Bill O'Reilly struck back at accusations that Fox News improperly hyped the Shirley Sherrod story by accusing rival MSNBC of dishonestly attacking Fox News to gain ratings.
In his "Talking Points Memo" on Thursday, O'Reilly admitted that he had initially gotten the Sherrod story wrong. However, he said MSNBC and its parent, NBC News, were waging "dishonest personal attacks" against Fox News. He also dismissed Rachel Maddow's charge that Fox News is stoking racial fears among whites by endlessly covering stories about supposed scandals involving African Americans. However, O'Reilly did not refer to Maddow by name:
"One NBC News loon actually said on the air that the coverage of ACORN, the Black Panthers and Ms. Sherrod was designed to make white Americans scared of black Americans. Who is sponsoring this stuff, Mad magazine?"
O'Reilly stuck to his argument that NBC News and MSNBC try to discredit him and Fox News because of their ratings dominance.
"NBC News is getting crushed by FNC, and that means they lose millions of dollars every quarter in revenue," O'Reilly said. "That's why [NBC News President Steve] Capus and his character assassins do what they do. If you can't beat 'em, slime 'em."
An hour later on MSNBC, Maddow actually ceded the ratings ground to O'Reilly, calling him "undisputed champion" but saying that it's facts, not ratings, that matter (and claiming that O'Reilly focuses on ratings to distract from the real issue).
O'Reilly added that Fox News had actually been careful in its coverage of the Sherrod story.
"Fox News was actually cautious when the Sherrod story broke," he said. "In his Washington Post column on Thursday, Howard Kurtz reports that FNC hard news chief Michael Clemente ordered his troops to take things slowly: 'Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air? Let's make sure we do this right.' Does that sound like a conspiracy to harm black Americans to you?"