Bill O’Reilly and Geraldo Rivera said Friday there were no hard feelings after they engaged in a shouting match unusual even for a cable opinion program where the volume is frequently set to loud.
No chairs flew and no noses were broken. But the finger-pointing verbal duel over illegal immigration on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” on Thursday night became a water-cooler topic the next day.
“Geraldo is a friend of mine, and I think I respect him even more now, if that’s possible, than I did before,” O’Reilly told The Associated Press on Friday. But they disagree passionately on the issue, he said.
“I’ve known him for 25 years,” O’Reilly said. “Geraldo doesn’t come on to pick a fight.”
Rivera said his sensitivity to a “massive witch-hunt” against illegal immigrants set him off Thursday.
The two men were discussing the case of Alfredo Ramos, a man charged with manslaughter and suspected of being drunk when his car crashed into another in Virginia Beach last Friday. Two teenaged girls were killed. Ramos, a Mexican who has been in the United States seven years, is allegedly in the country illegally.
“He doesn’t have a right to be in this country,” O’Reilly said. He said he wanted immigration laws enforced while Rivera favored “open-border anarchy.”
Rivera said O’Reilly shouldn’t be turning a drunken-driving case into an illegal-immigration issue.
“Don’t obscure a tragedy to make a cheap political point,” Rivera told him.
Rivera told the AP he has a particular sensitivity to the issue. His father, who came to New York from Puerto Rico in 1940, used to watch the news and pray that people who committed a crime weren’t Puerto Rican, he said.
“I think that illegal immigration is the gay marriage (issue) of this political season,” he said.
Rivera, who is a guest on “The O’Reilly Factor” once a week, said he doesn’t come on to be cowed or bullied by the host’s opinions.
O’Reilly called him after the taping to say, “That was lively, eh?” he said.
“We’re friends off camera,” he said. “On camera, the fact of the matter is that we disagree on so many things that it always makes for good television.”
Rivera was host of a daytime syndicated talk show famous for its liveliness, where he even had a nose broken in a scrum. He’s been working for Fox News since shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks, and recently had a daytime syndicated news show produced by Fox canceled.
His on-camera duel with O’Reilly seems to have struck a chord, judging by the requests he’s getting to talk about the issue, Rivera said. The tape was played a couple of times Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
At one point in the debate, Rivera told O’Reilly, “Don’t be ... Lou Dobbs’ mom.” CNN anchor Dobbs has made a crusade against illegal immigration on his program the past year.
That was a new insult even for a TV host used to them.
“I have been insulted by your organization and many other organizations,” O’Reilly told the AP, “so nothing I hear surprises me.”