Should the Washington Post’s Ties to Reagan Library Be Disclosed in Columns Attacking Bill O’Reilly?

By Mark Joyella 

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Much has been discussed regarding the recent spat between Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor George Will and Fox News host and author Bill O’Reilly over O’Reilly’s latest book, Killing Reagan (which remains number one on The New York Times Best Sellers list).

Will has called O’Reilly “an expert on actively misleading people,” and O’Reilly has described Will (to his face) as a “hack” who is “in with the cabal of the Reagan loyalists who don’t want the truth to be told.”

But as The Washington Post’s columnists have repeatedly questioned O’Reilly, they have never found time to mention their own publisher’s ties to those very “Reagan loyalists.”

The bad blood between the Will and O’Reilly has so far filled two columns by Will in the Washington Post, a video produced by the newspaper’s video team, columns by two other Post reporters, and one very fiery segment featuring Will on The O’Reilly Factor.

Washington Post columnist Erik Wemple described the O’Reilly Factor segment as an “epic clash” that featured “two people from the same network ripping the guts out of each other over a topic of some intellectual heft.”

O’Reilly, in that segment, said he’d asked to reply to Will’s columns with an op-ed of his own, but was refused by the Post. (O’Reilly did publish his response, on his own site) The newspaper did, however, produce a video, “7 Mistakes in Bill O’Reilly’s Book About Ronald Reagan.”

And in a story published in the Post’s Style section today, Paul Farhi suggests it’s O’Reilly who “just can’t let his feud with George Will rest.” Farhi explained that “The Post gets many requests to publish columns rebutting unfavorable reviews or opinions but generally doesn’t accept them on its Op-Ed page, where space is limited” before going on to report that “in conversations this week, Fox executives made it clear where their loyalties lie. They said Will is one of many contributors to the network and doesn’t enjoy the same status as O’Reilly. They said O’Reilly had the full backing of Roger Ailes, Fox News’ chairman. Ailes apparently hasn’t intervened in the dispute.”

But one layer of interest to all of this–so far unreported by the Post–is the man who serves as The WaPo’s publisher and chief executive officer, Fred Ryan. Ryan was an advisor to President Reagan and served as his chief of staff after leaving the White House. He’s currently chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation. As one industry insider quipped to TVNewser, “Fred continues to thread the needle on his conflict of interest career.”

In his column “Bill O’Reilly Makes a Mess of History,” Will does hint at tension between O’Reilly and the Reagan Library:

Recently on Fox News, O’Reilly put this on the screen from Sue Janzen of Yorba Linda, Calif.: “We went to the Reagan Library, and were told they do not sell Killing Reagan because it’s not factual.” Then O’Reilly said: “You were deceived, Sue. The Reagan Library is angry at (co-author) Martin Dugard and me.”

The connection between the Reagan Library and The Washington Post, however, was not disclosed. A spokesperson for the newspaper told TVNewser any suggestion Ryan has had any hand in Will’s columns or the paper’s coverage of O’Reilly’s book is “absolutely untrue.”