Bill O'Reilly pulls off rare 2016 feat

Fox News Host Bill O’Reilly on Thursday night pulled off the rare feat of interviewing Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton brings up 'Freedom Fries' to mock 'cancel culture' Edie Falco to play Hillary Clinton in Clinton impeachment series White House defends Biden's 'Neanderthal thinking' remark on masks MORE on the same program, with both candidates responding to the terrorist attack in Nice, France.

Clinton hadn't been on O'Reilly's show, "The O'Reilly Factor," in more than eight years. All told, Clinton has only appeared on Fox News twice in the past two years. 


Trump, meanwhile, had already completed two long interviews on Fox News, first with Greta Van Susteren in the 7:00 p.m. hour and then with O'Reilly, starting at the top of the 8:00 p.m. hour, for an interview that lasted 14 minutes. Clinton then appeared on O'Reilly's program starting at 8:51 p.m. for an interview that lasted seven minutes. 

It marked the first time ever Trump and Clinton had appeared on the same program on the same night. 

So how did O'Reilly's team pull off what no other program has in this election cycle? The host says it was due to both mutual respect and the weight of the story warranting a response from both candidates on a national stage.  

"We have a respectful relationship with the Clinton campaign because we do not cheap shot politicians and they know it," O'Reilly exclusively told The Hill in a statement. "Because of the importance of the Nice story, Secretary Clinton wanted her thoughts to reach millions of people. We were happy to provide her the forum and hope to speak with her in person soon." 

As we've witnessed time and again since announcing his candidacy, Trump doesn't hesitate when it comes to engaging the media after a big news event. Clinton is more cautious and slower with her public statements. Which approach is better is in the eye of the beholder. Or in this case, the voter. 

If the way things went down on O'Reilly's show last night is any indication, Clinton — who hasn't held a press conference in 223 days — could be doing more impromptu interviews from now until Election Day, because simply yielding the stage to Trump in an attempt to be prudent doesn't appear to be an option in today's lightning-fast media and social media world. 

Another interesting aspect of Clinton's responses to O'Reilly's questions was the tone and tenor the candidate used. During the primary campaign, the former Secretary of State did not use terms like "radical Islam" when talking terror and/or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But since disposing of Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersABC names new deputy political director, weekend White House correspondent Ron Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor GOP pulling out all the stops to delay COVID-19 package MORE (I-Vt.) in what was a much tougher than expected primary, Clinton has been sounding much more like her general election opponent in her rhetoric. 

"We've got to do more to understand that this is a war against these terrorist groups, the radical jihadist groups,” she told O'Reilly, a departure from her own previous language and that of President Obama in characterizing the enemy. 

Could the tougher tone of Clinton's remarks with O'Reilly signal a pivot to the center for Clinton?

Nomiki Konst, a member of the Democratic National Convention's Platform Committee and host of Sirius XM's "The Filter,” expressed doubt, saying the rules are different in this election cycle. 

"In the past, [Democratic] candidates could get away with playing to progressives and pivoting to the center, but the rules have changed," Konst said. "This year is not about left versus center or right versus center, but party members versus the elite that rule them. In Hillary Clinton's case, that's the corporate donors."

Harlan Hill, a Democratic consultant and frequent Fox News and CNN pundit, agreed.  

"She may be parroting some of what Donald Trump's saying, but very few people think there's any daylight between Hillary and [President] Obama on terror," Hill said. 

Jennefer Witter, a CEO of the public relations firm The Boreland Group in New York, argues the precedent of past elections is not applicable here when it comes to responding during breaking news events. 

"This is a not a 'normal' presidential election and war rooms, made famous by Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonSenators introduce bill creating technology partnerships to compete with China Edie Falco to play Hillary Clinton in Clinton impeachment series Website shows 3D models of every Oval Office design since 1909 MORE, don't have the time to fully digest news as they run the risk of getting behind the news,” Witter said. "Trump and his quick responses have, as I see it, pushed Clinton to respond faster than she probably would like."

"Trump has changed the dynamics of candidates running for political office — note how he called into key news programs during the primaries and how much earned media he generated as a result," she continued. "Clinton never did that during her first run for the presidency, but I expect she will be doing a lot more of it now simply to get her voice into the mix and not have Trump get the lion's share of attention."

Regardless of the perception of Trump or Clinton when it comes to fighting terror, the clear winner last night was O'Reilly. Because during a breaking news event, the host pulled off something no other show on any network has been able to accomplish: Persuade the GOP and Democratic candidates for president to talk to him — and on the fly — during the same program.