Bill O'Reilly claimed that the media "hate Bush and Cheney," and that viewers are "not going to get the fair story from 80 percent of the media" but "will get it from Fox."
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During the February 16 broadcast of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly claimed that "there's a deep-seated jealousy among our television competitors because we're just beating their brains in, night after night, day after day," and because of this, "they have gotten increasingly strident and hysterical." O'Reilly also stated that while he disagreed with how Vice President Dick Cheney handled the release of information regarding his February 11 hunting accident -- in which he shot 78-year-old lawyer Harry Whittington -- the rest of the media are "hostile" and "hate Bush and Cheney. Hate them." Continuing, O'Reilly stated that "the hysteria surrounding the story, once and for all, should illuminate for all of our viewers and listeners ... that you're not going to get the fair story from 80 percent of the media," but "[y]ou will get it from Fox." Further, despite Cheney's admission to Fox News' own Brit Hume that alcohol was consumed the day of the hunting trip, O'Reilly declared that if viewers heard anyone "saying that Cheney was drunk or possibly drunk ... you've got to click that off and never watch them again, because there you have defamation -- character assassination based on nothing."
Viewers following O'Reilly's advice would presumably have to refuse to watch Fox political analyst Dick Morris ever again. Later that same evening, during an on-air discussion with co-host Sean Hannity on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Morris noted that "alcohol was involved," and that "none" of the eyewitnesses to the shooting "will come forward."
O'Reilly made his comments during a phone interview in which he called into The O'Reilly Factor from Florida to speak with Tony Snow, host of Fox News' Weekend Live, who was guest-hosting The Factor in O'Reilly's absence.
From the February 16 broadcast of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Well, you know, it's -- we've been reporting on this, Tony, for -- you know, maybe six months. So, there's a deep-seated jealousy among our television competitors because we're just beating their brains in, night after night, day after day, and, they have gotten increasingly strident and hysterical.
I don't really care what they said. It doesn't matter. It's a free world -- country. They can say what they want. But, I think when you -- when you put it all in the same soup, you take the left-wing media in the newspaper industry, which is about 75 percent and growing, and then you take in the bitterness on the television side, you know -- look, I'm not here to stick up for Dick Cheney. I think he made a mistake. I think he should have gotten the thing out as soon as possible and said: "Details to come."
"Here's what happened. I was involved with an accident: details to come." I'm not buying Cheney saying, "Well, we got to get it accurate." I just think that they wanted to manage this story. You know how that goes, Tony.
O'REILLY: They wanted to manage it. And whenever you try to manage it, particularly when you have a hostile media because these -- and I want everybody watching this right now to understand us; these people hate them.
You know, Marvin Kalb disagreed last night on The Factor with the word hate. I'm sorry, they hate them. They hate Bush and Cheney. Hate them.
And they're going to go get them, no matter what they have. But the hysteria surrounding the story, once and for all, should illuminate for all of our viewers and listeners -- all of them -- that you are not going to get the fair story from 80 percent of the media. You will get it from Fox. Hume did a very good job. He was respectful, but he was firm.
SNOW: Yeah, I -- Bill, I think, a lot of times, people -- some of the critics, I think, wanted somebody to pistol-whip the vice president. You and I know that --
O'REILLY: Oh, sure they did. They wanted to -- not pistol-whip him. They wanted somebody to humiliate him. And when you interview a president or vice president, you just -- that's just -- it's like the protocol. You can't do that. You can be firm, you can be direct, but you have to get their statements on the record. You can't be saying, "Well, you're a liar."
Hey, here's how bad it is, Tony. On one of our competitors' network last night, they had two individuals saying that Cheney was drunk or possibly drunk. How irresponsible is that?
Now, I'll tell you ladies and gentlemen, if you hear that, you've got to click that off and never watch them again because there you have defamation -- character assassination based on nothing. Pure, unadulterated, unbridled hatred. And I think the folks got to send a message.
From the February 16 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, which featured co-host Alan Colmes:
COLMES: So, is that the end of the story? Is the case closed in the mind of the public?
Joining us now, former [President] Clinton adviser Dick Morris. Dick, welcome back to the show.
It seems to me, what people object to here is that there's a sense that, if you're in power --
MORRIS: Thank you.
COLMES: -- and you're Dick Cheney, you get treated differently than the average person would be treated because, if someone were shot, it would be on a police blotter, there'd be an immediate report, and that there's a sense that this gets treated differently because it's Dick Cheney.
MORRIS: Well, let me first --
COLMES: Can you hear me OK, Dick?
MORRIS: -- say that this would never have happened in the Clinton-Gore administration because they would never shoot a donor.
But I think that your -- I think your point is basically well-taken, Alan. I think that it was outrageous that the vice president waited that long to reply or to indicate the fact that when he finally did, it was to some local newspaper in Corpus Christi [Texas] where he knew he wouldn't get hard questions, and even then, he had Mrs. [hunting party host Katharine] Armstrong do it.
You know, the first rule for a vice president is like the Hippocratic Oath: Do no harm. And this vice president has done immense harm to the Bush administration.
This episode, the [former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter"] Libby affair, where he -- it came so close to his office, and now the revelation that Libby was instructed to release classified information to support the Iraq invasion.
I support President Bush, but I'm very concerned about the damage that Dick Cheney is doing to him.
COLMES: Dick, this is not a partisan issue. You've had [former White House press secretary] Marlin Fitzwater speak out, even [former White House press secretary] Ari Fleischer, and by the way, in terms of blaming the White House press corps, they've taken some flack, too, from some people. The editor of the Corpus Christi paper said he was -- and to use his word -- mystified that it was handled this way.
MORRIS: Yeah, well, it -- it's -- look, when a politician mishandles something like this, like [Sen. Edward M.] Kennedy [D-MA] did at Chappaquiddick [in 1969], or like Cheney did here -- in Chappaquiddick, there was a death; here, there was just a wounding -- it often is because they have something to hide.
In Kennedy's case, I'm convinced it was that he was drunk, and he needed to sober up before he turned himself into the authorities. I don't know what it was with Vice President Cheney, but I think that he owes more of a candid explanation to the American people.
Armstrong said there was no liquor served. Cheney said that he had a beer at lunch. It is inconceivable that the vice president would sit down and have a nice relaxed dinner, everybody else leave, and the next morning, somebody would get around to thinking that maybe we ought to notify the media.
HANNITY: Well, what do you think here, Dick? I mean, do you think this is like --
MORRIS: I don't think he should resign over this.
HANNITY: -- you know, the vice president aimed and fired at his friend and --
MORRIS: But Bush has more important things to do than to clean up after Cheney.
HANNITY: Well, I just -- what was that?
MORRIS: What do I think?
MORRIS: I don't -- it's hard to speculate, but usually when there's something like this, alcohol is involved. That's what it was with Kennedy.
HANNITY: Well, you know something, I mean, he was there, and he was open to everybody.
MORRIS: He admitted to drinking at lunch.
HANNITY: You've had eyewitnesses the entire incident, Dick. Do you think the vice president was drunk and firing bullets? And don't you think --
MORRIS: None of whom will come forward.
HANNITY: Don't you think that's a little irresponsible -- well, yes, the woman that was an eyewitness to the whole thing has explained her position on this.
MORRIS: Yeah. Armstrong, but none of the other guests have. And there is this large block of unaccountable time when he did not inform the media and did not subject himself to examination by law enforcement officials, except for the Secret Service, which is an entirely different category.