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Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly challenged to debate over ‘communist’ slight

“Be a man, have the courage, let’s debate.”

That’s the sort of line that you often hear on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News program, after some embattled progressive has turned down an invitation from “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Not in this case, though: It’s a challenge from economist and Clinton administration labor secretary Robert Reich for O’Reilly to have a civil engagement in the cushy confines of HuffPost Live. What’s got Reich so mad? Read the New York Times, in which Reich recently wrote about how some dude approached him at an airport:

“Are you Robert Reich?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“You’re a Commie dirtbag.” (He actually used a variant of that noun, one that can’t be printed here.)
“I’m sorry?” I thought I had misunderstood him.
“You’re a Commie dirtbag.”

Huh? Where’d the guy get that notion? “Fox News. Bill O’Reilly says you’re a Communist.”

True fact: On April 25, 2012, O’Reilly said pretty much just that. Some of the transcript:

O’REILLY: All right, Robert Reich — you know Robert Reich?
O’REILLY: He’s a communist. You know that, right?
DOBBS: Communist-slash-socialist.
O’REILLY: The guy secretly adores Karl Marx and is up there in Cambridge. But he’s just a communist.
DOBBS: Well, we’ll leave him at communist for this evening.

The other night on “The Factor,” O’Reilly and the always-lively Bernard Goldberg discussed the incident, with Goldberg saying that Reich is clearly overreacting: “His mistake is that he used your comment — your commie comment — as a jumping-off point. It was clearly a joke. I call my liberal friends commies all the time, and they know it’s a joke. Robert Reich, who is a smart guy, I have met him, I’ve interviewed him. He is a smart guy, yet as a progressive, like some other progressives he hasn’t progressed into the 21st century. He has said that this is a communist witch-hunt. These are not the 1950s, professor Reich. Bill O’Reilly is not Senator McCarthy. It’s a joke.”

Perhaps so — at least to folks like Goldberg and O’Reilly. Clearly not, however, to one guy watching at home.

(h/t Huffington Post)