O'Reilly reaction ignites slew of responses
Bill O'Reilly fired back Tuesday at an editorial by Dan Radmacher of The Roanoke Times.
By Erinn Hutkin 981-3138
Interviews with three local TV stations. Calls from readers. E-mails from everywhere -- and a voicemail message from a friend joking he's a "liberal loon."
It was more reaction than Roanoke Times Editorial Page Editor Dan Radmacher expected from his Sunday column on the Horizon section front page.
The piece attacked the "'War on Christmas' nonsense" and cited TV commentator Bill O'Reilly as pushing it.
On Tuesday -- on radio and on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," -- the conservative host fired back.
By Wednesday, the war of words between the local editorial writer and the national name was everywhere -- on TV, Web sites and radio news. Readers were weighing in. And one local news anchor termed it "David versus Goliath."
The reaction was strange, Radmacher admitted Wednesday. When he wrote his column he never expected to reach O'Reilly's radar.
"I could see jumping onto something in The New York Times, but to make a big deal of a relatively small newspaper seems counterproductive," Radmacher said. "I had no idea he (O'Reilly) would be that easy to provoke."
One day after his column ran, Radmacher, 42, said an O'Reilly assistant called him, as well as newspaper editor Mike Riley, Publisher Wendy Zomparelli and Landmark Communications Inc., which owns The Roanoke Times.
Tipped off that his column might be mentioned, Radmacher listened to O'Reilly's radio broadcast Tuesday and watched his nighttime show, "The O'Reilly Factor."
He was not alone.
By 11 p.m. Tuesday, WDBJ-TV (Channel 7) was reporting the story.
David Seidel, assignment editor for WDBJ, said the fact Roanoke was being mentioned nationally led the station to pick up the story.
"Anytime an issue locally ... gets that kind of national attention, we think it's worth noting," he said.
The spat also made news on WSLS (Channel 10), ABC 13 (WSET-TV) and radio station WFIR-AM. WDBJ's and WFIR's Web site also linked to O'Reilly's show on Fox News.
Overnight e-mails from listeners asking, "What did O'Reilly say?" prompted WFIR to air the story in the morning and afternoon, said Program Director Jim Murphy.
During its Wednesday morning news meeting, said Channel 13 assistant news director/assignment editor Emmett Strode, reaction consisted of "can you believe this," prompting the news agency to pursue the story.
"It's one of those, 'What's the big stink about?' " Strode said.
Meanwhile, a Roanoke Times message board was full of reaction Wednesday, some taking Radmacher's side, some supporting O'Reilly,
"I watched Bill O'Reilly tear you and your tiny little paper to pieces last night and it was great. You may slam Bill locally but he blasted you ... nationally, excuse me, internationally," one person wrote.
Other messages were more supportive.
"Great piece," one message read. "It is sad that so many get their world view from this aggressive, obnoxious individual on a daily basis."
After O'Reilly reacted, Radmacher said he considered writing something else in defense, but decided to "let it go."
After all, he admitted, this may not be the first time he's been called a loon. It's just the first time its happened on national TV.