Bill O’Reilly made rather a buffoon of himself yesterday while interviewing the President of the United States before the Super Bowl by interrupting President Obama over and over again, speaking over him, and asking him insulting questions like “Does it bother you that people hate you?”
This morning, he’s on Fox News claiming that the interview was the most widely watched interview of “all time” and that (contrary to all empirical evidence) Fox doesn’t have an agenda to hurt the President. This, of course, was both preceded and proceeded by a number of personal insults directed at the President that were one hundred percent opinion of his character based on nothing, since O’Reilly admitted he doesn’t know the President. Sounds like someone is in high damage control mode.
From the February 7 edition of Fox News’ America’s Newsroom, courtesy of Media Matters:
Martha MacCallum: I want your thoughts, at the beginning of the interview I appreciated that you took the moment to thank him and thank the administration, for help they gave us, at fox news and helping two of our colleagues, Greg Palkot and, the whole thing reminded me, too of the moment way back, when they talked about the fact that fox news was not a news organization and clearly we were treated in a very respectful way in this whole thing and I want your thoughts on that.
Bill O’Reilly: Well, look, you have to understand that interview that we did yesterday is the most widely viewed interview I think of all time because of the internet. The moment it was done, it was all over the world. Everybody is looking at it and, people who don’t know Fox News and all they hear about the liberal media, I wanted them to know we don’t have any personal animus against the president of the united states.
And he did — Robert Gibbs and the state department did really, really good work in helping Palkot and that is the truth, so why not say that and say that to him and I wanted him to get the message, look, we are not out to hurt you. We, the network.
Might be guys like Hannity and Beck who feel your policies are disruptive and we have other people on the staff who feel the opposite and fox news is more skeptical of Obama and the liberal networks, of course and we are not personally invested in hurting him and that that statement up top was true and needed to be said and it was in the context of the event and I’m glad I said, that.
Martha MacCallum: I agree.
It’s pretty clear here that Bill O’Reilly is suffering from the narcissism he so easily smears the President with, since he is touting his interview as the most widely watched interview in all time while at the same time denying that he made a fool of himself with his rude, bullying behavior.
This is the same Bill O’Reilly, after all, who before interviewing President Bush told his audience that you could not be confrontational with a President when interviewing him. You could be “direct”, he explained, but “not confrontational.” And yet, in this very interview with Martha MacCallum, Bill explains that he was confrontational with President Obama, while claiming over and over again that the network has no personal agenda to hurt the President. It’s almost humorously childish listening to them pat the President on the back for helping Fox News, because the only time Fox and O’Reilly have anything remotely civil to say about or to the President is when the President has done something for their network like help save their reporters, which suggests that they are in a high school clique of biased, intellectually dishonest and agenda-laden propagandists.
Bill O’Reilly: I think, you know, I was suitably confrontational in a friendly way. You know, I don’t like to read the blogs because I think a lot of those people are mentally ill who write those, but I did sample some of them and it was what I predicted on Friday, in my newspaper column, which you can read, and thought I was intrusive and rude and those who hate him felt I was too soft with him and you have the crew, on both sides, and they want blood.
Martha MacCallum: Or they want you to be totally deferential.
(As you were and demanded others be to President Bush.)
Bill O’Reilly: …. I did what I had to do.
Bill has contradicted himself within one short interview several times. But it gets worse.
Martha MacCallum: Bill, this president has been accused of having a thin skin at times. Did you feel that that element of him, has that changed at all.
(Note he was accused of that on Fox and Murdoch owned outlets, so this is another nod to self-referentially created talking points found within an organization and party suffering from epistemic closure. One wonders how the thin skins at Fox would deal with an entire network devoted to giving the rabid unwashed a megaphone in order to bring them down — no accusation too ridiculous. Not too well, if Palin is any indication.)
Bill O’Reilly: No, I think he still has a thin skin. That is my opinion. I don’t know the guy. Very well. I have been in his presence four or five times but I think that he theoretically, you know, says, I shrug it off but, look unlike president bush, who I asked the same question to a few weeks ago, really sincerely didn’t care. About what anybody thought of him. I think president Obama does.
Bill O’Reilly just made a negative personal assessment of the President while admitting that he doesn’t know the man and has no reason to think what he does. If that’s not an attempt at personal character assassination, what is?
And here he goes again, when asked about the President’s response to his question about the worst personal part of being a President, which earlier in the show they were spinning as “narcissistic” because the President didn’t respond with the answer that they wanted but instead replied that the Presidential bubble was a challenge.
Martha: Did that answer surprise you, Bill? Getting — and it was raised the point, a lot of presidents would say sending troops into battle, talking to families, that is the toughest part of the job and others, the bubble thing comes up with many presidents as well?
Bill O’Reilly: You could spin it, that he is self-absorbed and I wouldn’t do that. Asked him a personal question about the worst part of the job for him and when he went into that I sympathize with him a bit, because I have the same thing…..I guess you could say some people could say he is a self-centered guy. I don’t think I dispute that.
Of course Bill, who doesn’t know the President, doesn’t dispute that the President, with whom he just equated himself with by the way, is self-centered. Bill O’Reilly has no evidence to back it up, but hey, it’s just opinion –personal opinion meant to smear the President. Ironically, the President has in the past responded with the very answer that Fox thought he should have, but when you’re desperate to pick apart a sitting President, there’s no petty attack too small, no smear too general.
Oh, Fox News will you never learn? While Fox News is very highly rated compared to other cable networks, it still plays to a very small segment of America. Fox is not ABC news. They play to 2-3 million a day, out of 300 million Americans. At best they reach 25% of the overall population, and that was before this last year which saw Americans’ trust in Fox plummet.
Because of their insular propagandist agenda, Fox personalities don’t get outside the bubble of their alternative universe much which leads to the kind of epistemic closure we are seeing with Bill O’Reilly. He made a fool of himself in an interview that was watched by a lot more people than normally watch Fox News and yet he thinks that it went well. Bill introduced or reinforced Fox News to the American public as the bullying, rude, disrespectful agenda-laden organization they are during his Super Bowl interview. And then, while defending the News organization, he and Martha smeared the President with personal opinions based on nothing but an agenda while claiming to not be out to get the guy.
The truth is that Bill O’Reilly was all puffed up about his chance to interview the President, because no matter what side of the aisle a “journalist” comes from, interviewing the President is a huge moment in one’s career. Listening to him speak about the interview, you can hear that he identified with the President in an odd moment of equating his own experience as an anchor on a relatively small platform to being arguably the most powerful person in the word. Bill’s ego is obviously overly developed and heavily invested in how this interview turned out and due to the self-congratulatory, self-referential nature of his network, Bill has no idea just how badly he appeared. Perhaps for Bill being rude by speaking over his guests appears strong, but in mainstream America, the people are still clinging to some vestige of civility and it simply made Bill appear disrespectful of the President.
The interview was a huge success for the President, who laughed and smiled and shrugged off O’Reilly’s rudeness while never giving an inch to the overtures O’Reilly tossed out in a desperate attempt to appear fair and balanced, but it was a failure for O’Reilly and no amount of spin on the now widely discredited “news” network will change that.