O’Reilly said Will’s syndicated column, which was headlined “Bill O’Reilly Slanders Ronald Reagan,” equated to “libel” against him.
Their disagreement centered on O’Reilly’s thesis that a 1981 assassination attempt traumatized former president Ronald Reagan, causing a mental decline that would eventually devolve into Alzheimer’s disease.
While O’Reilly insisted that Reagan administration staff memos validate his theory, Will dismissed it as false and damaging to the conservative icon’s memory. Both men accused each other of failing to carry out due diligence as reporters.
“You are not telling the truth. You are actively misleading the American people,” O’Reilly told Will.
“You’re something of an expert on willfully misleading people,” an irritated-looking Will replied.
O’Reilly defended his research by saying he did not interview former Reagan aides because they wanted to deify the former president, while he wanted to tell the true story of Reagan’s administration.
Will disagreed, accusing O’Reilly of “extreme recklessness.”
The book “is doing the work of the left," he said, "which knows in order to discredit conservatism it must destroy Reagan’s reputation as the president."
Will’s studied impatience made a stark contrast with O’Reilly’s palpable anger, which escalated over the course of the conversation. But the Fox host got the last word before wrapping up the interview, telling Will, “You’re a hack! Bye.”
Watch their full exchange below.