Aug
17
2010

Did Bill O'Reilly Get Someone Fired?

Boston TV newscaster Barry Nolan was outraged to learn back in 2008 thatFox host Bill O'Reilly was getting an award from the local chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. SoNolanmade flyers documenting various O'Reilly outrages and distributed them at the local Emmys ceremony–and did not do so in a disruptive manner. He was soonfired by his employer (Comcast), and told his story at Think Progress.

It turns out there was even moretoit. A new article at the Columbia Journalism Review websiteby Terry Ann Knopf (8/16/10)reveals thatpressure on Comcast came directly from News Corp/O'Reilly:

On May 12, 2008â┚¬”two days after the Emmysâ┚¬”Oâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢Reilly went on the offensive against what he called Nolanâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s "outrageous behavior" with a carefully worded, lawyerly letter to Brian Roberts, the chairman and CEO of Comcast, which distributes Fox News and entertainment programming, to its subscribers. The letter was written on Fox News stationery and was copied to Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.

Pointedly, Oâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢Reilly began by noting their mutual business interests. 'We at The Oâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢Reilly Factor have always considered Comcast to be an excellent business partner and I believe the same holds true for the entire Fox News Channel. Therefore, it was puzzling to see a Comcast employee, Barry Nolan, use Comcast corporate assets to attack me and FNC." Telling the Comcast CEO that Nolan had attended the Emmy Awards "in conjunction with Comcast," O'Reilly apologized for bothering him but let him know he considered this "a disturbing situation."

Knopf also reports that while Comcast has claimed that Nolan wasn't fired for speaking his mind ("Professional journalists need to have the right to express their opinions without fear of correction or retribution from a corporate parent," a company executive he explained), court documents

reveal that Comcast and Fox were involved in "ongoing" contract talks at the time, with Comcast fearing Nolan's protest "jeopardized and harmed" its business dealings with Fox. In response to a question posed by Nolan's attorneys in his lawsuit, Comcastâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s written response, dated Aug. 5, 2009, states:

â┚¬Ã‚¦ Mr. Nolanâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s protest at the NATAS Award Ceremony and of William O'Reilly as the recipient of the Governor's Award jeopardized and harmed the business and economic interests of Comcast in connection with its contract with Fox News Channel, and its contract negotiations with Fox News that were ongoing at the time.

One almost gets the feeling that O'Reilly just might be a thin-skinned bully.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.