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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Defending The Defenseless?
Yesterday, I was listening to Bill O’Reilly’s radio show (the co-host of the day was Fox & Friends’ E.D. Hill) and he asked listeners why Hillary Clinton was so popular. So I called up and was put on hold by the screener (I told the screener I was “Toby from Glendale”). Here is our brief conversation plus O’Reilly’s tiresome diatribe before my call:

O’REILLY: ...I don’t know what the woman [Hillary Clinton] has done. And she talks a good game, you know, but she’s managed. She doesn’t come on The [O’Reilly] Factor or anybody else’s program. She’s managed. And I’m going to myself: Look, forty percent of America is willing to fall on their swords for her. They’ll buy her book [Living History]. The book doesn’t say anything. Come on, it doesn’t say anything, but here’s twenty-five dollars. I’ll vote for you for president. You’ll be the most powerful person in the world—based on WHAT? Toby, Glendale, California, tell me, Toby.

SCOOBIE: Hi. Hillary appeals to moderate Democrats like me because she’s effective at taking on the right. And you’re absolutely wrong that her book doesn’t say anything. For instance, in her book, she does a good job of tearing into your boss, Roger Ailes for his—

[O’Reilly potted down my audio and was able to talk over me (click here and scroll down to O'Reillyus Interruptus). The end of my sentence, which the radio listeners didn’t hear was “hateful conspiracy-mongering.”]

O’REILLY: It’s ridiculous!

SCOOBIE: No it’s not [very faint because my audio was potted down]

[O’Reilly disconnects Scoobie]

O’REILLY: [yelling] That’s what you got out of the book—that she tears into Roger Ailes for a conspiracy?

E.D. HILL: [chuckles]

O’REILLY: [Yelling] You’re a nut, Toby. [calmly] With all due respect.

E.D. HILL: [chuckles]

O’REILLY: [Yelling] You’re a nut. That’s why you like her: because she tears into someone who can’t defend themselves [sic]? Come on. 1-877-9-NO-SPIN. We’ll be right back.

REALITY: My statement and O’Reilly’s nonresponse raise some important issues. First things first, here is what Hillary wrote about the defenseless Roger Ailes in Living History: “...Roger Ailes, then President of CNBC and now running Fox, accused the Administration of ‘a cover-up with regard to Whitewater that fraud, illegal contributions, abuse of power...suicide cover-up—possible murder”(ellipses in original). This statement was not an anomaly. Far from it: it was part of a pattern of behavior by Ailes and other O’Reilly associates during the Clinton administration. As I’ve pointed out numerous times on my blog, Roger Ailes was an important component of what journalist Trudy Lieberman called, “The Vincent Foster Factory”—a dirty-tricks operation in which operatives acted like impartial journalists to spread the paranoid tale that the Clintons were responsible for the death of Vince Foster (Lieberman’s article for the Columbia Journalism Review focused on the activities of two Scaife-paid alleged humans, Joseph Farah and Christopher Ruddy, both of whom, like Ailes, have written paychecks to O’Reilly; O’Reilly’s column used to be carried by Farah’s WorldNetDaily and is currently carried by Ruddy’s Newsmax). Also, Ailes was executive producer of Rush Limbaugh’s short-lived television show in which the host fanned the flames of paranoia surrounding Foster’s death. Ailes also appeared on Don Imus’s radio show and touted Ruddy’s laughably incompetent “journalism” on the Foster issue: "The guy who's been doing an excellent job for the New York Post [Chris Ruddy]...for the first time on the Rush Limbaugh show said that...he did not believe it was suicide.... Now, I don't have any evidence.... These people are very good at hiding or destroying evidence." Let me get this straight: I am to be considered a nut for exposing Ailes’s loony conspiracy theories?

The issues run deeper. One of O’Reilly’s most recent tactics is to claim that the Democratic Party is involved in a dirty tricks campaign reminiscent of the Watergate style tactics of Donald Segretti:

...[T]he DNC is also peddling some of the smear books that defame Americans in the worst possible way... Now the danger is that DNC Chief Terry McAuliffe is using and paying professional hit men to demean and denigrate political opponents. That's exactly what President Nixon did when he used the plumber's union to harass his opponents.

As far as I know, O’Reilly hasn’t named any of these alleged smear books, but I’m guessing that O’Reilly considered the following newly released books in the smear category:
1. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right by Al Franken.
2. The Oh Really? Factor by Peter Hart (I just read this book; it’s fantastic).
3. The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception by David Corn
4. Joe Conason’s Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth
5. Michale Moore's Dude, Where's My Country?
6. The Great Unraveling by Paul Krugman.

Although nonpartisan watchdogs like Spinsanity found some major flaws in Moore’s book, the basic premises of the other books can withstand careful scrutiny. Why is this the case? Because these authors--unlike O’Reilly’s former and current associates—based their arguments on substantive issues instead relying on Scaife’s paranoid delusions and political dirty tricks.

Could someone let me know what basis O’Reilly had for calling me a nut? Perhaps it was my words. Or perhaps it was that he could sense in my voice that he really creeps me out (click here; O’Reilly also kind of reminds me of the relative everyone has met at family reunions as a kid who said things like, “When I was your age, I used to walk in snow fifteen miles each way to school and my parents were too poor to buy me boots”). I also do have to confess that O’Reilly’s whole essence pisses me off--especially when he jerks people around with his “no-spin zone” bullshit. Hank Hill summed up my feelings when he said he didn’t have a problem with anger; he had a problem with idiots. In fact, I’ve made the case previously that mocking the hard right is a sign of mental health.

Finally, on the topic of people who can’t defend themselves, is it possible to make a nuttier claim than the one O'Reilly made about Ailes not being able to defend himself against Hillary Clinton’s allegation in Living History? Roger Ailes is the king of slime and defend. Fellow right-wing operative, the late Lee Atwater, said that Ailes had “two settings: attack and destroy.” Ailes is now the nation’s most powerful political operative who runs the nation's most-watched cable network. If Ailes had a legitimate beef with what Hillary wrote, he possesses a huge microphone to blast her. However, Ailes didn’t bother to address what Mrs. Clinton wrote. It reminds me of the situation that occurred with David Brock when he came clean about his involvement with the right-wing smear machine in Blinded by the Right; at first, operatives like David Horowitz tried to slime him, but when those efforts backfired, they ignored what Brock wrote and hoped that he went away.

If anyone wants to know O’Reilly’s attitude about people who truly can’t defend themselves, here’s part of the transcript of Al Franken’s recent speech before the National Conference of Media Reform:

Bill O’Reilly was on Terry Gross’s show Fresh Air and he walked off. He said he was treated unfairly. He was asked tough questions. [mocking O’Reilly in a whiny voice] Teacher! Teacher! Defund them!

[Audience laughter]

He went on the air the next and said that PBS and NPR get a billion dollars from Congress.

[Audience laughter]

He just makes things—is this on the radio?--makes stuff up.

[Audience laughter]

He just pulls it directly from his bum.

[Audience laughter]

Now the NPR ombudsman was so scared that he criticized Terry Gross for asking too tough questions. And I don’t’ know if he listened to the same interview I did or maybe he just doesn’t know O’Reilly because O’Reilly lied throughout the interview. And I’ll give you—and one that made me kind of angry. She asked him about this Harpers article where he had interviewed Jeremy Glick. Amy Goodman talked about the people in the World Center and Jeremy Glick had lost his father in the World Trade Center and signed a petition against the war in Iraq--and that really made O’Reilly mad. He said, “I want this kid in here. I want to talk to him.” So he had Jeremy Glick on, who’s a Ph. D. candidate at Rutgers and Jeremy was against the war and he said that Bush had ... funded the mujahedeen and those kind of things. O’Reilly got very anger and told him, “Shut up! Shut up!” Sound familiar? [Franken earlier in the speech mentioned how O’Reilly told him to shut up at the book fair in Los Angeles]

[Audience laughter]

And he turned off the kid’s mike and that was end of the interview. This is on radio, right? He said according to Glick, who told Harpers and O’Reilly hasn’t denied this—he told Jeremy, “Get the f out of here or I’ll f-ing tear you apart!”

Now Terry Gross asked him about this and O’Reilly said, “Did you read the transcript of the interview?” [Gross] said, “I read the Harpers thing.” [O’Reilly responded] “Yeah, well that’s what the elite media does. They didn’t have the whole transcript. They took it out of context--that’s what they did. You see, this kid said some outrageous things. He said that...Bush the Elder and this president had orchestrated 9/11. Well as a journalist, it was my duty to ask if he had any proof and he didn’t. [huffily] And that’s defamation.”

[Audience laughter]

Well I had written about this in my book and I read the transcript and Jeremy Glick never said anything of the sort...Jeremy is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers who makes his money by writing...He e-mailed me and said it’s hard to get a gig when people think you’re a conspiracy nut. Here’s a guy who’s a powerful guy who attacks a kid with no platform. The question is: What do we do about that? It’s why I wrote my book.

[Audience applauds]

We have to take what they say and expose it and use it against them. My job is to do ju-jitsu. When they lie, use it against them. Hold them up to scorn and ridicule. Because what they want us to do is, “Shut up!” They want you to “Shut up!” But don’t shut up.

[Audience applauds loudly]

Don’t shut up! Stand up! Stand up and fight! Stand up and fight! Everyone here: stand up and fight! Thank you!

[Audience applauds loudly]

Note: for an audiotape copy of Franken’s entire speech, call Democracy Now at 1-800-881-2359 and order the audiotape of the 11/10 show.