Fox News host Bill O'Reilly told Newsmax TV
Thursday that conservative columnist George Will wrote two "hit pieces" on his new book "Killing Reagan"
because Will is "invested in the legacy" of the nation's 40th president.
"He was very close friends with Nancy Reagan," O'Reilly told Newsmax’s John Bachman, in an interview that aired on the network’s "The Steve Malzberg Show."
"They dined together. His wife worked for Ronald Reagan.
"I don't really know Mr. Will. I helped him out on a couple of his books, but I don't know him to any extent. And I was surprised when I heard that he was going to write a hit piece."
Fox News producers then reached out to Will, who is a paid commentator for the network, O'Reilly said.
O’Reilly offered to talk to Will directly, or have him speak with his co-author, Martin Dugard.
"Will said that he would," O'Reilly told Bachman. "Never did, and just wrote two hit pieces.
"We are very powerful here … on television and in publishing. I don't think the old guard really likes that on both the right and the left.
"I'll leave it to your viewers and readers to decide his motivations, but certainly they're not pristine," O'Reilly said.
Will and other Reagan scholars, including Craig Shirley, have slammed "Killing Reagan" — saying that it abridges history.
Their attacks center primarily on O'Reilly's assertion that Reagan, after his near-fatal shooting by John Hinckley in 1981, spent the remainder of his presidency mentally and physically deficient in his job performance.
Will viciously denied the claim, attacking the book in two columns in The Washington Post. The dust-up boiled over Friday during an interview on "The O'Reilly Factor."
The columnist repeatedly attacked the book and accused host O'Reilly of being an "expert at willfully misleading people."
The Fox host pressed Will on many facts cited in the book, to which Will had no response, O’Reilly told Bachman.
O'Reilly terminated the fiery interview after calling Will "a hack."
In his interview with Bachman, O'Reilly said the discussion about Reagan's condition after the shooting was "maybe 20 percent" of the book.
"He doesn't like the fact that what we wrote about Ronald Reagan goes against his narrative that Reagan was a semi-god and he doesn't like it," O'Reilly said of Will.
"I just hit him with the facts. Fact after fact after fact after fact. He had no answer to those facts."
O'Reilly's then cited an exchange on Friday during which he read a passage from his book that cited information from a 1988 memoir by former White House Chief of Staff Michael Deaver on his years in the administration.
Deaver, who died in 2007 at age 69, said that top Reagan aides concluded that the 25th Amendment might have to be invoked "at any time" to remove the president from office if he was "unfit to serve."
"The reason Will lost the debate here and got crushed was because I brought up the name Michael Deaver," O'Reilly told Bachman.
"And when I said, 'Look, Howard Baker held a press conference to address this,' Will had no reply. On television!
"That's when I got a little bit angry because all he was doing was attacking me personally," O'Reilly said. "He was ignoring the record, and then I called him what he is, 'a hack.'"
The Fox host acknowledged, however, that Will was correct in saying that neither he nor Dugard had interviewed any close Reagan associates.
"That is true because we were not writing a biography," O'Reilly retorted. "We did our research independently, from people who have no skin in the game, no emotion in the game. That's how you get the true story.
“We've done this in all the 'Killing' books — all five of them — and we tell you a story. Not a biography.
O'Reilly described "Killing Reagan" as "a very laudatory book about President Reagan, showing a man of courage and how he evolved into that.
"This is a very praiseworthy book of Ronald Reagan, who was, in my opinion, one of the top 10 presidents of all time," O'Reilly said.
O’Reilly was asked about Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy’s column
published this week that suggested Will had "crossed the line" by pointedly challenging his credibility and integrity as Fox’s lead media personality.
O’Reilly said Will should not resign or be fired over the matter.
"He came on the program and debated it with me.
"He's entitled to his opinion," O'Reilly added. "You don't like the book, fine."
Note: Newsmax TV's interview with Bill O’Reilly will re-air Friday, Nov. 13, on the "Newsmax Now" show at 5PM ET. Newsmax TV is carried on DirecTV 349, Dish 223, Fios 115, or via its free smartphone app — More Info Here
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