Bill O’Reilly is still in the frying pan over revelations that he may have embellished his war reporting record more than 30 years ago. Specifically, the charges contend that O’Reilly wasn’t telling the truth when he claims to have seen shots fired at people and that he rescued a cameraman who had been wounded.
Yesterday the New York Times called O’Reilly to ask follow up questions. Here is what O’Reilly told the reporter:
“I am coming after you with everything I have,” Mr. O’Reilly said. “You can take it as a threat.”
This is something that every politician and public figure who has ever been on the receiving end of perceived unfair questions has dreamed of telling a reporter, but don’t try this at home folks.
In this case, O’Reilly’s threat has now become a bigger story, as it would when anyone makes such a threat to a reporter. But in O’Reilly’s case, the situation is different for several reasons:1. O’Reilly can deliver on his promise. O’Reilly, has and will send out a henchman/reporter Jesse Waters to stake out those who have crossed O’Reilly. Waters is then good at getting sound bites and creating a story that humiliates the transgressor. No one else, certainly not major politicians or CEOs, can get away with this.
2. O’Reilly’s fight with the New York Times doesn’t hurt his image with his key audience; it helps his image as the guy willing to stand up to a perceived enemy-the mainstream media.
3. O’Reilly isn’t a politician who needs 50% of the vote nor is he the CEO of a company that sells products to everyone. O’Reilly only needs to appeal to 1% of 315 million Americans each night, or 3 million viewers, in order to stay number one in the ratings and remain rich and famous.
So O’Reilly is an interesting case study of crisis communications to watch, but he isn’t very relevant to most public figures facing a crisis.
You can reach TJ Walker at Media Training Worldwide at 212.764.4955