During an interview with Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala, Bill O'Reilly called Carville and Begala "stupid" "propagandists" and attacked Media Matters and the Center for American Progress as "[h]ired guns" who "are paid to smear people they disagree with." O'Reilly also defended Fox News' self-description as "fair and balanced" with a series of dubious or false claims.
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On the September 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Bill O'Reilly called Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala "stupid" "propagandists" and attacked Media Matters for America and the Center for American Progress [CAP] as "[h]ired guns" who "are paid to smear people they disagree with." O'Reilly also made a series of dubious or demonstrably false claims in support of Fox News' self-description as "fair and balanced."
When, in response to O'Reilly's challenge to "[g]ive me an example of unfairness" by Fox News, Begala and Carville began citing figures on the number of appearances Bush administration officials have made on Fox News Sunday, O'Reilly asked: "Does this come from Media Matters?" Carville responded: "Did you ever read them? They're totally documented." O'Reilly then declared that Media Matters and CAP were "hired guns" who "are paid to smear people they disagree with." "Do your own research," O'Reilly implored. O'Reilly, who frequently claims not to engage in "personal attacks" and criticizes those who do, proceeded to call Begala and Carville "stupid" and accused them of "spread[ing] propaganda that these far-left Kool-Aid drinkers believe that this network is trying to promote the Bush administration and run down the Clinton administration." O'Reilly did not attempt to rebut the statistics Begala and Carville cited. O'Reilly concluded the interview by apparently joking that "[y]ou both are going to be beaten to a pulp."
O'Reilly also pushed a series of falsehoods and distortions in response to the contention by Begala and Carville that, as Carville put it, "Fox News is a right-leaning, anti-Clinton network."
O'Reilly falsely claimed that Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace questioned Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the Bush administration's failure to respond to the October 2000 terrorist attack on the USS Cole. In fact, Wallace has never asked Rumsfeld or any Bush administration official why they did not respond to the Cole attack, as Media Matters has noted. During his September 24 interview with former President Bill Clinton, Wallace asked Clinton about the "attack on the Cole" and why, "after the attack," the Clinton administration "didn't do more," even though the FBI and CIA did not certify that Osama bin Laden was responsible for the Cole attack until early 2001, after Bush took office.
O'Reilly also claimed: "I ask Rumsfeld tough questions when I talk to him, too." Yet, as Media Matters has documented, O'Reilly has provided Rumsfeld opportunities to attack Democrats and has used previous interviews with Rumsfeld as an opportunity to attack David Letterman, host of CBS' Late Show. For instance, during O'Reilly's May 19 interview of Rumsfeld, O'Reilly asked such questions as:
- "Why do you think the left in this country is so anti-Iraq war? Why? Is it just the hatred of the president?"
- Why does a guy like David Letterman think this whole Iraq thing is some kind of corrupt, ridiculous adventure? [...] [H]ave you ever analyzed why he [Letterman] thinks that way?
- Then, while discussing the Iraq war, Rumsfeld actually began interviewing O'Reilly, with O'Reilly agreeing with much of Rumsfeld's assertions:
O'REILLY: No, they can't lose militarily [in Iraq], but it's cost the United States taxpayer about $400 billion up to this point.
RUMSFELD: Think of what 9-11 cost us. Wouldn't you rather fight those people over there instead of fighting them here?
RUMSFELD: Think of what happened to our economy, think what happened to the stock market.
RUMSFELD: Think of what happened to the airlines here after 9-11.
O'REILLY: If the stability of Iraq, if it happens, means that Al Qaeda is weakened, I think it's worth it.
RUMSFELD: Well, there's no question of that.
Additionally, O'Reilly asserted that Fox News Special Report host Brit Hume "has gone out of his way...to be fair to Bill Clinton." In fact, as Media Matters has noted, Hume has made several false claims about Clinton in the past, such as falsely claiming that former President George H.W. Bush never criticized or attacked Clinton or his administration while Clinton was in office (Hume later corrected this false claim), and citing a discredited Drudge Report article to claim Clinton's memoir, My Life (Knopf, June 2004), was not selling.
O'Reilly has himself made negative comments about Clinton. For example, O'Reilly has repeatedly stated that Clinton's popularity overseas is directly related to his marital infidelity during his time in office, making comments, such as "in France, if you have four mistresses they like you better" and "[t]hey loved Bill Clinton overseas ... particularly the French, because he had a mistress and all people loved him. They love that mistress stuff over there." O'Reilly also frequently hosts political analyst Dick Morris, who routinely attacks the Clintons.
O'Reilly also claimed that Fox News' "guest list" is "50-50" liberals vs. conservatives, and further asserted that: "On this program it's more left than right. It's more left than right on this program." Yet, as Media Matters has repeatedly documented, conservative guests dominate Fox News programs, including O'Reilly's. A Media Matters study of The O'Reilly Factor guest list for the first four months of 2006 found that Republican or conservative guests, most notably when the guests were politicians, greatly outnumbered Democratic or progressive guests. Eighty percent of elected or administration officials were Republicans, while only 20 percent were Democrats; conservatives represented 37 percent of all journalists/pundits, while progressives represented 11 percent; Republicans/conservatives represented 34 percent of all solo interviews, which was double the percentage of Democrats/progressives; and guest panels on The O'Reilly Factor tilted right more than four times as often as they tilted left.
Finally, O'Reilly also declared NPR correspondent and frequent Fox News contributor Mara Liasson to be a "liberal," even though Liasson has been a frequent purveyor of conservative misinformation, as Media Matters has extensively documented.
From the September 27 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Give me one example of unfairness.
CARVILLE: You know, again, just like Bill Clinton said, you've never asked him -- how many times was Rice on that show?
CARVILLE: How many times was Rumsfeld on that show?
O'REILLY: What are you talking about?
CARVILLE: How many times was Steve Hannity [sic] --
BEGALA: On Chris Wallace's show.
CARVILLE: Chris Wallace's show.
O'REILLY: Wait -- What is this?
BEGALA: But Chris Wallace --
O'REILLY: Does this come from Media Matters?
BEGALA: But this is what the president said --
O'REILLY: Is that where this comes from?
CARVILLE: They're documented.
BEGALA: But this -- oh, they're a great website. Did you ever read them? They're terrific.
CARVILLE: They're -- they're completely documented.
O'REILLY: Hired guns.
BEGALA: They -- actually, that didn't, it came from the Center from American Progress.
CARVILLE: Center for American Progress.
BEGALA: Think Progress.
O'REILLY: These far-left web sites you guys take this information off, these are -- these are paid to smear people they disagree with. Do your own research. You can't sit there and think Chris Wallace is in the tank for Republicans.
CARVILLE: I didn't say he was in the tank.
O'REILLY: I mean, this is ridiculous.
CARVILLE: You -- that's your term. You asked me, do I think that Fox News network has been fair to Bill Clinton? The answer's no. I don't.
O'REILLY: And you can't give me one thing. You can't.
CARVILLE: I can give -- you know what, I can watch -- I can watch -- it's been completely misrepresented what he did about Al Qaeda, I can watch and see the completely misrepresented --
O'REILLY: Give me an example.
CARVILLE: You know, I'll be glad to send you a --
BEGALA: Clinton just gave you an example.
O'REILLY: You know you were gonna come in here, you knew this was the topic, you don't have an example.
O'REILLY: Go ahead, Begala.
BEGALA: Bill Clinton gave you a good example. He said to Chris Wallace, not did you ever ask him about Al Qaeda, generally. I'm sure Mr. Wallace has. But he said why didn't you ever ask those conservative Republicans from the Bush administration why they didn't retaliate for the Cole bombing? He asked Clinton right out the chute. It's a legitimate question, the president said --
BEGALA: -- and he was right, it was. Wallace had a right to ask it. But why hasn't he asked in the dozens of appearances that Steven Hadley, the national security adviser, has or the vice president has or Ms. -- Dr. Rice has, or even the vice president. Never were they asked about why we didn't retaliate -- they murdered on our shore.
O'REILLY: OK, the interview -- if I, if I had more time, I could have used that whole Rumsfeld interview. And the thing was, what Wallace said was, listen, you're fighting in Iraq, but you're not going after the guys who did the Cole, did the embassy, and did the World Trade Center on 9-11. That's what the question was. Now, that is a tough question for Rumsfeld. And I ask Rumsfeld tough questions when I talk to him, too. What?
CARVILLE: Let me ask you this. You go back and see how many times that senior administration officials have been on, on, on Fox News Sunday and compare it to the other Sunday shows. Why is it that Dick Cheney will only watch Fox News?
O'REILLY: He won't come on this program.
CARVILLE: Well, I don't know why he won't come on this -- I come on this program. I love it.
BEGALA: He won't -- he oughta be --
CARVILLE: Bill, I don't think my wife is objective. I like her. I like you fine.
O"REILLY: Why, why -- look --
CARVILLE: I appreciate being on the show, but doesn't mean if you ask me --
O'REILLY: You guys -- you guys are spread propaganda [sic] that these far-left Kool-Aid drinkers believe that this network is trying to promote the Bush administration and run down the Clinton administration.
O'REILLY: It's flat out
BEGALA and CARVILLE: Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. We're guilty.
CARVILLE: We're guilty. We like you --
O'REILLY: Not only -- OK -- Not only are you guilty, you're both stupid.
BEGALA: That may be, but we're right.
O'REILLY: No you're not.
CARVILLE: That may be, but we're right.
O'REILLY: And I'll prove my case right now.
CARVILLE: A broken clock is right twice a day.
BEGALA: We didn't go to Harvard. I went to the University of Texas.
CARVILLE: We're right this time.
BEGALA: Where did you go to school? Bill went to Harvard. He's much smarter than we are. I went to Texas. But we're better at football.
O'REILLY: That's the first -- first astute thing you just said. Bill is much smarter than you. Greta Van Susteren is very friendly with Bill Clinton because of her husband. Alan Colmes adores Bill Clinton and would be his valet. Shep Smith never says anything politically one way or the other. And Brit Hume is a conservative-leaning guy, but has gone out of his way -- all right -- to be fair to Bill Clinton.
CARVILLE: OK, you know --
O'REILLY: And, at ABC, Brit Hume received a great accolade from Bill Clinton, as you know. Now these are the main players. So if you're going to put it on me, fine.
CARVILLE: John Gibson? Sean Hannity?
BEGALA: Brit is a conservative, and I will say when he covered the Clinton White House, he was fair.
O'REILLY: And he's not fair anymore?
CARVILLE: No. I don't think so --
O'REILLY: Oh --
O'REILLY: Give me an example. Give me -- You don't have an example!
BEGALA: Look at his lineup. Look at his lineup .He has --
O'REILLY: His lineup?
BEGALA: -- he has moderates and conservatives. There are no liberals sitting there on his All-Star panel.
O'REILLY: Oh, stop.
BEGALA: Very smart people, I watch the show --
O'REILLY: Ceci whatever her name, from The Washington Post. Mara Liasson -- they're liberal people.
CARVILLE: Ceci Connelly is the most hardcore --
BEGALA: Look -- it's lively and it's fun and it's interesting, it's highly watchable, but it's conservative.
O'REILLY: I don't believe it for a second.
BEGALA: Come out of the closet. Y'all are conservative.
O'REILLY: That is bull.
BEGALA: It's -- just admit it.
O'REILLY: If you -- I'm not going to admit it because it's wrong.
O'REILLY: OK? You guys need to get away from the far-left websites and open your eyes. If you go down the guest list, the 24-7 guest list, which we'll provide for you, it's 50-50. On this program it's more left than right. It's more left than right on this program.
BEGALA: It may be -- my hat is off to you, for like, for example, for having us on.
CARVILLE: You have us on.
BEGALA: I appreciate that.
O'REILLY: You're welcome any time. But I -- look, you guys are now becoming propagandists, and I'm looking out for you. Don't do that. Last word?
CARVILLE: We are -- last word. We are propagandists. We think that Fox News is a right-leaning, anti-Clinton network.
O'REILLY: All right.
CARVILLE: We thought that before we came here, and we're going to think it when we leave. But we appreciate --
O'REILLY: Gentlemen, thanks very much. All right?
O'REILLY: You're both going to be beaten to a pulp. We'll be right back in a moment.