'He Never, Ever, Misled Me'

J$P Instant Transcript! Bill O'Reilly tells Shepard Smith what it was like to work with Peter Jennings.

From Studio B with Shepard Smith, August 8 2005:

SHEPARD SMITH [FOX NEWS]: Another Jennings friend and associate, Bill O'Reilly. He worked with Peter Jennings at World News Tonight. Of course host of The Factor, and The Radio Factor, and all that. He's here's in Studio B. What kind of a guy was he? What was he like to work with and for?

BILL O'REILLY [FOX NEWS]: Jennings was a pain in the butt, and I say that with all affection because I really liked him. But he was demanding, and he was methodical, and he was competitive--Rather was correct. And then I learned a tremendous amount. What I used to do is the newsbriefs in the afternoon at three o'clock; you know, your shows on at three eastern time. If Jennings was in a snit, which he often was--I'm not doing that newsbrief!--so they'd give it to me. Because I was one of the few guys at ABC came from local news, and I could read the prompter as quickly as it had to be written, because it was live. But I used to watch Jennings all the time: and how he delivered the news, how he dealt with the staff, what he thought was important, and what he didn't think was important. And that was the best training ground I ever had. I could not be doing The Factor today had I not worked over at ABC News.

SMITH: Is there any--so many have said that if there's anyone who's better at having a command of world affairs, the names of streets and cities all over the globe, and history--if there was anyone better, they can't think of him.

O'REILLY: Well he was truly an internationalist, Peter Jennings, and that's why a lot of Americans got mad at him. They felt he was a liberal, but he wasn't a liberal in the classic sense. He was politically correct. But he looked at the world from a very international point of view, not like I do from an American point of view. And I'll admit, I look at the world from a USA point of view. He did not. He opened the first bureau in the Middle East in Lebanon, in Beirut. He married a Palestinian woman. He had great empathy for the Palestinian people, although he didn't not like Israel. He couldn't stand Arafat. And he was a guy who basically was a thinker rather than a reactor. And he wasn't an ideologue, but he did bring his point of view into the broadcast, that's for sure.

SMITH: He was on your program a couple of years ago and said at the end, there've been many a night when I've just wanted to throw a brick through the screen at you. What was that? There seemed to be some friendship but some animosity or something there.

O'REILLY: No it wasn't animosity. (This is The Radio Factor you're looking at; we had him on). Jennings was frustrated with me because he felt I oversimplified things. And that's what he wanted to throw the brick at me for. See, Jennings was a guy who saw a lot of gray; he was a diplomat. He'd sit there for hours and back and forth, and you know me--I mean, I look at the facts, I get my point of view, I tell the folks how I think and why I think it. He felt that I was too impetuous. And when I worked at ABC he felt the same way, although it helped that I was so aggressive over there, because I got a lot of good stories done quickly. But that's what he meant. He wasn't ideologically opposed. In fact, he watched The Factor all the time and one of the men he admired greatly was John Leo, who is a very conservative columnist for US News and World Report. So Jennings wasn't a rank ideologue like Walter Cronkite is for example; he wasn't that. But he was a man who lived in the gray area.

SMITH: He said earlier in that same interview, he said the only person I was ever truly teed off with at ABC was you.

O'REILLY: Yeah, he was always teed off at me. Because I'd walk in and I'd say stupid stuff like I could have done that better than this guy [laughter], and this guy would've been a correspondent for 30 years, one of Jennings's friends. He liked me because I didn't patronize him, I know he did. And he got a kick out of me secretly, because I would come in and I'd speak my mind. And very few people at the network will do that, because they're afraid. It's a culture of fear, at ABC, NBC, CNN, and CBS. But he would; he'd get a little rankled with me when I said stuff that he didn't like. But that was part of the fun of it for me.

SMITH: His colleagues have talked about fear. Last night I watched in the early hours of the morning and then again today as they talked about this script approval process and how everything--

O'REILLY: Oh, it's ridiculous.

SMITH: His colleagues haven't said it's ridiculous. His colleagues have said everything must go through Peter, and as a result you must know everything about what you're speaking.

O'REILLY: I'm glad you brought that up. It was so ridiculous, because Peter changed six to a half dozen. I go, what, you call me down (and I would say it exactly like this) you call me down here, because I was like four flights up, to change six to a half dozen? Change it yourself! Those are the stuff that drive me crazy, and he'd be going, oh you think you're so good? I just go look, you got something important, call me. I'm busy.

SMITH: Was this shortly before you left there, Bill? [laughter]

O'REILLY: No I left there on my own volition, everybody knows that. Jennings yelled at me when I left: you're crazy, you're crazy! I was different, he admired that, and that's why I admired him. Because he could have, like a lot of them at ABC didn't like me, he could have been easily on that side. But he saw something in me, and he was very loyal to me.

SMITH: He's a man who didn't even graduate from high school, started a job in Canada with his father as a television pioneer in Canada in the early days, I guess in the late 40s, early 50s, when he was but a teenager. Worked his way all the way through. Is there a lesson for all the rest of us in this business that we could take away from Peter Jennings's life and his passing.

O'REILLY: Well, there are two lessons. Number one, that he was an honest guy. I think he was honest. Some people didn't like him but I thought he never, ever misled me. There's only two guys in the television who were like 100% honest to me: Jennings and Ailes, Roger Ailes, who runs the Fox News Channel. Never misled me, ever. So, honesty. And the second thing is, he wanted to be the best. And he sacrificed and worked his shoe leather off to be that. And he rose, and obviously reached the pinnacle of success in this profession.

SMITH: I'd say. Bill O'Reilly, good to see you.

O'REILLY: Thank you Shepard, as always.

posted: Mon - August 8, 2005 at 03:56 PM       j$p  send 

I'm confused. Was this supposed to be a moving tribute to Jennings or a "here's why I'm so great" wankfest from O'Reilly?
August 9, 2005, 1:04:56 AM EDT – Like – Reply

and putting the name of roger ailes and peter jennings in the same sentence. WHAT A DISGRACE FNC HAS BEEN IN 'REPORTING' THIS STORY FROM THE BEGINNING.
August 9, 2005, 10:33:24 AM EDT – Like – Reply

Casper, watch another channel if FNC pisses you off so much
August 9, 2005, 11:08:50 AM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
SSL, what makes you think he watched FNC? Remember, the party platform of the Fox haters is that they don't need to watch it. Just hate it. If that sounds like a writer who does a book review without reading the book, then you've gained an insight into the mentality of the haters.
August 9, 2005, 12:42:53 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Casper ought to be more like "Casper the Friendly Ghost."
August 9, 2005, 12:46:01 PM EDT – Like – Reply

You're absolutely right Johnny, I need to remember that. The ridiculousness of the hater mentality is difficult to grasp at times. They don't watch, but they know ALL ABOUT what goes on.
August 9, 2005, 12:53:52 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Why would you assume that Casper DOESN'T watch Fox? I hate Fox, but yes indeedy, I do watch it. Gets my blood pumping, y'know.
August 10, 2005, 12:24:24 AM EDT – Like – Reply