By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and conservative TV host Bill O'Reilly might seem like an odd couple to some, but they recently put aside any political differences and teamed up to raise nearly $750,000 for U.S. military families.
And that sum is still growing.
The conservative commentator of Fox News channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," likened his charitable pact with the liberal-leaning president to the spirit of cooperation between Republicans and Democrats that recently has arisen in Washington, D.C.
"What I'm always looking to do is get outside of myself and help people who need help, and the president got that right away," O'Reilly told Reuters.
The story goes like this.
Heading into his pre-Super Bowl interview with Obama -- the second time O'Reilly had grilled the president -- the commentator thought his notes might have some future value.
After the end of their televised talk, which at times put the two at odds, O'Reilly asked Obama if he would sign his research notes as long as O'Reilly used the document and signature to raise money for a charitable cause.
The president agreed and suggested O'Reilly give the money to Fisher House, a non-profit group that builds and maintains "comfort homes" on the grounds of U.S. military medical centers where families stay while their loved ones are being treated.
"He is a regular guy," O'Reilly said of the president. "He gets it right away. He was like, 'Fisher House,' and boom, I was right there" with him.
Since then, people have been able to donate $500 to the charitable organization and in return, get a copy of the notes with Obama's signature and O'Reilly's hand-signed autograph on the same document.
"I thought we might raise $500,000 and right now, we're at just below $750,000," O'Reilly said.
Dave Coker, the president of the Fisher House Foundation, said by next week, the effort should cross the $750,000 mark. O'Reilly hopes to get to $1 million.
"It is been an unexpected blessing, but we're in the blessing business," Coker said. "We don't advertise and believe that if we focus on providing the service, good things will happen, and this is a perfect example of that."
Because of O'Reilly's conservative political views, most people might think of him as being an antagonist to Obama on almost everything, but the commentator said that's not true.
In O'Reilly's view, he has been fair in his assessments -- good or bad -- of the president and his policies. O'Reilly said the proof is Obama granting him the Super Bowl interview in February.
"I want to have a respectful relationship with the President of the United States, no matter who it is," he said.
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)