O'Reilly misrepresented Fox News poll results on Bush's Iraq speeches, saying majority does not "understand Iraq conflict"

››› ››› SAM GILL

Bill O'Reilly inaccurately quoted "a new Fox News poll [which] says 53 percent of Americans still don't understand the Iraq conflict." In fact, the poll did not address whether Americans understood the situation in Iraq, but whether recent speeches by President Bush had given them a better understanding of the situation in Iraq.

On the December 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly opened the show by inaccurately quoting "a new Fox News poll [which] says 53 percent of Americans still don't understand the Iraq conflict." In fact, the poll asked a different question: "In the past couple of weeks, [President] George W. Bush has given a series of speeches on Iraq. Do you feel that the speeches have given you a better understanding of the situation in Iraq or not?"

The poll found that 53 percent did not feel that the speeches had given them a better understanding of the conflict in Iraq; 25 percent agreed that the speeches had enhanced their understanding of the conflict; 17 percent said they did not hear the speeches; and 5 percent did not know. The poll carried a margin of error of ±3 percent. O'Reilly suggested that the 53 percent who answered "no" constituted evidence that a majority of Americans possessed a general lack of understanding about the war in Iraq. However, even though the question posed specifically referred to recent speeches given by Bush, O'Reilly failed to mention them. After citing the poll as evidence that a majority of Americans "still don't understand" the war, O'Reilly introduced his guest, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, stating, "We hope to end that [lack of understanding] tonight."

However, the poll never asked respondents whether they understood the Iraq conflict, but instead probed the efficacy of Bush's attempts to explain and defend his administration's Iraq strategy. The poll specifically referenced a series of four speeches Bush had given leading up to the December 15 Iraqi elections: a November 30 speech at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; a December 7 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.; a December 12 speech to the World Affairs Council in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and a December 14 speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

From the December 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: "The O'Reilly Factor" is on from Washington. Tonight, a new Fox News poll says 53 percent of Americans still don't understand the Iraq conflict. We hope to end that tonight. We have an exclusive interview with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

[...]

As you may know, it was a very successful election in Iraq today. Estimates are: more than 10 million people will have voted for a democratic government there -- whether you support the Iraq war or not -- that is an enormous achievement.

But it has come at a great price. American blood and treasure continue to be lost in Iraq, and a brand new Fox News poll says 53 percent of Americans still do not understand the conflict.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Stories/Interests
Polling
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