In response to a demand from a Kremlin spokesperson that he apologize for calling Putin a “killer” during his pre-Super Bowl interview with Trump, O’Reilly told viewers Monday night, “I am working on that apology, but it may take a little time. Might want to check in with me around 2023.” To those wanting proof of Putin’s brutality, he pointed to a new book by Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz titled iWar: War and Peace in the Information Age.
As O’Reilly noted in his show’s opening segment, the portion of his interview with the president that got the most attention before the Super Bowl was the commentary around Putin. Trump insisted that he “respects” the Russian leader and did not dispute O’Reilly’s description of him as a “killer.” Instead, he replied, “There are a lot of killers. we’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think, our country’s so innocent?”
Later in his program Monday, two separate guests asked O’Reilly to share his reaction to the moral equivalency that Trump drew between Russia and the United States. When Charles Krauthammer brought up that moment, the host joked, “I am a little nervous here. Am I on the hit list? Did you get confirmation that an assassin will be following me home tonight? I just want to be prepared.”
But O’Reilly went on to defend Trump’s characterization, saying, “Here’s how I processed the president’s answer, not that it was a moral equivalency between the United States and Russia about actions, but that we don’t have a right to form a judgment.”
O’Reilly compared it to the “philosophy that Franklin Roosevelt used when he dealt with Stalin,” adding, “What Trump wants to do is enlist Putin’s help to defeat ISIS and to weaken Iran. So he says, we don’t have a right to make these personal judgements that you and I just made about Putin, which are accurate, OK. Because, in the past, the United States has done bad things too. That’s how I processed it.”
Speaking to historian Jon Meacham, O’Reilly reiterated, “My take was that [Trump] is going to go and try and make detente with Russia and overlook Putin being Putin, which is a killer. I don’t think there’s anybody who knows history that knows that isn’t true.”