- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Bill O’Reilly marked the departure of rival Keith Olbermann from MSNBC, but wouldn’t say his name.

The host of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News Channel, a frequent target of Olbermann’s barbs, noted on Monday’s broadcast that a “hateful commentator” has been replaced by MSNBC.

Olbermann and MSNBC abruptly announced on Friday that he would be leaving “Countdown,” the network’s most-watched show and the template for which MSNBC remade itself as a network with liberal hosts in prime time. No reason was given for the exit.

“If you read about the shake-up, you would think the MSNBC people were ratings monsters,” O’Reilly said. “That’s outright deception by the liberal press, is it not?”

“Yes,” answered Fox News contributor Bernard Goldberg.

O’Reilly said that Fox News was ranked well above MSNBC in the ratings, and that 12 of its shows had a bigger audience on average than anything on MSNBC. Fox News was the fourth most popular cable network last year, he said.

“This network, to be ranked 28th with all of NBC’s resources, is a failure,” he said. “The Fox News Channel is a colossal success, a colossal success. You never read that. I very rarely read that.”

Fox did not immediately respond to a request for an interview with O’Reilly.

Olbermann had frequently targeted O’Reilly in his “Worst Persons in the World” segment. O’Reilly had fought back, so much so that there were published reports that corporate leaders of the networks were involved at one point in trying to cool tensions.

O’Reilly’s ratings soared at the same time as Olbermann became a foil in the same time slot. “The O’Reilly Factor” averaged 2.1 million viewers in 2006, the year Olbermann actively began being an opinion commentator, and had 3.2 million viewers last year, the Nielsen Co. said. Olbermann averaged 1 million viewers last year.

Meanwhile, Olbermann tweeted followers Monday night to thank them for their support. “The reports of the death of my career are greatly exaggerated,” he wrote.

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