Bill O'Reilly is not only the host of FOX News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," he's also the author of a new book titled "Who's Looking Out for You?"
He stopped by The Early Show to talk about his book and his very public dispute with commentator/writer Al Franken.
He tells co-anchor Harry Smith, whom he calls Smith, Franken is a "character assassin, a smear merchant."
Franken, O'Reilly points out, is a person who isn't in the television host's corner. Franken wrote the satirical "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," which had an unflattering photo of O'Reilly on the cover.
But Smith took the position that, just as O'Reilly tells it like it is, Franken is pushing back. To make his point, O'Reilly says, "Smith, I know you're just being the devil's advocate here. If you can't see the difference between his character assassination of what I wrote in my book -- and I know you read my book -- if you can't see the difference, then I can't help you. Let me get this real clear. I didn't lie about anything. You know what I'm going to do? My next book is going to be 'Lies in the Morning.' I am going to put your picture and the CBS logo on it. Are you going to be down with that? Are you?"
Tongue in cheek, Smith said, "Stop calling me the enemy." O'Reilly replied, "You're not my enemy. What I'm trying to tell you is there a line. You can debate issues; you can disagree; you can do all that. Once you try to start to hurt somebody, as this guy does, then you're over the line."
The feud between the Franken and O'Reilly escalated at a book convention in June at which they were on the same panel.
FOX News filed a lawsuit against Franken but dropped it three days after a federal judge refused to block the liberal humorist from using the Fox slogan "Fair and Balanced" on the cover of his book.
The lawsuit had sought unspecified damages from Franken and Penguin Group, the book's publisher.
Fox contended that some people might be tricked into thinking the book was a Fox product because the title includes the words "Fair and Balanced" and the cover sports a picture of Bill O'Reilly, the network's top anchor.
O'Reilly claims that Franken was hired by the far left to conduct smear campaigns and defame the character against anyone they see as enemies.
Franken has accused O'Reilly of lying and claimed in a C-SPAN interview that the show he once anchored, "Inside Edition," had won a Peabody award. It never did, but won a Polk award instead. O'Reilly was quoted on three other occasions making a similar claim, Franken alleged.
O'Reilly says he was inspired to write, "Who's Looking Out for You?" because he wanted people to benefit from his own life experiences and mistakes. He has written bestsellers such as "The O'Reilly Factor" and "The No Spin Zone," as well as a novel called "Those Who Trespass," but O'Reilly says "Who's Looking Out for You?" is his most personal book.
The author explains that Americans need to develop the ability to discern who has their best interest at heart, and then surround themselves with people who want them to succeed. He gives personal stories in the book to demonstrate those points.
One of the subjects he talks about is race. Asked for his opinion of the Rush Limbaugh saga, O'Reilly said, "The ESPN thing was overblown, but the drug thing, serious. This can really hurt his credibility. He's got to really explain what the situation is. FOX News confirmed it last night. There is, indeed, an investigation."
About Limbaugh's comments about Donovan McNabb, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, O'Reilly says, "ESPN made a big mistake, and they should not have fired him. I mean, they say he resigned, but they really told him to go. They should have debated him, had you or me go in and say this is where you made your mistake. Exposition is always better. But what I really object to is the people running around calling him a racist. I think that is just the lowest. You just don't do that, and they did to Mel Gibson with the anti-Semite business over the movie ('The Passion'). You don't know what is in his heart. If he made a faulty analysis, then debate him."
O'Reilly calls Limbaugh's comments "provocative." He says, "If you hire Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly, you're hiring provocative commentators."
Changing the subject to Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has recently apologized for bad behavior toward women and new reports about he once said he admired Adolph Hitler, O'Reilly says, Schwarzenegger is "another victim of a smear."
Smith points out what Schwarzenegger said and did is part of the public record. O'Reilly quickly replies, "Then nobody can run for anything ever. Because everybody has things, stupid things they've said, stupid things they've done."
He says Schwarzenegger's mistake was not doing what President Bush did. O'Reilly explains, "Bush was smart. He said, 'I did a whole bunch of stuff when I was a kid, when I was younger and I'm sorry for all of it! But I'm not going to talk about it anymore.' That's what he should have done and I told him on my show."
Read an excerpt from "Who's Looking Out for You?":
"It ain't me,
I ain't no millionaire's son."
-John Fogarty, "Fortunate Son"
Let's immediately tee off a few sensitive souls out there by beginning with some "racial profiling." Here goes: If you have started to read this book, the chances are that you're an independent type, but your skin color and ethnicity are not predictable. I don't actually know you, but I know a lot about you. That's because there's a certain profile that O'Reilly watchers, listeners, and readers fit most of the time. Sure, there are drive-by viewers who watch "The O'Reilly Factor" as they would a gruesome accident, fascinated but repelled at the same time. And there are snobs who tune in just to shake their heads over the boorishness of it all.
But the everyday American who understands what the "Factor" concept is all about is generally a person who wants to live life honestly and make his or her own way. That person is often responsible, generous, aware that others around them also have lives to live, and unabashedly patriotic. You, very likely, are one of those people. In the beginning of the show, the fall of 1996, the elite media tried to marginalize the Factor concept by assigning it a "conservative" label. That's how they tagged us, hoping that label would frighten away those not on the right. But as millions of Americans of all political persuasions watched on television and read my first two books, "The O'Reilly Factor" and "The No Spin Zone," the establishment press fled, dazed and confused. How could a cable TV news show have such a robust impact when network TV news was losing audience every quarter? The so-called elite scribes couldn't figure it out, and they still can't.
The warfare between the folks who liked The Factor and the eggheads in the press who looked down upon it became quite intense at times, but finally the numbers got too big. Millions of Americans tuned in daily to watch and also listen on the radio, causing many in the media to finally wave the white flag.
The American people had made "The O'Reilly Factor" into a powerful entity—and the momentum the folks provided resulted in The Factor being nominated by the American Television Critics Association for Outstanding Achievement in News and Information in 2002. In 2003 your humble correspondent, me, was chosen by the industry magazine Television Week as the second most powerful person in TV news! Yikes! (The NBC news chief, Neil Shapiro, was first.)
So now it's time for me to try to give you something more concrete than a big thank-you. This book is an attempt to zero in on one of the most important parts of life: the ability to recognize who really cares about you as a person—and who does not. If you can master the art of determining that, your life will be much happier and probably much longer. If you fail to understand who is looking out for you, get a good lawyer right now. You're going to need one.
Trust-fund babies and corporate weasels are not allowed to read this book. If you try, I will find out and come to your house, thereby ruining your phony reputation. I will seize your copy of the book and mock you for disobeying the rules. Why would a child of privilege need to waste time with my words? You don't need anyone looking out for you—because you have resources and power already. This book is for everyday Americans who are fighting the good fight.
If you are in this category, here's my first piece of advice: You must learn to become a problem solver, not a problem creator. Problems are one of the few things in life that one can count on. Enough problems will find you so that you do not need to drag unnecessary ones into the house. If you are going to drink a quart of bourbon a day or smoke crack, this book is not going to help you. In fact, if you are in the above category, you've probably stolen this book. Give it back. Now.
Problems are the reason human beings are at the top of the food chain. We are the only ones with the brainpower to solve dilemmas. If our ancestors hadn't developed problem-solving skills, they would have vanished like the dinosaurs. In the beginning, before cable, our ancestors the primates lived a marginal existence until a giant animal ate them. That was it. Then we evolved and learned to stick a fiery torch in the giant animal's face. Problem solving separates the successful humans from the ones in the penitentiary.
This book is going to help you learn how to solve the inevitable problems that visit every single person on this earth. And don't believe those self-help books that tell you some problems will go away forever. That's a lie. Problems will hunt you down, slap you around, and leave you disillusioned and sometimes broke. That is, unless you meet them at the door and knee them in the groin. Most problems can be neutralized with smarts and sometimes help from others. Your biggest advantage will be knowing just who is looking out for you and who is getting a kick out of seeing you suffer. Develop that knowledge, and you're on your way to being a kick-butt problem solver.
But even armed with the knowledge that this book will give you, the struggle to succeed will be intense because you are running uphill against those who have more of everything. But we have the numbers. According to Michael Zweig, a professor of economics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, 62 percent of the labor force in the United States are working-class people. There are many definitions of the working class, but Zweig has come up with a good one: People who do not have much control or authority over the pace or the content of the work and are not the supervisor or the boss. That means you can be a high-priced lawyer billing hours or a sanitation worker cleaning up. If you are not calling your own shots, you are working class and you need every edge you can get.
This book will get you that edge both in the workplace and at home. We'll analyze the personal part of your existence—your family, friends, teachers, pastor, and so on. These people often have incredible access to your life. They can really help or really hurt you, sometimes without you even knowing about it. And unfortunately, there is no rule that says you are entitled to great parents and relatives and a solid support system. Some lucky Americans get terrific love and guidance from the beginning. Most don't. Instead, many of us have to put up with all kinds of destructive nonsense at home, and much of the time we don't even know what's going on until the damage is done.
But when you finish this book that will all change. You will know what's going on.
"Who's Looking Out for You?" will also deal with external forces that are unleashed against us: the government, the media, the legal system, and others. These powerful entities can crush you unless you understand them and take measures to protect yourself and your family.
Finally, throughout the book I have frankly named the names that need to be named, much as I do on television, on the radio, and in print. Please understand that the examples I provide are based solely on my own instincts. Sometimes I'm wrong about things. And sometimes I even admit it.
But often I'm right because I observe closely and consult widely. Before I blister somebody, I analyze the person carefully, because I do not want to abuse any power I might have. But ultimately, judgments are made in the No Spin Zone. Take this example: I think Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston is a villain. I think he allowed children to be hurt to protect his own reputation in Rome. Based on the evidence I've seen, Law allowed perverted priests to go unsupervised because he couldn't be bothered with such an inconvenient and potentially embarrassing problem. His main concern, again in my judgment, was holding on to power and avoiding any kind of public scandal that might have tarnished his image with the Pope. The way I see it, Law put his own career above the welfare of little kids. The shepherd of the flock was looking out only for himself.
BUT I COULD BE WRONG!
So while reading this book, please keep that in mind. I will state my case and back it up as best I can. I will lay it all out for you, but, in the end, it is you who must make the final judgment. Only you can determine who is trustworthy and who is not in your life—but you need information and guidelines in order to do that. You need a no-spin road map, pardon the cliché.
And here it comes. However, there is one more point to make before the journey begins. Self-delusions can negate even the best advice and most accurate observations. In order to be truly successful you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Excuses and rationalizations have to be put aside. You must define your own life and not let others do it for you. You must evaluate people and situations the way they are, not the way you want them to be. And you must evaluate yourself honestly and absorb the pain that will inevitably cause.
So onward. Let's find out just who is looking out for you.
Excerpted from "Who's Looking Out for You?" by Bill O'Reilly Copyright© 2003 by Bill O'Reilly . Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.