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Bill O’Reilly begins tour, hints at Fox News competitor

Bill O'Reilly at The Hollywood Reporter's

Bill O'Reilly at The Hollywood Reporter's "35 Most Powerful People in Media" celebration in New York on April 6, 2016. His "The Spin Stops Here" tour began Saturday, June 17, 2017, at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Photo Credit: AP / Andy Kropa

Bill O’Reilly returned to the home front Saturday, making his first public appearance since he was forced out at Fox News in April, and promising the crowd at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury that he won’t be going anywhere — for a long time to come.

Making the first stop at his “The Spin Stops Here” tour, O’Reilly addressed that future, and — as usual in these shows — made some news during the question-and-answer period that wraps them. Asked whether he planned to start his own network, he said “there could be a new network” that will compete directly with Fox News. “A bunch of people are looking to compete with Fox because there’s a perception” of decline, he said.

“But I am starting my own operation. We are going to do that,” adding that his website, billoreilly.com, will beta test a half-hour newscast “where we will go into a studio and here it will look like ‘The Factor.’ . . . It’s basically an experiment to see how many people are going to want this service. That’s coming and will be here before September in a robust form. But I suspect there will be another network maybe merging with us. There will be a network that rises up because the numbers for Fox are going down.”

O’Reilly began the show — after an opening act by his longtime “Factor” wingman Dennis Miller — by addressing his departure from Fox April 19 in the wake of a New York Times investigation which reported that Fox had paid millions of dollars in settlements to several female staffers who had accused him of sexual harassment going back to 2005. He has denied the allegations.

“It’s a different network,” he said. “It happens. I’m not going to bad-mouth them. They had a shift in management that coincided with a very well thought-out and financed effort to destroy me. It worked — temporarily. It all had to do with President Trump. In the weeks to come, I’m going to lay all that out in a very public way.”

Characteristically defiant, his fans — the “folks” in O’Reilly-speak — also saw another side of O’Reilly Saturday, most notably the vertical one: A rangy 6-foot-5, he stood most of the show, sitting only when Miller went into a stemwinder (of which there were a few). In blue blazer and tanned slacks, he at least did a good impression of a contented powerful media figure in exile (albeit only temporarily, as he reminded fans).

He mostly spoke about Trump, with whom he drew parallels, blaming the media for some of his problems. “It’s now almost impossible for me to analyze him fairly because he is being treated so unfairly,” he said. “I know the same people who came after me are the same people after him. So I know this is the fraud being perpetuated on you, the American voter. The progressive far left will not accept the election.”

“It’s the media driving the hate,” he said. “It’s the media that’s driving the hate.”

That was one of the biggest applause lines of the night.

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