Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly snapped at NBC host Matt Lauer to not be sarcastic Tuesday when the latter asked if a “vast, left-wing conspiracy” was behind his downfall for sexual harassment allegations.
O’Reilly was forced out in April amid a flurry of sexual harassment claims. The New York Times reported shortly before his dismissal that five women received payouts from O’Reilly or Fox News totaling $13 million to agree not to pursue litigation or speak about their accusations.
In a sometimes testy interview on “The Today Show,” O’Reilly repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said it was a “business decision” by Fox to fire him. In 42 years, O’Reilly claimed, he never sent a lewd message to an employee or had a human resources case brought against him.
“My conscience is clear,” he said when asked by Lauer if he had done soul-searching in the past six months.
O’Reilly pointed to a report at right-leaning NewsMax saying one of the accusers against him was arrested for filing a false police report. Lauer responded that she could have filed a false report but also made a true assertion against O’Reilly.
“Look, anything’s possible, all right? But it goes to credibility, doesn’t it,” O’Reilly said. “This was a hit job. A political and financial hit job.”
“Is this a vast, left-wing conspiracy?” Lauer asked.
“No vast, and don’t be sarcastic,” O’Reilly said. “Don’t be sarcastic.”
Lauer pointed out Hillary Clinton was who she directed her infamous “vast, right-wing conspiracy” remarks to in 1998, regarding the Monica Lewinsky scandal and her husband Bill Clinton.
Asked why he didn’t sue the five women who received payouts from him if they made false allegations, O’Reilly said “you can’t win those lawsuits.”
“Every allegation in this area is a conviction,” he said. “They don’t look for the truth.”
O’Reilly was a perennial cable news ratings champion during his 21-year run hosting “The O’Reilly Factor.” His exit prompted a reshuffling in the primetime lineup; Tucker Carlson now hosts in his old time slot.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had the No. 1 show in cable news in August, although Fox News still continued its 188-month winning streak in cable news in total day and primetime viewers, as well as its 14-month streak as the top-rated cable network in total day ratings.
UPDATE: 4:28 P.M.: An earlier version of this article stated Fox has struggled to keep up with MSNBC in the ratings since O’Reilly’s ouster, but it didn’t clarify that Fox still led MSNBC in primetime and total viewership. This has been corrected.