As Bill O’Reilly sees it, the same forces that led to his ouster at Fox News are out to get President Trump. And, in much the same spirit as Trump, O’Reilly is determined to settle the score.
“In the weeks to come, there will be a bunch of news stories that will explain what happened and why it happened,” O’Reilly told fans at a show on Saturday in Westbury, New York. “It’s pretty grisly. It’s pretty nasty. It has to do with far-left progressive organizations that are bent on destroying anybody with whom they disagree, including the president.”
For weeks, O’Reilly has vowed to reveal the conspiracy behind his firing, offering hints and teasing a blockbuster exposé that has yet to come.
“I can’t really get into depth about why I left Fox and what’s going to happen now,” he explained Saturday, “because my lawyers are pleading with me, ‘For once in your life, O’Reilly, could you just shut up?'”
O’Reilly made the comments at the latest stop on “The Spin Stops Here Tour,” a slate of pseudo-comedy performances where he blends his commentary with corny jokes. After addressing his firing, O’Reilly was at turns goofy and authoritative, moving manically on the circular stage at the NYCB Theatre in Westbury, a village on Long Island not far from where he grew up and where he currently resides.
O’Reilly has been doing the tour with conservative comedian Dennis Miller since 2011 (before that, O’Reilly toured with Glenn Beck). They held a pair of performances in Westbury on Saturday, and the doubleheader marked the resumption of the tour after O’Reilly was fired from Fox News in April following revelations of settlements paid to multiple women who accused him of sexual harassment.
Fox News host Jesse Watters was scheduled to join the tour before the network, wary of its on-air talent appearing publicly with someone who had just been been ignominiously fired, quashed the arrangement.
That appeared to be news to at least some of those in attendance.
“Watters can’t be here tonight, I’m sorry,” O’Reilly said, drawing groans. “It’s not his fault. Fox didn’t want him to go.”
The theater, which seats 3,000, was near capacity Saturday. O’Reilly addressed the overwhelmingly white crowd as “the home team.”
But they weren’t just O’Reilly’s most diehard fans; there was a strong show of support for President Trump as well. Multiple people in the audience wore Trump’s signature red baseball cap adorned with his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” And the show had a palpable anti-media fervor not all that different from a Trump rally. My attempts to talk to more than a dozen attendees were met with suspicion and derision.
“No, I don’t like CNN,” sneered one woman as she entered the theater. “I watch Fox.”
O’Reilly hit that theme during his set, eliciting loud jeers directed at CNN when he complained about the network’s coverage of the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.
“No matter what [Trump] does, they’re going to find a way to demonize him. It doesn’t matter. So that makes my job so much harder because I know what they’re doing. I know who these people are,” O’Reilly said of the press. “They don’t care about being fair or being accurate or being factual.”
A group of four activists gathered near the venue prior to the start of the evening performance in Westbury, holding signs that called O’Reilly a “serial sexual harasser.” They placed other signs along the road leading to the theater urging people not to attend the show.
One of the activists, Lacey Kohlmoos, drove to Westbury from Philadelphia to participate in the protest. She said she was there to represent the nearly 49,000 individuals who have signed an online petition calling for the cancellation of O’Reilly’s tour, which has stops later this year in Baltimore, Tampa, Las Vegas and Anaheim.
“I want to send a message to the NYCB Theatre that they should be ashamed of themselves for giving a platform to a serial sexual harasser,” Kohlmoos said. “We hope that the other venues on this tour will pay attention to what we’re doing out here and what we’re going to continue to do. It’s not OK to give a platform to a serial sexual harasser.”
O’Reilly’s fans taunted the protesters as they drove by. One man seated in the backseat of a white SUV rolled down his window and screamed, “What about Bill Clinton?” The four activists responded cheerily. “Have a nice day,” they said.
Candice Hildebrant, who lives on Long Island, said she was there because she’s a survivor of sexual assault.
“I’ve been called the worst names I’ve ever been called in my life standing here today holding a sign,” Hildebrant said. “It breaks my heart for my daughter and for Long Island to see this many people just don’t care, that men can do whatever they want and get away with it.”
Before O’Reilly took the stage, Miller warmed up the crowd with jokes aimed at a garden variety of conservative targets: environmentalists, political correctness on college campuses, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi. But he got the biggest response when he spoke affectionately about Trump, whom Miller praised for “being more human than most presidents.”
“Do I think the election was hacked?” Miller asked. “I don’t give a shit. If it was, I’m glad they picked him.”
The crowd roared with approval. Ten minutes later, they booed loudly when Miller brought up former FBI Director James Comey.
“What do you make of this idiot Comey?” Miller said. “The guy speaks out of both sides of his ass.”
As pleased as they apparently are that Trump is in the White House, the audience members were dismayed that O’Reilly is no longer on television. Since being let go by Fox, O’Reilly has done podcasts on his website. He said Saturday that regulars on his Fox News program like Miller, Laura Ingraham and Bernie Goldberg will soon become fixtures on the podcast. Meanwhile, right-leaning networks like One America News and Newsmax have made no secret of their interest in hiring O’Reilly.
O’Reilly and Miller closed the show by taking questions from the audience on stage together. One woman, noting that Fox’s ratings had declined since O’Reilly’s departure, asked if he would create another conservative outlet.
“Don’t underestimate it. The Fox brand is very strong. They have a lot of talent,” O’Reilly said. “But if you want to get into that game, you need about $200 million.”
But he added, “I do believe someone else will get into the arena.”
Another person asked what could be done to counter “the cabal that is out to get Fox.” O’Reilly said Sean Hannity, who recently faced calls for a boycott over his promotion of a fringe conspiracy theory, was “effective” in weathering the controversy.
“He brought it to you guys and they prevailed on that. But is anybody doing anything about these people? No, because you don’t know who they are,” O’Reilly said, before offering one final promise.
“But you will,” he said. “That will come out.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published June 18, 2017: 10:52 AM ET