October 29, 2013

When Fox News host Bill O’Reilly welcomes extremely high government officials onto his set, he tends to dispense with the snark and combativeness that can easily mar his program. Such was the case last night as O’Reilly sat down for a two-segment interview with former Vice President Dick Cheney. Here’s a guy that can — and should — answer questions on a broad range of topics from torture to war to the economy. However, O’Reilly wisely kept the chat confined to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Starting with Iraq, O’Reilly had a pretty basic inquiry: “What — what do we get out of Iraq, though. I mean as Americans we’re all in this together. We’re all in this together, it’s easy to finger point. They finger pointed you and Bush and I don’t want to do that. But we spent a $1 trillion on this with a lot of pain and suffering on the American military. What did we get out of it? Beside Saddam being out of there?”

Cheney responded, “Yes, but remember what we were faced with in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. We had a lot of evidence. They indicate that in fact al-Qaeda was trying to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. We had in Saddam Hussein a guy who had produced and used weapons of mass destruction.”

They went back and forth one more time on this topic, with O’Reilly asking again, “What do we get out of it?” To which, Cheney said this: “What we gain and my concern was then and it remains today is that the biggest threat we face is the possibility of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda equipped with weapons of mass destruction, with nukes, bugs or gas. That was the threat after 9/11 and when we took down Saddam Hussein we eliminated Iraq.”

In segment No. 2, O’Reilly chatted with the former vice president about his new book “Heart: An American Medical Odyssey.” After marveling over modern medical technology, the two drifted back to public affairs. O’Reilly asked Cheney if the American press is “corrupt.” This exchange ensued:

CHENEY: Seriously misguided. There are some elements out there like Fox, like your show that I think are seriously objective and reflective of what I think a lot of Americans believe. I do find that the mainstream media oftentimes is what I would consider off base or has a bias.
O’REILLY: Is there a reason?
CHENEY: I don’t know that there is a reason or some kind of conspiracy. I don’t believe that necessarily. I think there are though large parts of our society, including to some extent our educational system, our colleges and universities, the mainstream media, Hollywood, that do in fact have a significant bias towards the left.

Italics added to underscore this point: Of course Cheney was supportive of O’Reilly’s show; he’d just sat through an interview about Iraq and managed to pop off about weapons of mass destruction without being asked, Where were they?

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