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XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX TUE NOV 20 2001 21:41:09 ET XXXXX
O'REILLY 'PULLS BACK' FROM RADIO HUNT
FOXNEWS star Bill O'Reilly announced late Tuesday that he has "pulled back" from pursuing plans to directly challenge RadioKing Rush Limbaugh with a daily radioshow.
The dramatic move comes even after Limbaugh gave the cablehost his on-air blessing earlier this week!
"If we can help him get any stations -- he should call us," Limbaugh, who is heard on more than 600 stations, said of the O'Reilly move.
As first reported exclusively in this space, O'Reilly has been secretly pitching a daily 2-hour syndicated radio program.
In recent weeks, O'Reilly's interest in doing radio increased dramatically, insiders reveal. O'Reilly moved from wanting to do a daily short-form commentary -- in the spirit of Paul Harvey -- to a long form strip, positioned opposite Limbaugh.
"I can take him on, I'm not going to be doing politics," O'Reilly told one top executive.
O'Reilly Radio has been considered by ABC and CBS's syndication arm WESTWOOD, and others, according to industry sources.
The timing of O'Reilly's move raised eyebrows in top industry circles.
O'Reilly's negotiations with syndicators intensified after Rush Limbaugh announced he had lost his hearing.
It is not clear if O'Reilly views the Limbaugh franchise as weakened and vulnerable, or if the timing of the O'Reilly move is simply a natural progression of his media success.
[O'Reilly's TV program has easily topped CNN's LARRY KING LIVE night after night, defying all conventional wisdom. And O'Reilly's new book remains #1 on the NEW YORK TIMES Bestsellers list.]
O'Reilly made it clear on Tuesday night that he's never spoken to Rush Limbaugh about his move into radio -- and his planned direct challenge.
"I don't know him. I've never spoken with him," O'Reilly said on-air via phone from a vacation location to O'REILLY FACTOR substitute host John Kasich.
O'Reilly went on to blast this report for revealing his radio plans.
"We were all caught by surprise," O'Reilly said. "I just thought it was such a vicious, vicious assault by Matt Drudge on me, designed solely to hurt me, by the way -- no other reason."
"If this is causing Rush Limbaugh any angst at all, I'd rather not do any kind of radio. So we're going to pull back and I'm going to talk to Mr. Limbaugh and see where it goes. But I have to say, I've never, ever been as angry."
[O'Reilly's comments came even after the host was told that Limbaugh had already addressed the challange on the air. "It is a capitalistic society, competition is good for everyone... I'm excited about it," Limbaugh said on Monday.]
O'Reilly continued the rage against Drudge:
"If this was 200 years ago, there'd have to be a duel, and believe me, I'd win. Vicious stuff. Totally ridiculous... It's really disgraceful in my opinion.
"And I don't consider Matt Drudge a journalist..."
Welcome to The Club, O'Reilly.
You're in good company.
George Clooney has declared the same of you.<
Reports are moved when circumstances warrant
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