Montel Williams is defending his decision to walk off Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" Wednesday night after the incident sparked a spat, with the former daytime talk show host and the head of the "Factor" calling each other "cowards."
According to The Hill, Williams
was scheduled for a Fox segment in Cleveland and claimed he was told the interview would be about a speech he delivered earlier that day. Instead, Williams says, the topic was switched last minute to a debate with Eric Bolling on a recent poll on race and President Barack Obama, and so he walked out.
"He will never be on this program again," O'Reilly, 66, said on the show after 60-year-old Williams left. "He's not a man of his word, he's unprofessional. That is about as low as it gets."
O'Reilly went on to call Williams a "coward" and said that he "walked out in a huff . . . and the producer tells me he was mad about some gay thing," according to The Hill, which noted that Williams' speech that day was to the American Unity Fund, a "conservative LBGT cause whose members include Caitlyn Jenner."
"Topic was not changed and Williams knew about it for hours ahead of time," O'Reilly told the site. "Just minutes before air time, he demanded the segment include his take on gay rights or something."
"When told that was not possible because the talking points set up voting demographics, the topic he agreed to, he bolted. My entire staff witnessed this debacle and script was written four hours before air. First time in nearly 20 years a guest has done that. Unbelievably unprofessional for a person in the industry."
Williams, a veteran of the U.S. Marines and Navy, responded to the incident with a fiery Facebook video, which has been viewed 1.1 million times since it was posted Wednesday.
"The word 'coward' is usually used on people who have done most of the things that you've done, like embellishing lies about your credentials as a journalist, like the fact that your own daughter in a testimony in a court case . . . said that you dragged your ex-wife down a flight of stairs," Williams says in the video.
Williams also sent copies of text messages and emails between his staff and "The O'Reilly Factor" producers to the website Mediaite
in an attempt to back up his charges that the topic was changed and the polling discussion was meant to be just one of a few of the topics he would be discussing.
Williams' spokesman Jonathan Franks told Mediaite that by the time Williams arrived in the green room for the show in Cleveland, he learned the show would only be about the poll.
"They didn't tell us Eric Bolling was going to be on, either," Franks told Mediaite. "We don't do ambushes. We love Bolling but no one even told us he would be there."
Mediaite's Lindsey Ellefson wrote that the texts and emails provided by Williams appeared to back up his part of the story.
"At the very least, the texts posted to Williams' Twitter account prove that he was there when he said he would be and back up his claims that he walked from the set when he realized that his speech from the event wouldn't be the topic of discussion, and the emails prove that the plan, as far as Williams and his team knew, was to discuss his speech at the LGBT issues brunch," Ellefson wrote.
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