Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Thursday night explained his now infamous encounter with a protestor, claiming he used his umbrella to shield himself because the man carrying a hi-definition camera while asking him about a Newt Gingrich fundraiser “could have had a knife.”
O’Reilly claimed that Wisconsin activist Branden Lane (interviewed by TPM here) came up behind him screaming but implied he never hit the man with an umbrella.
“I felt like the Penguin in the Batman show,” O’Reilly said.
In fact, he felt it was Lane who should have been charged in the incident, though he later explained that in retrospect he’s glad Lane wasn’t charged because that would have made him look like a bully.
“Running at somebody screaming is in my opinion a threatening situation and there ought to be a law,” O’Reilly said, bringing on a former D.C. detective to discuss the situation.
“It looks to me like people don’t have any protection when people come at them and you don’t know who they are,” O’Reilly explained. “I’m thinking of John Lennon here. Poor John Lennon is signing an autograph and all of a sudden he is dead.”
O’Reilly later explained how this incident was different from when his producers conduct ambush interviews.
“The rules are: we identify ourselves, ‘this is who we are,’ we have a logo on the microphone, we do it in daylight… and if they say ‘back off,’ as I did to this guy, we back off unless its a situation where its a criminal or something like that,” O’Reilly said. We couldn’t find any O’Reilly ambushes where a subject utters the exact words “back off,” but we did find a couple of cases where his producer continued pursuing an interview even after the target told them they did not want to be interviewed.
TPM’s Michael Lester put together this montage of O’Reilly’s explanation, TPM’s interview with Lane and video of the incident:
For his part, Lane appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.