FOX News host Bill O'Reilly denied calling Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) a "nut" and promised to play a clip on the air to verify his denial. In fact, he did indeed call Boxer a "nut" on his January 19 radio program, as Media Matters for America documented (audio here). He also denied his frequent practice of applying labels like "nut," "loon," and other disparaging names to political opponents, though Media Matters has documented O'Reilly's long history of this rhetorical practice.
On the January 25 edition of FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly denied the claim by St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Sylvester Brown Jr. that he called Boxer a "nut." Brown cited this remark by O'Reilly to explain why he likened the influence of O'Reilly and other conservatives on cable TV news to talk show host Jerry Springer's influence on reality TV:
BROWN: Well, let me -- let me explain the Springer comparison. You can talk about [Tom] Brokaw, you can talk about [Tim] Russert, you can talk about [Walter] Cronkite, everybody else who works for the "liberal media," but you don't see these guys calling people "idiots" on the air. You don't see them calling them "nuts" on the air. You don't see them calling names on the air. You don't see them --
O'REILLY: And the last time I called somebody an "idiot" was?
BROWN: But you did it, Bill --
BROWN: -- and you know you did it.
BROWN: You did it last week. You did it last week on -- with Barbara Boxer. You called her a "nut." You called the voters who voted for her "loony." Is that not true?
O'REILLY: That's not true. I mean, what I do is I say, "there are loony left-wing people" or "this is nuts," but I never say "She's a nut" or "This person is a loon."
BROWN: Bill, I suggest you --
O'REILLY: Come on.
BROWN: I suggest you play your tape. You did call Barbara Boxer a "nut" last week.
O'REILLY: I -- her position is nutty on certain issues. I do not call her a "nut." And, you know, we'll pull it [the clip], and we'll show that you're wrong.
But here's the deal. You write for a liberal newspaper --
BROWN: It's your radio program.
O'Reilly labeled Boxer "a nut" on the January 19 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, as Media Matters documented at the time:
O'REILLY: And, she sponsored a bill to have jet airlines be equipped with missile defense systems. [laugh] It didn't pass because -- so look. I mean, this is a nut. All right? This is a nut we got in the Senate.
O'Reilly's claim that "I never say ... 'This person is a loon'" was particularly dishonest since "loon" is one of O'Reilly's more frequently used epithets. Here are some examples:
- So all you guys -- all you people with the Madonna CDs? Just cross out Madonna and write in Esther. This woman's not a loon, is she? [Radio Factor, 6/17/04]
- And when I saw these attacks on him [actor and director Mel Gibson], and you know, using his father, who is undeniably a loon, but using his father to bash him, and -- oh! I -- I mean, it -- it just made me sick because he has a right to put that movie [The Passion of the Christ] out. [Radio Factor, 6/18/04]
- The New York City judge, who's a loon, by the way, in my opinion. We did this on The Factor last night, says you can't search the protesters out on the street. [Radio Factor, 7/21/04]
- Is Sharon Stone a loon, or what? [Radio Factor, 8/4/04]
- Look at the people -- write all the people that you know pretty well down on a sheet of paper. I guarantee you 30 percent of those people are loons. I guarantee it. Everybody who's a human being knows 30 percent of the people they know are insane. [Radio Factor, 8/11/04]
- I believe that Kerry is a smart guy who has an understanding of policy and our position in the world. Unlike Howard Dean, who is a raving loon. Did I make that clear enough? [Radio Factor, 9/27/04]
- The nutty people over at MoveOn.org have attacked Gallup. ... I mean, these people are just loons -- the Kool-Aid people. [Radio Factor, 9/28/04]
- Now, outta the 20 percent base of people who say they're liberal, I would say about 10 percent of those, half, are crazed -- loons. Just nuts -- who run around and do a lotta damage. [Radio Factor, 10/28/04]
- And then this Randy Moss, this loon who plays for the Minnesota Vikings. Grosses out a national audience. And, the NFL doesn't look like they're gonna do anything about it, and they should. [Radio Factor, 1/10/05]
- Propaganda/Noise Machine