Bill O'Reilly Calls Himself 'T-Warrior'

ByABC News

Sept. 20, 2006 — -- For 10 years, five nights a week, Bill O'Reilly's "No-Spin Zone" -- has perfected a formula of confrontation, taking no prisoners along the way.

Watch "20/20," Friday Night at 10

O'Reilly's provocative opinions have helped his show draw cable TV's biggest audience.

Although his viewers are a fraction of those that watch network newscasts, they're committed and responsive.

O'Reilly invented his nightly program after tours of duty in the more conventional news departments of CBS and ABC.

But conventional was never his style, and his views and loyal listeners have helped him grow into a media icon.

Besides the "Factor" on TV, he hosts a daily two-hour radio program, "The Radio Factor."

He has written six books, the most recent entitled, "Culture Warrior."

In an interview with Barbara Walters at his waterfront home in Long Island, N.Y., O'Reilly explained the "culture of war," the crux of his new book.

He said it was a war pitting traditional Americans -- those who believe the United States is noble -- against those who are secular progressives and believe the country is fundamentally flawed.

"It's the traditionalists who really want to keep the country pretty much the way it is," O'Reilly said. "Against the secular progressives who want drastic change. … They control the media." .

O'Reilly comes from a blue-collar background and lives with his wife and two young children in an upscale community.

Standing at 6 feet, 4 inches, he can resemble a formidable culture warrior at times.

He even calls himself, "T-Warrior," short for "traditional warrior."

When "20/20" pointed out that he had one of the loudest voices in the media, O'Reilly said he and his fellow traditionalists were outnumbered and had been since the days of Walter Cronkite.

"I write about all these guys in the book. And Cronkite, to me, was a surprise because I grew up watching him," he said.

"I thought he was fair. And then he comes out of the closet as this real radical left guy. And I am going, 'Whoa, Walter, where have you been all these years?'"

If it weren't for the media, O'Reilly says, there would be no ongoing debates over gay marriage or references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to O'Reilly, the media have created these controversies and Americans are overwhelmingly against gay marriage and support mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegiance.

"The media is really the balancing agent here between the 20 percent of Americans who are secular progressives, and about 60 percent who are traditionalists," O'Reilly said.

"I gotta expose it."

When asked whether he supported a particular political party, O'Reilly said, "I vote all over the map." But he says he feels sorry for President Bush.

"Bush found himself in a position that nobody can anticipate," O'Reilly said. "And [he] has made a lot of mistakes. Now, the American public, I think, has lost confidence in the president. And that's a terrible place to be."

Walters asked O'Reilly about his thoughts on the possibility of New York junior Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton running for president in 2008.

"My problem with Senator Clinton is, that she doesn't answer questions," he said.

O'Reilly says he's asked her key questions like, "What would you do in Iraq? What would you do with al Qaeda?"

Currently, he said, she does not give a clear answer for those questions.

"If you don't answer the questions, I am against you," he said.

O'Reilly has gotten in some nasty public arguments with those who disagree with him.

He has had public spats with author and commentator Al Franken and taken on filmmaker Michael Moore, cable rival Keith Olbermann, and box office titan George Clooney, all of whom he labels "secular progressives."

"20/20" checked O'Reilly's pulse on a few more public figures, like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and former President Clinton.

O'Reilly said the war in Iraq had not gone well, but he did not slam Rumsfeld.

"You know, war is a performance business. And Iraq is a mess," he said. "Now, I think he is a patriot. And I think he did the best he could. It's not working."

But O'Reilly had harsher criticism for Cheney and compared him to Hillary Clinton.

He believes Cheney does not want to be a guest on the "No-Spin Zone."

"He's afraid to come on the program. … For the same reason that Hillary won't," he said. "He is gonna sit in the chair, and I am gonna go, 'Hey.' And he doesn't want that."

To the surprise of some observers, O'Reilly believes Bill Clinton's presidency was a success.

"Brilliant. I think he did a good job as president," O'Reilly said. "Had a little problem with the honesty deal. And that gave me pause. But his presidency was successful."

O'Reilly said he had a lot of respect for another presidential hopeful. Sen. John McCain.

"I like McCain. You know, he is a feisty guy," he said. "He is my kinda guy. A 'No Spin' guy."

When asked about a few people who had mixed it up with him, like Jon Stewart, O'Reilly was dismissive.

"Stewart is a. … Well, he is just an entertainer," O'Reilly said. "I go on his show. I give him jazz. He gives me jazz. He knows his choir is on the left -- a bunch of stoned-out college kids watching him."

Late-night talk-show host David Letterman once said that O'Reilly was "full of crap."

O'Reilly said, "Letterman is a liberal guy. And we had a good shootout on his program. And I got my point across. And he got his, uh, point across."

O'Reilly puts Stewart, Letterman and Jay Leno in the same category, as entertainers who are "in it for the laughs."

O'Reilly says his fame and success -- and sometimes controversial views -- have come with a price.

"With the controversy comes death threats on a daily basis," O'Reilly said. "Not only from kooks. But the FBI came in and warned me and a few other people at Fox News that al Qaeda had us on a death list. … That's a little disconcerting."

So does O'Reilly ever question what he's doing? Is all the controversy he creates worth it when he has a wife and kids?

O'Reilly says he knows his big mouth gets him into a certain amount of trouble.

When it goes over the line and he requires round-the-clock protection, he says he asks himself, "Is it worth it?"

Still, O'Reilly sticks to his guns, even if he is a bit self-deprecating about his legacy.

"When I am dead, my tombstone will read, 'He finally stopped talking,'" he said.