Dana Milbank put his finger on exactly what was wrong with Bill O’Reilly’s pre-Super Bowl interview with President Obama. “Sometimes he argued with Obama as though the president were a guest on ‘The O’Reilly Factor’,” Milbank wrote. “Of the 2,500 words uttered during the interview, O’Reilly spoke nearly 1,000 of them.” And that was only the 10 minutes folks at home got to see.
The conversation went on for another 11 minutes in which the Fox News anchor continued his seat-of-the-chair lecturing of the president of the United States on issues and in a tone certain to thrill the hearts of his conservative viewers. After being outfoxed by Obama on the right-wing obsession trifecta of Benghazi, the IRS and the botched HealthCare.gov rollout, O’Reilly pressed Obama on out-of-wedlock births in the African American community, school vouchers, Little Sisters of the Poor and whether he is the most liberal president in U.S. history.
I was particularly irked by the blacks-and-births question. Many conservatives love to express concern for the plight of black children when it serves their political purposes. In this case, it was to make it look like the first black president is ignoring black children. There is also a holier-than-thou, know-it-all sneer to such expressions that works my last nerve. O’Reilly’s question showed an ignorance of the facts that Obama was more than happy to point out (over constant interruption, of course).
Then there was that moment when Obama spoke truth to power in response to O’Reilly’s self-reverential question about how he treats the president. “Do you think I’m being unfair to you, do you think I’ve been giving you,” the Fox anchor said before Obama interrupted. “Absolutely. Of course you have, Bill,” Obama said. “But, I like you anyway, Bill.” When O’Reilly insisted on examples, Obama said, “Bill — we’ve just run through an interview in which you asked about health, uh, health care not working, IRS where-where we, uh, wholly corrupt, Benghazi. . . .” Not to mention the fact that more pressing issues such as immigration, the sluggish economy and the paucity of jobs for the millions who remain out of work went unaddressed.
Obama acknowledged that criticism comes with the Oval Office. But he added this, “Here — here — here’s what I would say. I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, uh, it has, uh, it has made Fox News very successful.” That didn’t stop O’Reilly from continue to insist on knowing how he was being unfair to Obama.
“What you guys are gonna have to figure out is what are — what are you gonna do when I’m gone?” the president asked. O’Reilly countered that he gave President George W. Bush “a real hard time.” And that very well might be true. But the assertion doesn’t hold much weight coming from the ambassador of “fair and balanced.”
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