February 12, 2013

(Kirsty Wigglesworth / The Associated Press)

No outlet in the world gets spanked on “The O’Reilly Factor” quite like NBC News/MSNBC. Anytime Andrea Mitchell screws up, anytime someone botches a videotape edit, anytime a newsworthy factual error surfaces, anytime a misdemeanor infraction goes down, Bill O’Reilly, with the assistance of media-critic compatriot Bernard Goldberg, lets loose on this particular organ of the corporate media. Often with good reason, too.

So longtime O’Reilly watchers couldn’t have been surprised last week when O’Reilly sat down with Fox Newser Bob Beckel to discuss the latest news on President Obama’s targeted killing program, aka drones. The host didn’t like the way that NBC News was playing the story:

O’REILLY: Remember the outcry about waterboarding.
BECKEL: Sure.
O’REILLY: Everybody jumping up and down.
BECKEL: Yes.
O’REILLY: NBC News, I thought they were going to like melt down over there. Heard anything on NBC about the drones?
BECKEL: Not yet.
O’REILLY: No.

Later in the chat:

O’REILLY: OK, so we haven’t heard anything. But we heard a lot about waterboarding. But nothing about drone strikes. How do you process that?

A bunch of folks jumped on O’Reilly for that sentiment, noting that NBC News’s Michael Isikoff had procured a drone-related memo that had sparked a full-force public examination of the targeted killing program. So NBC News wasn’t just covering drones, it was sparking coverage of drones by other news organizations, by Congress, by all kinds of people.

On his Sunday CNN program “Reliable Sources,” Howard Kurtz said he’d come away with the impression that O’Reilly “misspoke” on NBC News, which he credited for launching the drone debate.

A master publicist, O’Reilly wasn’t going to let a shot from CNN just sit there. On Monday night’s program, O’Reilly lashed out against Kurtz and employed a classic distractive device — citing the alleged ideological motivations of his detractors:

So here is the big picture. By distorting the discussion I had with Beckel, the left believes it can bury the hypocrisy issue, but it can’t. To be fair, a few committed left-wing people like Code Pink are consistent in their objection to tough measures against terrorists, not everybody on the left is hypocritical.
NBC News was handed the drone memo by somebody. And it reported the story. Good for them. But has analysis by NBC commentators reflected drone disdain at the level of waterboarding disdain? Not even close.

Those words convey just how hard NBC News must work to get props from Bill O’Reilly. If Bret Baier (Fox News anchor) had procured the memo, surely the host would have started the program with a round of applause. And Baier’s score would have come via shoe leather, not the act of passive document-reception of which O’Reilly accuses NBC News.

The dissing of solid reporting by NBC News creates some static with a certain moment in the O’Reilly archive. The host, after all, is quite on record as extolling hard-news coverage. O’Reilly and Ted Koppel, September 2012:

O’Reilly: But there’s a big difference between Fox News and MSNBC. You know what that difference is?
Koppel: Tell me.
O’Reilly: No, but do you know what it is?
Koppel: I’m asking you. What do you think it is?
O’Reilly: So you concede you don’t know what it is.
Koppel: I don’t know what it is, no.
O’Reilly: We actually do hard news here from 9 in the morning until 5 in the afternoon. Eight hours of hard news. MSNBC doesn’t do one hour of hard news. It’s all, let’s push the liberal Democratic agenda from sign-on to sign-off. So this is a news agency here…

For one of the senior members of that news agency, O’Reilly is having a great deal of difficulty recognizing an act of reporting.

And it looks as if he’ll be talking with Kurtz on Wednesday night about this “issue.”

 

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.