‘Drop Dead, Man!’: When Bill O’Reilly Attacks

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We'll do it live. Photo: Rob Kim/Getty Images

Last night, the Hollywood Reporter held a cocktail party at the Four Seasons to celebrate the magazine’s annual Most Powerful in New York Media list. In addition to providing an opportunity for media luminaries to toast themselves (not that one was needed), the real upshot of the evening was putting a bunch of oversize egos in one room to see what happens. For me, the party was a chance to rub shoulders with Fox News personalities. At the Hollywood Reporter's party in 2012, I had a surreal encounter with Roger Ailes while researching my biography of the Fox News chief. In January, Random House published the book, and since then, Fox News has been largely silent on the book and its revelations.

Despite Fox's repeated bashing of the mainstream media and Hollywood, the Fox crowd was well represented on the Hollywood Reporter's rankings this year. Last night, the magazine honored Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Megyn Kelly, and Sean Hannity, and I wanted to hear what they thought of the book. 

When I arrived around 7 p.m., O’Reilly was chatting up Alec Baldwin while Megyn Kelly was deep in conversation with CBS News chairman Jeff Fager. Ailes and Hannity were no-shows, so I decided to try O’Reilly first. I caught up with him near the doorway to the Grill Room. I asked if he had read the book and what he thought. When he registered who I was, his eyes bulged out of their sockets. 

"Drop dead, man!” he screamed.

"Really?" I said, taken aback. 

My response triggered another eruption. He lunged forward at me. He stood there, all six foot five of him, staring me down. I thought he might take a swing at me. His producer Jesse Watters stood nearby, smiling. Before I could say anything more, O'Reilly spun around and stalked off with Watters in tow. 

I went up to Megyn Kelly next. She was touring the party with her husband, and the pair was way friendlier than her Fox colleague. But the vibe was cold. "I'm sorry, but I can't be seen talking to you," Kelly said. "It will get me in trouble." I asked her why. She stuck to her talking points. Before I turned to leave, there was one thing she wanted me to know. "Roger Ailes is a great man," she said. 

Irena Briganti, a Fox News spokeswoman, did not return a call for comment.