Famous Last Words

Before he was making liberals seethe and NASCAR dads cheer on the Fox News yell-fest The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly cut his teeth as a grad student at Boston University. Later he refined his indignant straight-man persona in Boston as a journalist at channels 5 and 7 and a student at Harvard's JFK School. Despite recent dust-ups with comedian Al Franken and host Terry Gross on NPR (where he walked out of an interview), O'Reilly remains on top with a new bestseller, Who's Looking Out for You?



So, who is looking out for me? What do you mean “me”? For you personally?
For me personally, yeah.

Well, I don't know you, but generally speaking, your support system starts with friends, people who will help you when there's no upside to them. Very few people will look out for you because they are too exhausted and too wrapped up in their
own worlds.

Any guests on the Factor you wish you hadn't been so hard on?

I can't think of any. If they are hapless, I kind of pull back — I don't want to bully anyone. We've had some pretty dumb people on, and I'll just make it into a joke.

Who's the best spinmeister in Washington, past or present?

[Political consultant James] Carville. He can take a fact and by the time he gets through with it, you'll be eating gumbo.

What's the first question you would ask Jesus Christ if you had him on the Factor?

I would ask him to define sin for me very vividly. I go by the Jesuit philosophy that if your conscience tells you not to do something and you do it, that's a sin. But once you inflict pain on another human being unprovoked, you are in the sin realm whether you know it or not.

Why was RFK a better attorney general than John Ashcroft?

Robert Kennedy is a politician who basically didn't have to do what he did — you know, civil rights, bringing down the Mafia, challenging the establishment to be better. Ashcroft doesn't have the fire in the belly to correct societal wrongs.

What are you an absolute softie about? I'm not a softie about anything.

Say the first words that come to mind:

John Silber. Brilliant.
The Big Dig. Corrupt.
Cardinal Law. Cowardly.
NPR. [Pause.] Unnecessary.

What's the best story you covered in Boston?

The busing story, way back when I was at BU. Those were my people in South Boston, and to see the anger and the hatred they had for people they didn't even know, and to see the little children crying on the bus. It would just break your heart.

So how did you survive among all the liberals in Cambridge?

Never bothered me. When I was at Harvard, I asked people how they arrived at their conclusions, and some of them had great answers, and some of them were complete pinheads.

I read you once called Boston your “sanctuary.” Why?

Everyone has their place in the world, and Boston is my place. I've always been very successful in Boston, and always felt comfortable there. Once you are accepted in Boston, you are accepted forever.

Where can you get the best breakfast in Boston?

Henrietta's [Table] at the Charles Hotel. It's a little chichi, but not too bad.

I hear you're a disco fan. What are your three favorite disco albums?

Saturday Night Fever; you gotta have that in your collection. Earth Wind & Fire: Greatest Hits. And I would say the Isley Brothers in the '70s and early '80s.

Which do you think we'll find first — Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or the weapons of mass destruction?

Probably the Holy Grail. All of that is pretty embarrassing to the country.

Have you rethought your support of the war since the end of official combat?

No. I still think it's the right thing to do, but I think they made huge mistakes in the aftermath, and we have to hold them accountable for that. In a year we'll know.

In your new book, you're very hard on Clinton for his conflicts of interest. Why aren't you as scrupulous about ferreting out Bush and Cheney's oil and Halliburton connections?

I don't think a Halliburton contract in Iraq is a scandal; Halliburton is the company for the job. Cheney's not making any money from it. I think the Bush administration is running a pretty clean shop; I don't think there are any kickbacks or bribery. The problem with the Bush people is they are too closed. They don't tell us enough.

So why didn't you hold the administration accountable for that in your book?

If you look at my summation on President Bush, whether he's looking out for you or not, I say you can't make a determination yet because we don't know enough.

Anything you'd like to say to Al Franken?

Nothing at all.