Fox News is firing back at Gawker for its Bill O’Reilly story. Earlier today, Gawker posted what it billed as a major exclusive—a story by John Cook claiming that prime-time host Bill O’Reilly had attempted to coax the internal affairs unit of his hometown police department into investigating one of its officers, because O’Reilly believed an officer was having an extra-marital affair with his wife.
“Gawker has been lying about Fox News for several years,” a Fox spokesperson told Adweek when reached for comment about the story. “We are not going to dignify this with any further comment.”
The story centers on a detective in the Nassau County Police Department’s internal affairs unit named Richard Harasym who, according to Gawker, “at some point during the summer of 2010,” was pulled into the office of “his commanding officer, Inspector Neil Delargy . . . with a highly unorthodox assignment: Harasym was to launch an investigation into a fellow officer based not on what he had done, but on who he was dating.”
In relating its story, Gawker cites a single source who Cook says “has a longstanding personal relationship” with Harasym and “heard the account directly from Harasym himself.” Gawker goes on to say that “the source provided contemporaneous e-mail traffic to support his account.” After laying out its allegation against O’Reilly, Gawker proceeds to give a lengthy accounting of alleged troubles in O'Reilly's marriage.
In the past week—before the Gawker story posted—FoxNews.com and morning show Fox & Friends reported that Gawker’s traffic had dropped 75 percent in the last year. (As Forbes' Jeff Bercovici pointed out, though, Fox had gotten its numbers wrong. The figures, from Compete.com, actually showed Gawker's traffic down 37 percent year-over-year. And Quantcast, another service that tracks Web traffic, shows a slight uptick in Gawker visitors year-over-year). On TV, Fox & Friends host Steve Doocy described Gawker as having been “mildly popular” at one point, and, as Politico notes, the Fox website listed Gawker as No. 1 on its list of "Formerly Popular Sites That Are Dead or Dying." Those stories prompted Gawker to allege that Fox was preemptively bashing the site because the channel knew Cook was working on a negative piece.
For its part, however, the network denies that it was attempting to preempt Cook's story by dumping on Gawker, saying that there was no link, that the decision to report on Gawker’s traffic figures was purely editorial, and that producers at Fox & Friends wouldn’t have had knowledge of the impending O’Reilly story.