CNN Anchor: ‘Many Think That If There Was No Bill O’Reilly, There Would Be No President Donald Trump’

By Susan Jones | April 20, 2017 | 8:03am EDT
At competing cable network CNN, reporters on the early-morning news show “Early Start” discussed Bill O’Reilly’s “impact on politics” and his friendship with President Trump. (Screen grab from CNN's "New Day.")

( – The ouster of Fox New’s biggest star after 20 years came suddenly, amid accusations of sexual harassment, some of those claims very old and legally settled; a few of them new.

Bill O’Reilly, in a statement issued Wednesday, said: “It is tremendously disheartening we part ways due to unfounded claims. That is the reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”

Over at competing cable network CNN, reporters on the early-morning news show “Early Start” discussed O’Reilly’s “impact on politics.”

“I want to pivot to Bill O'Reilly,” said anchor Alison Kosik at 5:40 Thursday morning. Kosik noted that on April 5th, President Donald Trump, in an interview with The New York Times, defended O’Reilly as a “good person.”

Trump told the newspaper that O’Reilly shouldn’t have settled various sexual harassment claims against him (for a reported $13 million paid by Fox News), but should have gone to court. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” Trump said.

“What's behind this – this defense coming from Donald Trump?” Kosik asked Tal Kopan, CNN’s politics reporter. “And if you think about Bill O'Reilly, you know, he sort of created this movement, didn’t he? And many think that if there was no Bill O'Reilly, there would be no President Donald Trump.”

“Well, these two men go back quite a ways,” Kopan responded. “And Donald Trump and Fox News go back quite a ways.”

Kopan noted that Fox was a “key platform” for Trump as he “started to craft his conservative persona.”

“He would call in frequently and talk to them. And you, know, even through the campaign and the beginning of his presidency, O'Reilly was one of his key stops when he tried to sell his message. 

“And then, on top of that, you get into sort of the theory of conservatism and populism, and how Fox News and O'Reilly in particular really sort of pioneered that style. Certainly, you know, the Trump effect owes quite a bit to that groundwork.”

Kopan called it “a little bit odd” that Trump would “defend O’Reilly so strongly” in the April 5 interview, “given some of the history of the campaign trail and the infamous tape that came out about Donald Trump. It dredged up a lot about that.”

“Those two have been friends for decades, said anchor Dave Briggs. “A good question -- would we have President Trump if we didn't have Bill O'Reilly? Thank you, Tal.”

A short time later, on CNN’s “New Day,” correspondent Brian Stelter (who covered the O’Reilly controversy diligently) said O’Reilly’s firing is part of a “chain reaction” that began with the ouster of Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, following a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson last July.

“It was only because Ailes resigned that the New York Times started looking into O’Reilly, started looking into these settlements in O’Reilly’s past,” Stelter said.

Earlier this week, O’Reilly’s lawyer issued a statement condemning the “brutal campaign of character assassination” against his client.

“This law firm has uncovered evidence that the smear campaign is being orchestrated by far-left organizations bent on destroying O’Reilly for political and financial reasons. Attorney Marc Kasowitz said the “evidence will be put forth shortly and it is irrefutable.”

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