Despite multiple attempts to correct him, FOX News host Bill O'Reilly has continued to misquote a statement Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) made in questioning Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during Rice's recent confirmation hearings. O'Reilly claims that Boxer questioned Rice's "respect for the troops"; in fact, Boxer questioned Rice's "respect for the truth" (emphasis added) after citing specific statements by Rice that Boxer claimed were untrue or inconsistent.
But Boxer never mentioned Rice's "respect for the troops." Rather, Boxer told Rice that "I personally believe ... that your loyalty to the mission you were given, to sell this war, overwhelmed your respect for the truth," as the clip of Boxer's remark and the transcript of those remarks demonstrate (and as the Associated Press, The Washington Post, Reuters, and The New York Times all reported, among others).
Yet, as Media Matters for America noted, O'Reilly declared on the January 19 edition of FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor that "Boxer ... went over the line by saying to Dr. Rice, 'Hey, you know, you put the troops in the background [emphasis added] for your ideological loyalty to [President] Bush.' That's what she said." And on his radio show earlier that day, O'Reilly opined that "to say that Condoleezza Rice doesn't have respect for the troops -- 'overwhelmed the respect for the troops' -- cheap shot all day long."
Since then, two different callers to O'Reilly's radio show have tried to correct his misquotation, but O'Reilly has dismissed both. The first attempted correction came on the January 20 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: I don't have any problem with Boxer grilling Rice. But when she says to Rice, "You allowed your loyalty to the President to override your concern for the troops" -- that's over the line. Don't you see that?
CALLER: Did she say "for the troops" or "for the truth"?
O'REILLY: No, "for the troops."
CALLER: Okay --
O'REILLY: That's when she went over the line. When she started to make it, "Hey, you're a craven politician who will do anything for power, and you don't care about the guys dying in the sand" -- which is what she was saying --
CALLER: Okay. I thought she said "for the truth," because I do believe --
O'REILLY: No, she was talking "the troops" -- and then you saw Rice get her back up by saying, "Don't you impugn my concern for those troops over there. I was involved with sending them there, and I'm" -- and dah, dah, dah, dah --
On the January 26 Radio Factor, O'Reilly lectured a caller who tried to correct him for her supposed ignorance, asking "how can we possibly take your analysis seriously" given that "anybody following that hearing knows she did it" and the remark was "played on every news show":
CALLER: Yes, Mr. O'Reilly. I just wonder, why we are speaking against Barbara Boxer? I thought she was there doing her job. She was to question Condoleezza Rice on her past performance and her present performance. What she was going to do in the future --
O'REILLY: Well, you're puttin' a happy face on it, though. Lemme ask you a question. Boxer goes in and says, "Your devotion to Bush and your obsequiousness to the administration was more important to you than the welfare of our troops." I mean, that's grossly insulting, is it not?
CALLER: I don't think she did mention our troops.
O'REILLY: Yeah, she did --
CALLER: And you were just talking --
O'REILLY: [Caller], [caller] -- whoa. Yeah, she did. That's exactly what she said. And then Rice came back and said, "Don't you impugn my integrity. I have tremendous feeling for the sacrifices the troops have made."
So, [caller], you gotta understand if you're gonna come on The Factor, and you're gonna say, "Barbara Boxer asked all the right questions and did all the right things." And then I say to you, "What about this?" And you say, "I don't think she did it," when anybody following that hearing knows she did it -- Lis Wiehl?
LIS WIEHL (co-host): Mmm-hmm.
O'REILLY: OK. [Caller], how can we possibly take your analysis seriously? And I'm not saying this to attack you. I want you to call in again. I want you to be a listener. But, I'm trying to send a message out to everybody. If you're gonna call the program -- this isn't the usual talk show where you can just blather about stuff you don't know anything about -- I'm gonna ask you questions. I'm gonna ask you to back up your position with facts. Now, [caller] didn't know about that exchange, which was the most contentious exchange, and played on every news show.