On the March 21 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, host Bill O'Reilly attacked co-host Lis Wiehl for asserting that the Bush administration had offered to allow White House staffers to appear before the congressional committees investigating the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys only if no transcript of the interviews is produced. O'Reilly called her claim a "lie" and maintained that Wiehl "did not do [her] homework." In response, Wiehl read from a March 20 letter from White House counsel Fred Fielding to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, in which he laid out the conditions under which White House staffers could appear. Wiehl read: "Such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, a transcript, subsequent testimony." O'Reilly apparently misheard Wiehl -- replacing "oath" with "open" -- and went on to state: "Open transcript means it gets to The New York Times. There is a transcript to the senators who, if they lie, can charge them with crimes. You know it, and you misled my audience, who comes here for the truth."
Revisiting a common tactic, O'Reilly instructed his staff to turn off Wiehl's microphone: "Cut her mike. Cut her mike. She's not allowed to speak for three minutes." He went on to ask: "What can we do to her? What can we do to her?" While Wiehl's voice could be heard in the background, her microphone appeared to be turned off.
Regardless of O'Reilly's misinterpretation, Fielding's letter -- which Wiehl read accurately -- stipulates that such interviews be "conducted without the need for [a] transcript." At no point in the letter did Fielding use the term "open transcript" or indicate that he would allow the production of a private transcript available to the committee members, but not the public or the press. From Fielding's March 20 letter:
Such interviews may cover, and would be limited to, the subject of (a) communications between the White House and persons outside the White House concerning the request for resignations of the U.S. Attorneys in question; and (b) communications between the White House and Members of Congress concerning those requests. Those interviews should be conducted by both Committees jointly. Questioning of White House officials would be conducted by a Member or limited number of Members, who would be accompanied by committee staff. Such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, transcript, subsequent testimony, or the subsequent issuance of subpoenas. A representative of the Office of the Counsel to the President would attend these interviews and personal counsel to the invited officials may be present at their election.
As an additional accommodation, and as a part of this proposal, we are prepared to provide to your Committees copies of two categories of documents: (a) communications between the White House and the Department of Justice concerning the request for resignations of the U.S. Attorneys in question; and (b) communications on the same subject between White House staff and third parties, including Members of Congress or their staffs on the subject.
After ordering Wiehl's microphone cut, O'Reilly added: "I'll scold my own people here 'cause they're not -- she's not telling you the truth. There is a transcript. Every word [White House senior adviser] Karl Rove and anybody else said would be on paper."
Furthermore, O'Reilly told his listeners that the U.S. attorney scandal is unimportant because "[i]t has nothing to do with your life." After Wiehl insisted that it did matter, O'Reilly said: "And now you made a terrible mistake, and you're smarter than that, and you misled my audience, and I'm furious. I am furious at you."
From the March 21 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: So, Bush says, "Yeah, you can talk to 'em, but I'm not gonna let you set the precedent of issuing a subpoena in a non-criminal action. Because it disrupts the executive branch." Bush is absolutely, 100 percent correct. You cannot run the executive branch -- every time you do something, there's a subpoena for you guys to explain why. You just can't do it. It's impossible to disrupt the office. So he's right, and he'll win. There's not a court in the land, even the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals -- not a criminal matter.
They're not gonna allow subpoenas to float into the Oval Office on a question of politics, especially since he's making them available to testify in front of Congress. And if they lie, they go to jail. All right?
WIEHL: That's right. But there's no transcript of it. There's no way that we're -- the people are gonna find out about it.
O'REILLY: No, wait a minute. Hold it. That's another lie.
O'REILLY: You see. I don't like you today.
WIEHL: Why not?
O'REILLY: Because you are not -- you did not do your homework.
WIEHL: Yes, I did!
O'REILLY: No, you didn't. You did not do your homework. There is a record of every word that is said.
WIEHL: Such interviews would be private and conducted without the need for an oath, a transcript --
O'REILLY: Oh, open transcripts.
WIEHL: -- subsequent testimony, or the subsequent issuance of --
O'REILLY: Stop. Stop. Stop talking.
WIEHL: So how would we ever find out about what happened?
O'REILLY: Stop talking. It's not about you, and you're misleading the audience. Stop talking.
Open transcript. In the congressional hearing, there's a transcript. If they lie in front of Congress, they're prosecuted.
WIEHL: How are we gonna know if they lie, Bill?
O'REILLY: [Sen. Patrick] Leahy [D-VT] will know.
WIEHL: How is he gonna know?
O'REILLY: Because there's a transcript for Leahy. It's just not a public transcript.
WIEHL: But you just started with saying this doesn't have an effect on we, the people. It does have an effect on we, the people --
O'REILLY: No, it doesn't.
WIEHL: Yes, it does.
O'REILLY: It has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with your life.
WIEHL: Your local law-enforcement officer, the head local law enforcement in your state has everything to do with your life.
O'REILLY: No, it doesn't. And now you made a terrible mistake, and you're smarter than that, and you misled my audience, and I'm furious. I am furious at you. It is -- there is a transcript available. It's available to the senators in the committee, and that's all they need to charge this guy with lying in front of Congress. And you, Lis Wiehl, misled --
WIEHL: It's not an open transcript.
O'REILLY: -- the Radio Factor audience.
WIEHL: It's not an open transcript, so we don't find out.
O'REILLY: Cut her mike. Cut her mike. She's not allowed to speak for three minutes. That's all right.
It's not -- as I said, open transcript means it gets to The New York Times. There is a transcript to the senators who, if they lie, can charge them with crimes. You know it, and you misled my audience, who comes here for the truth. What can we do to her? What can we do to her?
WIEHL: I'm just getting [inaudible]
O'REILLY: No. All right. You see? I'll scold my own people here 'cause they're not -- she's not telling you the truth. There is a transcript. Every word Karl Rove and anybody else said would be on paper. If they lied, Leahy could take that and have them charged with lying to Congress, and you get five years for every lie. Wiehl and all the other propagandists tell you there is no transcript. And then when you call them on it, she sneaks in the word "open transcript." Open, which means The New York Times gets it. OK. That's what Bush doesn't want.
Because The New York Times gets the transcript and, as we demonstrated yesterday, cherry-picks and twists things around, OK, to make points that aren't true, like the immigration thing in New Bedford. Babies weaned from mothers' breasts because the feds -- you know, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah.
But the bottom line is, and I'm gonna take a break and then let Wiehl talk again, but I'm furious at you. The bottom line is that when Rove and [former White House counsel Harriet] Miers and anybody else goes in to testify before the Senate subcommittee headed by the partisan Leahy, who wants to embarrass the Bush administration -- Leahy wins no matter what happens, by the way. He wins because the press will pick up on it.
That -- every word they say is recorded. And the words are there. So if Leahy then gives the words to his staff and says, "You find out if they're telling the truth," and it comes back, "Senator Leahy, Karl Rove lied," Rove can go to jail.
That's what Bush allowed. He allowed that. What he didn't want was an open transcript because then the executive branch again says, "Nothing that's said in here is confidential." It all gets into the pages of The New York Times, and you can't run a presidency that way. You can't. No one could.