“I think the way to understand this is to make a distinction between culture and cult,” Burns, who hosted “Fox News Watch” for a decade, told CNN’s Brian Stelter on Sunday. “I’m saying that the people who watch Fox News are cult-ish. Because for many years, conservatives have been extremely upset in this country because the only newscast that they had to watch were liberal, you people at CNN and how liberal you are. And NBC and ABC and CBS.”
“They never had their own television station,” Burns continued. “When they got one, their appreciation, their audience loyalty — and I know what the audience loyalty was like when I was there — their audience loyalty soared. And so O’Reilly, as the head of the cult, is not held to the same standards as Brian Williams.”
O’Reilly has been under fire for allegedly lying or exaggerating about stories he reported on over the course of his long career.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, for example, targeted the “O’Reilly Factor” host for saying, multiple times, that he was at the doorstep of George de Mohrenschildt — an associate of John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald — in Florida when he committed suicide.
Audio tapes, however, prove O’Reilly was in Dallas, Texas, when he was informed of the suicide. “I’m coming down there tomorrow, I’m coming to Florida,” O’Reilly was recorded saying after he was told about de Mohrenschildt’s suicide.
Fox News and O’Reilly have yet to address the incident, which is one of many being questioned by the media. Despite multiple allegations against O’Reilly, some backed by hard evidence, the public does not seem to have the same fervor for punishment as it did when Williams, the suspended anchor of the “NBC Nightly News,” was caught lying about being in a helicopter shot down by RPG fire during the Iraq War.
“No one expects much out of O’Reilly as a Fox News host,” Burns said. “No one expects the truth. He’s been caught in numerous lies, and those have never been a story.”
“To the Fox News cult, this kind of thing doesn’t matter,” Burns added. “It’s a lie from the liberal media.”