I've never in my life talked anybody in the Republican Party or seen any of their literature and I don't care what they say. I'm an American and I want a robust debate and Herman Cain provides that."
As for Mitt Romney, O'Reilly called the Republican former governor of Massachusetts a "formidable presence" in the upcoming election and he "did a decent job in Massachusetts."
"I lived (in Massachusetts) for years," he said. "The state was upgraded when he was in office, which is almost unheard of because the legislature is so far left, they're going to move to Cuba tomorrow."
O'Reilly also made reference to the health care reform measure Romney signed into law in Massachusetts, saying some people like it and some don't. But the upcoming election, he said, will be about something other than health care entirely.
O"Reilly said, "I think he has an economic background and this election next year will be all about economics."
Moving on to his book, "Killing Lincoln," O'Reilly said he wanted to make history come alive for younger Americans.
"I usually write books about current contemporary problems," he said. "... We are a country in decline. I said to myself, 'Who is the greatest leader America's ever had?' Abraham Lincoln, in my opinion. He's a gold standard. So I'm going to introduce Lincoln to a country that doesn't know a lot about him, particularly younger Americans. They don't get taught history, they don't know what he suffered. And I'm going to write it as a John Grisham novel. This is no history book."
O'Reilly admitted he took less money for this book because it was such a departure from his usual writing fare. He recalled, "The publisher said, 'Well, you know, you really successful in this, but this is a (change), and there are a lot of Lincoln books. I said, 'Look. We'll do it,' and, number one. I was surprised, in a sense, it took off so quickly, but people are hungry to know about their heroes, and Lincoln is hero number one, Washington, number two."
O'Reilly hired well-known researcher Martin Dugard to help with the book. Dugard, O'Reilly said, uncovered "some unbelievable stuff."
So what did they discover?
O'Reilly said, "John Wilkes Booth is engaged to be married. Who's his fiance stepping out with? Robert Todd Lincoln, the president's son, on the side! We think Booth found out about it, and that drove his hatred for Lincoln even more, because his fiancee was double-teaming him with Robert Todd. ... All of the stuff we got was from letters, OK, with conversations that either occurred at the time or afterward. The most eerie part of the book is when Lincoln predicts his own death, and that came to his wife and to people in the White House. He knew he was going to be killed. And that came, people who heard that conversation wrote it down in letters and sent it to other people and we got a hold of that correspondence."
But Lincoln didn't increase the security even though he thought he might be killed, Nguyen noted.
"He didn't," O'Reilly said. "If I ever get to heaven, because I know Abe is there, that's the one question I want to ask -- 'Why didn't you up security when you had a premonition you were going to be killed?"
Read an excerpt from "Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever."