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'The O'Reilly Factor' Ratings Soar Amidst Controversy Over Host's War-Reporting

02/26/2015 07:38 pm ET | Updated Feb 26, 2015
Slaven Vlasic via Getty Images

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - "The O'Reilly Factor" has long been the most popular program in cable news, and the controversy surrounding host Bill O'Reilly's war-reporting experiences has only helped elevate the show's ratings.

Wednesday night's "Factor" delivered easily the program's largest audience of 2015 in the key news demo of adults 25-54 (705,000) -- up 24% week-to-week, up 62% year-over-year and more than four times the audience of cable news runner-up "Anderson Cooper" on CNN (162,000).

It also dominated in total viewers, moving back past the 3 million mark (3.084 million) while its MSNBC (907,000) and CNN (535,000) competition drew about half as much combined. MSNBC was above average in total viewers with its exclusive town hall meeting with President Obama, but it wasn't even close.

O'Reilly didn't address the Mother Jones story on his Falkland War reporting from 1982 during Wednesday's show, but it's likely that he's getting a bump from the controversy's aftermath.

Since last week, reports have emerged challenging O'Reilly's past assertions about his experiences in El Salvador, whether or not he witnessed the suicide of a man tied to Lee Harvey Oswald and most recently, whether he came under attack while covering the 1992 Los Angeles riots for the syndicated newsmagazine series "Inside Edition."

Fox News execs have staunchly backed their star host, slamming on Thursday what the network called "the unproven accusation du jour."

As media observers have noted, the deluge of reports questioning O'Reilly's past reportage is likely to only rally his core audience to the show. Monday's episode of "O'Reilly Factor," in which O'Reilly defended himself by broadcasting excerpts of CBS News coverage of the protests he was covering in 1982, drew the largest overall "Factor" audience (3.34 million) since November.

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