O'Reilly, Olbermann showed different versions of Dingell Christmas poem

››› ››› SAM GILL

Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann aired two very different interpretations of Rep. John Dingell's poem on the so-called "war" on Christmas. The Factor omitted portions of the poem imploring Congress to focus on more important issues and characterized the poem as a malevolent attack on Fox News, while Countdown included those portions.

The December 15 editions of both Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor and MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann aired portions of a poem by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) attacking Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's claim that there is a "war" on Christmas. Yet, the clip O'Reilly played on his show omitted the stanzas imploring Congress to discuss other, more important issues. Dingell read his poem on the House floor prior to the passage of a resolution (House Resolution 579) calling for support of "the symbols and traditions of Christmas." The vote was 401 for and 22 against, with 228 Republicans, 172 Democrats, and one independent voting in favor of the measure. Twenty-two Democrats voted against it. The poem suggests that the legislature's time might be better spent on other things.

O'Reilly's edited version characterized the poem as merely a malevolent attack on Fox News and The O'Reilly Factor. But other portions of the poem that were aired on Countdown to accompany a Dingell interview, focused on preventing the so-called "war" on Christmas from distracting from topics like Hurricane Katrina relief, the war in Iraq, and energy prices.

The poem in full:

'Twas a week before Christmas and all through the House,
no bills were passed 'bout which Fox News could grouse.
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer,
so vacations in St. Barts soon should be near.

Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds,
while visions of school and home danced in their heads.
In Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan,
and nuclear weapons are being built in Iran.

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell.
Americans feared we were in a fast track to ... well.
Wait, we need a distraction, something divisive and wily,
a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.

We will pretend Christmas is under attack,
hold a vote to save it, then pat ourselves on the back.
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger,
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger.

This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go,
From churches to homes to schools and, yes, even Costco.
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy
when this is the season to unite us with joy.

At Christmastime, we're taught to unite.
We don't need a make-up reason to fight.
So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter and those right-wing blogs.

You should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs.

'Tis the holiday season; enjoy it a pinch.
With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch?
So to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight,
a Merry Christmas to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, Happy Holidays.

Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas.

From the December 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: In "The Factor" follow-up segment, tonight, Congressman John Dingell, a committed liberal, took to the House floor yesterday to discuss the Christmas controversy, and me, in verse.

DINGELL [clip]: 'Twas a week before Christmas and all through the house, no bills were passed about which Fox News could grouse.

We need a distraction, something divisive and wily, a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly. We will pretend Christmas is under attack, hold a vote to save it and pat ourselves on the back.

At Christmastime, we're taught to unite. We don't need a make-up reason to fight.

So on O'Reilly, on those right-wing blogs,

you should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs.

'Tis the holiday season, enjoy it a pinch. With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch?

So, to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight, "A Merry Christmas to all," and to Bill O'Reilly, "Happy Holidays."

O'REILLY: Well, at least the congressman has a sense of humor.

From the December 15 edition of MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann:

OLBERMANN: We readily admit to making things up sometimes here on Countdown. Of course, we always emphasize that we have made them up, because we're not just honest about it, we're also smug about it.

But when a fictional controversy concocted to drive the ratings and stuff the wallets of a couple of cable fatheads, who do quasi-newscasts, makes it all the way to the government, then we must protest.

Our third story on the Countdown, run for your lives; the "war" on Christmas has reached Capitol Hill.

Congress chose to spend part of one of its last days before the holiday break debating Resolution 579, offered by Mrs. [Jo Ann S.] Davis [R] of Virginia, Mr. [Roscoe] Bartlett [R] of Maryland, and Mr. [Virgil H.] Goode [R] and Mr. [Walter] Jones [R] of North Carolina, a proposal, quote, "expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected," and suggesting that the House, quote, "One, recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas; two, strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and three, expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions."

The ridiculousness proved all too much for one congressman, John Dingell of Michigan, who used his time on the floor to read a little poem expressing his feelings about House Resolution 579 and his feelings about the "Big Giant Head" who started this imaginary war.

DINGELL [clip]: 'Twas a week before Christmas, and all through the House, no bills were passed about which Fox News could grouse. Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheers, so vacations in St. Bart's soon should be near.

Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds, while visions of school and homes danced in their heads. In Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan, and nuclear weapons are being built in Iran.

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell. Americans feared we were on a fast track to -- well

Wait, we need a distraction, something divisive and wily, a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly.

[begin video clip]

O'REILLY: The mail continues to pour in a frightening rate about the Christmas controversies. What many do oppose is banning the word, "Christmas." Come on, even Santa's appalled.

[...]

O'REILLY: Shut up.

[end video clip]

DINGELL: We will pretend Christmas is under attack. Hold a vote to save it and pat ourselves on the back. "Silent night," "The First Noel," "Away in the Manger": Wake up, Congress, they're in no danger.

This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go, from churches to homes to schools, and, yes, even Costco. What we have is an attempt to define and destroy it, when this is the season to unite us with joy. At Christmastime, we're taught to unit, we don't need a make-up reason to fight.

So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter, on those right-wing blogs. You should sit back and relax. Have a few egg nogs. 'Tis the holiday season, enjoy it a pinch; with all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch?

So, to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight, a "Merry Christmas" to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, "Happy Holidays." Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas.

OLBERMANN: And the crack staff amplified in this presentation, the congressman's poem, that that was his work.

And also, by the way, after 40 minutes of debate on that Christmas resolution, the House decided to postpone further proceedings on the motion. I'm sure it will be the first thing on the agenda come January.

Representative Dingell joins me now from the Capitol. Thanks for some of your time tonight, sir. We appreciate it.

DINGELL: Thank you. Ho, ho, ho.

OLBERMANN: Indeed. As you pointed out in that poem, there are a few more important things that need to be sorted out in Congress before Christmas than this imaginary attack on Christmas itself. How did Resolution 579 ever get to the floor, let alone take up 40 minutes of taxpayer time there?

DINGELL: Well, I have no idea. Christmas should be in churches, in the hearts and souls of men.

Christmas is with Easter, one of the two most precious and sacred days of Christians, Catholics, and Protestants. It is a day that has special meaning to me, where I attend mass and spend time with my family. And I don't think we need to defend it. What I think we need to do is to practice it.

OLBERMANN: Have you seen any evidence that there's actually any kind of attack on it other than in the minds of the people who have been spreading this story for ratings and book sales?

DINGELL: I found no weakness of Christmas or Christians in my house, my family, my friends, my constituents, the people I serve in southeast Michigan. It's a sacred time, and it's a time when, thank God, we celebrate the coming of the Lord, and we worship His doings and deeds, and we thank Him for his salvation to us.

OLBERMANN: Back for a moment to 579 -- it was only postponed. Nobody -- there was no actual vote on it. Could this actually turn up on the floor again after the New Year? Is more time going to be wasted on this?

DINGELL: Oh, it was voted on today. And it passed overwhelmingly. And its defect is not that we are for or against Christmas.-- Christmas, thank God, is a reality for us -- but Christmas also is something that we should celebrate in our hearts. And Christmas is very, very precious. There is no attack on Christmas.

OLBERMANN: You mentioned, in your poem and thus endeared yourself to our staff permanently -- Mr. O'Reilly of Fox News, obviously the real problems of society are a little too complicated for him to deal with, so he and poor John Gibson have fixated on this thing.

Would it surprise you, sir, that as they have warned us about this rush to change "Merry Christmas" into "Happy Holidays," that the biggest transgressor in the area might be Fox News itself? I mean, they sold O'Reilly "Christmas decorations" and called them "Holiday" ornaments for your "Holiday tree." And instead of a Christmas party this year, their parent company has just held a Holiday party? Did you know about that?

DINGELL: Well, I really, really can't make a good comment on that because it's always been Christmas trees, Christmas time, Christmas day, Christmas ornaments, Christmas gifts. And it's a time of worship and happiness and prayer to the Lord. And it's a day on which we celebrate the coming of the dear Lord Jesus to save us and to rise again on Easter.

OLBERMANN: Is there also, not to it, as well, sir -- I've always thought that this was a unique thing, perhaps, in human existence, that there is a -- they're kind of hand-in-hand. There is a religious Christmas and a secular Christmas going on simultaneously. And the greatest thing about it is that you can participate in one or both or neither as you personally see fit.

DINGELL: Well, that's one of the great things about this country. You know, we're not just Christians or Catholics or Protestants or Jews or Muslims or whatever. We're everything. But we're one country. And we all love this country. And it gives us all extraordinary freedoms for which we are all grateful to the Lord.

And it does something else for us. It gives us the opportunity to worship our God in our own way, and to find our own way to salvation.

OLBERMANN: Representative John Dingell of Michigan, Congressman and poet. Thanks greatly for your time tonight and, in advance, Merry Christmas.

DINGELL: Thank you. Ho, ho, ho.

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