Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly is better known for picking fights with liberals, but on Monday he turned his combative drive toward an unsuspecting crowd: teabaggers.

"Some of these tea parties are nuts," O'Reilly told Fox News anchor Brit Hume. "They're crazy."

Hume was silent, and O'Reilly added that Fox News' Jesse Waters, who attended the high-profile Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, "puts the number at about 10 percent, that are just loons, out of their minds."

O'Reilly's words came in response to Hume's suggestion that there are "very few really favorable stories about the tea partiers."

His remarks are doubly surprising not only because O'Reilly seldom takes on conservative groups or causes so explicitly manner, but also because the network that has made his career is a vigorous supporter of the tea party movement.

The weekend event's opening night speaker, former Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, explicitly advocated the return of a Jim Crow law that prevented blacks from voting.

Sarah Palin was its main-event headliner and her speech received considerable fanfare as well as criticism.

Despite his harsh critique of some tea partiers, O'Reilly nonetheless assailed the mainstream media's coverage of the movement, praising most teabaggers as "citizens getting involved" in their government. "Even if you don't agree with them, that's a good thing," he said.

"Just the fact that these people walk the walk, they don't get any respect."

O'Reilly also debated Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei Monday night, who slammed Fox's Bill Sammon for alleging the mainstream media "hates" the tea party movement. "He has no clue," VandeHei said, calling the comments "ridiculous."

"He follows [the movement] just like you do," responded O'Reilly. "We have eyes, Jim."

The following video is from Fox's The O'Reilly Factor program on Monday, Feb. 8, uploaded by