O'Reilly: You are in with the most vile form of defamation in the country. … You are pandering to it, and I resent it, sir.
Krugman: Well, we resent you, too.
But his most notorious encounter developed at a book fair, when he took on humorist Al Franken about a book Franken had written that said O'Reilly had lied publicly on a number of occasions. Franken also used a splotchy picture of O'Reilly on the cover.
O'Reilly: He writes in his book, he tries to make me out as a liar...
Franken: "No, no, no, no, no, no that's..."
O'Reilly: Hey, shut up! … You had your 35 minutes! Shut up!
Franken: This isn't your show, Bill.
Their very public battle was about a number of things, one of which was that O'Reilly had said he was an Independent; Franken showed that he had actually registered Republican.
O'Reilly: This is what he does. He is a vicious, and that is with a capital 'V,' person.
What upset him more – that Franken called him a liar, or that he proved it?
"Proves it, bull," says O'Reilly. "He's a character assassin. Why lower yourself to that kind of a discourse?"
Asked why it gets him so upset, O'Reilly tells Wallace, "Because it's dishonest, it's parasitical. And it's character assassination. Why wouldn't I get upset?"
And right or wrong, O'Reilly likes to get upset. He was raised Irish-Catholic in Long Island, N.Y. This son of a middle-class accountant says his dad was an underachiever who came to blows with him as a teenager. But his dad made him scrappy, which has served him well in his career.
He worked his way through college painting houses. His first job in TV was in a small market, Scranton, Pa.
"Not like Maria Shriver, with all due respect to her. Nice woman who started in Los Angeles. Why? Because her name is Maria Shriver," says O'Reilly. "O'Reilly starts in Scranton, Pa., with the coal miners. I loved it. My folks."
"Give me a break," Wallace remarks. "Why are you comparing yourself all of the sudden with Maria Shriver?"
"Because I'm telling you that this road I took had to be taken," says O'Reilly. "There was no other way to do it."
For the record, Shriver started in Philadelphia as a low-level assistant. As for O'Reilly, his career took off in 1996, when the fledgling Fox News Channel bought his idea for a high-energy Op-Ed TV show. By 1998, it was a bonafide hit, must-see TV for the conservative right.
At the 2004 Republican National Convention, the "old boys club" – including Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich – welcomed him with open arms.
Some folks would expect this reception for O'Reilly, a favorite of conservatives. But what you don't expect are his views, which sound more like they're coming from a Democrat.
O'Reilly says he's pro gun control, against the death penalty, and supports civil unions, not just for homosexuals, but "for everybody."
He says he's for gay adoptions, as a last resort: "I'd rather have nice, responsible gay home than the system for kids. What else?"
And about the environment? "Government's gotta be proactive on environment," says O'Reilly. "Global warming is here. All these idiots that run around and say it isn't here. That's ridiculous."
And there's more. He supported President Bush on the war in Iraq, but declared that he would never trust the Bush administration again if no weapons of mass destruction were found.