O'Reilly deceptively defended "you gotta go to Israel" comment

››› ››› SAM GILL

On the October 28 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly renewed his defense of comments he made to a caller during the December 3, 2004, edition of his radio show. In the December 3 exchange, the caller said he was "concerned about the secularization of Jews and about the -- and Christmas going into schools." O'Reilly responded, "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."

The same caller reminded O'Reilly of that exchange on the October 28 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, asking, "You said I was part of the anti-Christmas thing and I should go to Israel. Do you remember that?" O'Reilly replied:

O'REILLY: I have this transcript stamped on my brain. What I said was, if you don't wanna see those kinds of things, you have to go to a place like Israel or Japan or China, where they don't celebrate Christmas.

However, as Media Matters for America documented at the time, with the complete transcript and audio, the December 3 exchange included no mention of Japan or China. He actually said:

O'REILLY: You have a federal holiday based on the philosopher Jesus. And you don't wanna hear about it? Come on, [caller] -- if you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel then. I mean because we live in a country founded on Judeo -- and that's your guys' -- Christian, that's my guys' philosophy. But overwhelmingly, America is Christian. And the holiday is a federal holiday honoring the philosopher Jesus. So, you don't wanna hear about it? Impossible. And that is an affront to the majority. You know, the majority can be insulted, too. And that's what this anti-Christmas thing is all about.

Shortly after his December 3 remarks, O'Reilly was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which called them "unacceptable." On the December 9, 2004, broadcast of The Radio Factor, O'Reilly labeled Abraham Foxman, president of the ADL, "a nut" and described Media Matters as "the most vile, despicable human beings in the country." On the December 14, 2004, Radio Factor, O'Reilly returned to the topic to refer to Media Matters as "despicable weasels" in a discussion with Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

O'Reilly resurrected the controversy on the August 23 Radio Factor, blasting Media Matters as "the left-wing website, they couldn't care less about, you know, Israel or the Christian symbols, but they wanted to get me."

Most recently, O'Reilly deceptively defended his original comments and claimed that Media Matters is "inherently dishonest." When a caller mentioned that Media Matters had "tried to come on your show to defend themselves," O'Reilly rebuked him, saying, "They take stuff out of context ... I'll give you the example that is irrefutable." O'Reilly then proceeded to misquote the December 3 caller (claiming, "[S]omeone called in and said, 'I don't like any symbols of Christmas, I don't want to see them.' ") and falsely inserted a reference to Japan in his original comment, claiming: "I said to that gentleman, the only place that you can go to not see them would be Israel or Japan or someplace where Christianity isn't visible at all."

From the October 28 broadcast of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

CALLER: Bill, the war on Christmas. Now, you've informed us it's waged by far-left secular progressives? Now, I'm an Orthodox Jew and a Republican, and I'm, by no means, offended by Christmas, and you and I spoke last year about problems that Jewish students have in public schools, and when I expressed my concerns, you somehow concluded that I was offended by Christmas symbols and by Christmas everywhere, and you said I was part of the anti-Christmas thing and I should go to Israel. Do you remember that?

O'REILLY: That was you?

CALLER: That was me.

O'REILLY: All right, well, let's report the conversation accurately, because I have this transcript stamped on my brain. What I said was, if you don't wanna see those kinds of things, you have to go to a place like Israel or Japan or China, where they don't celebrate Christmas, because in America, you're always going to see them, and there's no way to avoid it. That was the conversation. What's your point now?

CALLER: I just thought it was a problem that Jewish students have; that Jewish students are not permitted by Jewish law to, for example, sing certain Christmas carols.

O'REILLY: Well, then, they don't have to. You know, and they shouldn't have to. If somebody is permitted by their faith -- if somebody is excluded by their faith from singing any Christmas carols -- look, if I were Jewish, I wouldn't be singing "Silent Night"; you know, I'd say, "I'm Jewish. I'm not gonna sing 'Silent Night,' " and if anybody forces you to do it, Joel, or your kids, the first call you make is to me. We'll be right back.

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