Bill O’Reilly says he did his best to console a wounded Donald Trump after MAGA fans booed him for admitting he’d had a booster shot.
The former Fox News host, who has been traveling through Florida and Texas with Mr Trump on a speaking tour, recounted the conversation with NewsNation‘s Dan Abrams.
“He called me,” Mr O’Reilly told Mr Abrams. “I said, ‘This is good for you. This is good that people see another side of you, not a political side. You told the truth, you believe in the vax, your administration did it, and you should take credit for it.’”
During an event in Dallas on Sunday, O’Reilly asked Mr Trump if he’d had a booster Covid shot, to which the former president replied, “Yes.”
That unleashed a chorus of boos from the crowd, to the dismay of the former president.
In Mr O’Reilly’s recollection, the jeers came from only “maybe, I don’t know, a hundred” people out of several thousand. But from the way he described their phone call, it seemed clear that the incident upset Mr Trump.
“I’m trying to tell President Trump, run on your record,” O’Reilly recalled. “He’s going to run again, all right? I said, run on your record, because your record’s pretty darn good!”
While he was president, Mr Trump persistently downplayed the pandemic and discouraged precautions like masks and lockdowns. Eventually, he contracted the virus himself and became seriously ill, but told Americans, “Don’t be afraid of Covid.”
At the same time, Mr Trump’s administration launched Operation Warp Speed, which gave billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies to develop Covid-19 vaccines. The effort finally paid off in December 2020, when Pfizer announced that it had developed an effective shot.
By that time, however, Mr Trump had lost the 2020 election and was obsessed with overturning it. Meanwhile, many of his supporters had become convinced that the pandemic was a hoax. When Mr Trump became one of the first people in the world to get vaccinated, he did so in secret.
On Sunday, Mr Trump attempted to belatedly take credit for the vaccines, but was met with silence – and, eventually, boos – from his audience.
“Look, we did something that was historic,” the former president said. “We saved tens of millions of lives worldwide when we, together, all of us, we got a vaccine done. This was going to ravage the country far beyond what it is right now.”
More than 806,000 Americans have died of Covid-19.