O’Reilly Producer Who Ambushes People For Avoiding Interviews Refuses NYT Requests For Comment

On the front page of today’s Arts section, New York Times reporter Brian Stelter has a story with the headline, “Gotcha TV: Crews Stalk Bill O’Reilly’s Targets.” In the piece, Stelter notes that over the past three years, O’Reilly’s “young producers” have stalked more than 50 people. In “almost every case,” the Fox News host has used ambushes “to campaign for his point of view,” and 10 of the last 12 ambush targets “were either outwardly liberal or had criticized Republicans.” The network began using the tactic in 2002, but it became an O’Reilly Factor “staple” in 2006. (It has now spread to other Fox shows as well.)

Stelter talked to a Fox executive, who claimed that O’Reilly goes after people only when they won’t give the network “answers.” Ironically, producer Jesse Watters — who staked out my apartment and stalked me — refused to give Stelter any answers:

The Fox News producer responsible for most of the ambush interviews, Jesse Watters, refused repeated interview requests. But the network did make David Tabacoff, the program’s senior executive producer, available to comment. Mr. Tabacoff — who started a telephone interview by asking, “This is going to be a fair piece, correct?” — said the interviews are “part of the journalistic mission” of “The O’Reilly Factor.” He called the program an “opinion-driven show that has a journalistic basis.”

“We’re trying to get answers from people,” he said. “Sometimes the only way to get them is via these methods.”

The attitude, as summarized by Mr. Watters in a blog post: “If they don’t come to us, we’ll go to them.”

Spencer Ackerman points out one thing missing from this article: “Stelter might also have noted in this piece that O’Reilly’s people never once contacted for comment Amanda before following her to a vacation spot, despite the Factor’s frequent protestations that the ambush-interviews are a last journalistic resort.”


Stelter also writes that O’Reilly’s crew went after me because of “a protest [I] helped organize against Mr. O’Reilly.” This statement isn’t true. Neither I — nor ThinkProgress — ever had anything to do with a protest regarding O’Reilly speaking to the Alexa Foundation. At that time, all we had done was write a short March 1 post highlighting controversial comments he had once made about a rape victim. You can view the post here and judge for yourself whether we “helped organize” a “protest” against O’Reilly. (We did launch a campaign to get O’Reilly’s advertisers to issue statements on whether they agreed with his brand of “journalism,” but that was after my ambush — not before.)

O’Reilly’s tactics have nothing to do with journalism. As Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute noted, “Nobody should hijack the power of journalism or use the public airwaves (or cable signals) simply to settle personal scores.” Mike Hoyt, the editor of the Columbia Journalism Review who has also faced his own O’Reilly ambush, has said that all O’Reilly does is try to grab “whatever out-of-context quote that he can use to make you look stupid.”


Gawker has more here, also pointing out that Fox never attempted to contact me before going on a “manhunt.”


,On his Twitter, Stelter writes, “O’Reilly’s ambush producers wouldn’t talk. I tried asking thru PR people; tried Facebook; tried phone calls. But didn’t visit their homes.”