Keith Olbermann was eagerly anticipating his first meeting with Bill O'Reilly. It didn't happen. The feuding cable TV personalities both attended a charity fundraiser thrown by New York Yankees manager Joe Torre last November. Olbermann picked up his name tag and spotted O'Reilly's tag on the table.
"He never got within 20 feet of me," Olbermann told the Television Critics Association's summer meeting Saturday. "I swear to God, every time I looked up, he would suddenly look down. He was staring over at me. But we're about the same height, so I really don't think he's going to come talk to me. If I were about a foot shorter, I'm sure there would be a confrontation of some sort."
During his "Countdown" show on MSNBC, Olbermann regularly tweaks O'Reilly, whose "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox is No. 1 in the cable TV news ratings. Olbermann generally runs third in the same time slot.
O'Reilly has referred to Olbermann — although not by name — as a "notorious smear merchant" and pointed out his low ratings.
Olbermann said his phone number has been distributed at Fox and his e-mail hacked into.
"They're annoying things, and that's about it. That's the price you pay," he said. "Nothing that you do in putting yourself in the public eye is for free. I can live with it."
Olbermann opened his session by whipping out a mask of O'Reilly — a poke at Fox asking journalists to accept handout photos of TCA news conferences from photographers the network had hired.
"We thought we'd help you out, those of you who needed a good photograph of," Olbermann said, pausing to hold up O'Reilly's photo glued to a stick as reporters laughed.
Olbermann has named O'Reilly his "Worst Person in the World" at least 15 times. The nightly "award" is Olbermann's way of criticizing bad behavior.
"It's just so much fun," Olbermann said. "I've always liked playing in traffic. I was told in 1977 that I had no future in the business and wouldn't last if I didn't change my style, so I don't really worry about it."