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On the January 4 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, host Joe Scarborough responded to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's attacks on NBC and MSNBC by asserting that O'Reilly was "way off base on MSNBC, on NBC, and certainly on me. And I challenge you to debate me anytime, anyplace, anywhere." Scarborough further challenged O'Reilly to "find one thing I have said on this program over the past year that is not consistent with the conservative congressman who was against military adventurism when I was in Congress, that was against exploding deficits, that was against reckless spending, and was against turning Congress into the type of swamp that we Republicans have turned it into over the past six years." Concluding, Scarborough stated, "That doesn't make me liberal, that makes me conservative. That may make you, though, a suck-up, if you defend the Republicans that have done that to this country and to our party over the past six years."
O'Reilly has recently taken to attacking NBC and MSNBC for what he perceived to be "Bush-hat[ing]" and "irresponsible" reporting of Saddam Hussein's execution. For instance, on the January 3 broadcast of his television show, O'Reilly asserted that "NBC News led the way" among the "Bush-hat[ing]" media because "elements over there" were "calling the execution a PR disaster for the USA." O'Reilly was presumably referring to a January 2 report on Saddam's execution by NBC News Middle East correspondent Richard Engel during NBC's Nightly News, in which Engel reported that the "execution wasn't just a PR disaster for the Iraqi government. The gallows were on a U.S. military base, and many in the region are blaming the U.S. for letting it happen."
On the January 3 Scarborough Country, Scarborough first addressed O'Reilly's remarks, stating: "Bill O'Reilly says NBC News hates President Bush and sides with Saddam Hussein or at least feels sorry for Saddam Hussein because some of us questioned how the lynch mob took over the execution scene." Scarborough then went on to say that "today, the United States government appeared to share our concern over the way that disgusting spectacle played out." Scarborough later addressed Saddam's execution, explaining that he was "concerned about the United States of America and our reputation" because "there was a lynch mob, people screaming [Muqtada] al-Sadr's name while Saddam Hussein was being executed." Scarborough also said that the execution "was a debacle" and that "[a] lot of people are embarrassed, and they should be embarrassed, " because this is "a guy, who I've loathed for 20-30 years," and he appeared to be "the most dignified guy there."
On the January 4 editions of both his television and radio shows, O'Reilly continued to attack NBC News' coverage of Saddam's execution. On his radio show, O'Reilly asserted that "[t]hey are an activist network now. They hate Bush across the board. They hate him. Their White House correspondent, David Gregory, hates him. The Today show hates him. The Nightly hates him. Everybody hates him, across the board." Further, on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly stated that he was "disturbed by" NBC's reporting " because I don't believe it's honest. I believe it's a calculated decision to attack people in the hopes of getting viewers, which is sleazy to say the least." O'Reilly then claimed that every member of Today was liberal, including "[t]he weatherman." O'Reilly asserted that it was a "business decision to go to the left" to gain viewers.
Additionally, on The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly falsely claimed, "There isn't one conservative ... not one conservative commentator that works for NBC News at this time." In fact, at least two MSNBC hosts -- Scarborough and Tucker Carlson -- are known conservatives. Scarborough is a former Republican Florida Congressman and Carlson is a well-known conservative commentator who used to write for the conservative publications Policy Review and the Weekly Standard, in addition to formerly being the conservative co-host of CNN's now-canceled program Crossfire.
On January 4, Scarborough devoted a segment of his program to responding to O'Reilly's fresh attacks on NBC, in which he noted O'Reilly's falsehood that "not one conservative commentator ... works for NBC News." Scarborough also took O'Reilly to task for noting that White House press secretary Tony Snow called Gregory a "partisan," without noting that Snow apologized for doing so. Scarborough concluded the segment by issuing a challenge to O'Reilly:
SCARBOROUGH: Bill O'Reilly ... You're ... way off base on MSNBC, on NBC and certainly on me. And I challenge you to debate me anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and find one thing I have said on this program over the past year that is not consistent with the conservative congressman who was against military adventurism when I was in Congress, that was against exploding deficits, that was against reckless spending, and was against turning Congress into the type of swamp that we Republicans have turned it into over the past six years.
That doesn't make me liberal, that makes me conservative. That may make you, though, a suck-up, if you defend the Republicans that have done that to this country and to our party over the past six years.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, O'Reilly has argued that "if you attack someone publicly ... you have an obligation to face the person you are smearing. If you don't, you are a coward." Yet, despite this pledge, O'Reilly has not hosted a single NBC representative to address his very public attacks.
Scarborough and O'Reilly recently clashed after O'Reilly blasted NBC News' decision to refer to the ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq as a "civil war," as Media Matters noted. On the November 28 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly said, "[T]he American media is not helping anyone by oversimplifying the situation and rooting for the USA to lose in Iraq." After airing the clip on the November 29 broadcast of Scarborough Country, Scarborough said O'Reilly is "suggesting that NBC is rooting for America to lose in Iraq" and asked: "What is going on at Fox News? Why is Bill O'Reilly claiming that my network, NBC News, is rooting for terrorists? That's truly insulting to me."
From the January 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly. Thanks for watching us tonight.
Blaming America for Saddam's execution -- that's the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo." As soon as I heard Saddam Hussein was going to be executed, I knew the Bush-haters would swing into action and, as usual, they did not let me down.
NBC News led the way: elements over there calling the execution a PR disaster for the USA. Did you think Saddam's hanging was a PR disaster? I didn't. The mass murderer got what he deserved.
We also heard an NBC commentator say President Bush is allowing Americans to be killed in Iraq for money and other insane stuff. Unbelievable.
O'REILLY: But it is also true that the strategy in Iraq was flawed and the war has not gone well, so you can argue competence all day long -- that is valid -- but ascribing evil motives to the president is irresponsible and no legitimate news organization should be party to it, NBC News included.
It is long past time to drop the Bush-hating and work to secure the best results in Iraq for America and the world.
The New York Sun reporting today: There is now rock solid proof that Iran is behind much of the violence in Iraq. Looking forward to seeing [columnist] Robert Scheer, The Baltimore Sun, and NBC take on Iran.
As for Saddam, anyone who puts his well being ahead of America's is misguided and a fool. No doubt. And that's the Memo.
From the January 3 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Tonight, Bill O'Reilly says NBC News hates President Bush and sides with Saddam Hussein or at least feels sorry for Saddam Hussein because some of us questioned how the lynch mob took over the execution scene. I want you to take a look at what aired with Bill O'Reilly's show about an hour ago.
O'REILLY [video clip]: As soon as I heard Saddam Hussein was going to be executed, I knew the Bush-haters would swing into action and, as usual, they did not let me down. NBC News led the way: elements over there calling the execution a PR disaster for the USA. Did you think Saddam's hanging was a PR disaster? I didn't. The mass murderer got what he deserved. You also heard an NBC commentator say President Bush is allowing Americans to be killed in Iraq for money, and other insane stuff. Unbelievable.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, today the United States government appeared to share our concern over the way that disgusting spectacle played out. White House spokesman Tony Snow told reporters that President Bush hasn't even seen the now-infamous video. And military officials in both the United States and Iraq are shifting the blame as to why there was so much chaos during the final moments of Saddam Hussein's life. And, of course, arrests followed. It was a debacle. A lot of people are embarrassed, and they should be embarrassed.
And you know what? I can't speak for NBC News; I can just speak for myself. I really don't care about Saddam Hussein's last two minutes of life. I'm not concerned about a man that gassed the Kurds. I'm not concerned about a man who slaughtered Shiites for 40 years. I'm concerned about the United States of America and our reputation, and I'm sure that Bill O'Reilly understands that.
Here to talk about the chaos surrounding the killing of the dictator and whether NBC News really hates George Bush and loves Saddam Hussein, [MSNBC senior political analyst] Lawrence O'Donnell. Lawrence, is it just me, or was there a reason, if you were American, to be embarrassed at the fact that there was a lynch mob, people screaming al-Sadr's name while Saddam Hussein was being executed, and we knew it would be an execution seen by the world?
O'DONNELL: Yeah, Joe, I think it's a tactical embarrassment. I, for one, don't care what you do to someone whose neck you're about to break. I don't care if you spit on them. I don't care what you do. There's no dignified way to break someone's neck. That just isn't possible. So, I don't care about the behavior. It doesn't offend me in any way. It doesn't bother me in the least.
But, it is a tactical error. And Tom Brokaw was absolutely right when he said [on the January 2 edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning] that we got everything wrong about this that we could get wrong about it because what we've done is, in effect, given Saddam Hussein, on his end of it, a dignified last moment. Saddam Hussein did not go kicking and screaming; Saddam Hussein was perhaps the most dignified man in the room. And that's what -- that's what the --
SCARBOROUGH: And Lawrence O'Donnell -- hold on. You know -- I want to stop you right there because I know there are going to be a lot of people that are going to attack you there -- but my wife and I were watching this video, and I turned to her in the middle of it and I said, "Saddam Hussein" -- a guy who I've loathed for 20-30 years -- I said, "Saddam Hussein is the most dignified guy there! We are making him look like a martyr to the entire Arab world!"
O'DONNELL: Yeah, that's a --
SCARBOROUGH: How does that help the United States of America? How does that help our troops on the ground? How does that help a guy that is patrolling Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad not get his head blown off because we set this thing up in such a way that makes us look bad?
From the January 4 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:
O'REILLY: Now, after Saddam was hung, Brokaw, who is still the face of NBC News -- and remember, NBC News has gone sharply to the left. They are an activist network now. They hate Bush across the board. They hate him. Their White House correspondent, David Gregory, hates him. The Today show hates him. The Nightly hates him. Everybody hates him, across the board. There isn't one person in that organization -- they just fired [MSNBC political analyst] Monica Crowley. She would have probably been the only one that has any use for Bush at all. There's nobody there.
O'REILLY: Now, this is -- you can't win. See, Bush can't win. And I'm not defending Bush in Iraq. That's a screw-up, no question. But he can't -- no matter what he does, NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post -- they're going to say he's an idiot. There's no sense of balance or fairness in their reporting. That's activist journalism.
O'REILLY: OK. We have come to expect that. That's partisan politics. We don't expect it from the media that you have a media juggernaut. Ninety percent of the American media is: "Bush is an idiot," and now it's: "He's evil." Now that you've got the nuts at NBC News there saying, "Oh, he has soldiers there to make money." This is on NBC News. It is an incredible collapse in journalistic ethics.
O'REILLY: OK. David Gregory, the White House reporter for NBC was called out by Tony Snow a few weeks ago and said, "Look, you're blatantly partisan." That's what Snow said to Gregory because Gregory was basically saying that the 9/11 -- I'm sorry -- the Iraq report showed that Bush was incompetent, and that's not what it showed. It showed that the war was not going well and had recommendations, but it didn't reflect back on any kind of competency at all. In fact, the people on the Iraq commission stayed away from politics, but Gregory chose to spin it that way, and Bush -- and Snow called him on it.
Now, certainly, that's -- you have to say that was an example of a reporter being an activist. No?
From the January 4 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: All right. It was five against one if I remember on that interview -- five against Bernie.
Also, if you read my book, Culture Warrior, you know I describe Tom Brokaw as the most liberal of the big three anchors. That was being the late Peter Jennings, [former CBS News anchor Dan] Rather, and Mr. Brokaw. My opinion has been bolstered by this.
BROKAW [video clip]: The debate goes on here about Guantánamo and about access to people's private records, and then to say that we're going to install in Iraq a judicial system and a democratic form of government and have something that resembled the worst kind of nightmare out of the old American West. Not much dignity.
He was -- he was a god-awful man, Saddam Hussein, and he did have a trial. But to not have control of the execution and to have it really just fuel more sectarian violence at a time when we're trying to dampen that is -- is not helpful, which is an understatement.
O'REILLY: Mr. Brokaw, echoing the far-left position that Saddam's execution was somehow the United States' fault, and we are bad for letting it happen the way it did. Joining us now from Washington is the aforementioned [Fox News contributor] Jane Hall, becoming a major star, and from Miami, [former CBS News correspondent] Bernard Goldberg, who still has bruises from his CNBC confrontation.
OK. Now, what I'm trying to get at here, so everybody understands, is that you have a major shift in a major news organization. The Today show: very powerful; Brian Williams, news; they have Dateline NBC. They have two cable networks. It's a business decision to go to the left.
O'REILLY: Right. And that they'll get more viewers, and --
GOLDBERG: Exactly. If that's your position, I'm with you. I think -- I think when they declared the fighting in Iraq a civil war, for instance, they did that less than three weeks after the election, when the Americans rejected not only the Republicans but rejected in large part what was going on in Iraq. I think they've made a decision as if they're saying, you know, "We're the network that speaks for all of you out there in America." And to that extent, it is a business decision.
I think MSNBC is a different matter altogether. They're a very liberal network. But I think there's a reason for that. And I think it's a business reason, too. It's counter-programming.
When the Super Bowl is on, ESPN is running, you know, [American Olympic gold medalist] Brian Boitano figure-skating extravaganzas, because anybody who doesn't like the Super Bowl might watch that. I think MSNBC is the non-Fox network. And I think they're saying anybody who hates Fox, anybody who hates Bill O'Reilly, come over here. We're not them. We're not them.
O'REILLY: Yeah, sure there's no question that they're doing that. That's got to be sanctioned at the highest level. The irresponsibility they show has to be sanctioned, Jane, at the highest levels, and it is being sanctioned. And I'm disturbed by it, because I don't believe it's honest. I believe it's a calculated decision to attack people in the hopes of getting viewers, which is sleazy to say the least.
HALL: Well, I think you have to differentiate. I agree with Bernie. I think on the prime-time -- on some of their talk show hosts, they have made a decision to go after Fox, to be the anti-Fox, the anti-O'Reilly. Their audience is small, but it has grown, and they are -- I think they're going to do more of that.
O'REILLY: Sure, they will.
O'REILLY: There isn't one conservative, Bernie, not one conservative commentator that works for NBC News at this time.
HALL: How about Joe Scarborough? Even on -- Joe Scarborough. They've had --
O'REILLY: He doesn't work --
GOLDBERG: Jill. Jane --
O'REILLY: Go ahead, Bernie.
HALL: They've had Rush -- they've had -- wait a minute, let me finish. They've had Rush Limbaugh on with [NBC News Washington bureau chief] Tim Russert, and I think that's thanks --
GOLDBERG: Yeah, once.
HALL: No, they've had other people on. I just really disagree with taking --
O'REILLY: Look, I like the Today show.
GOLDBERG: Listen --
O'REILLY: I do this show all the time. Matt Lauer is a liberal. [Today co-host Meredith] Vieira is a liberal. [Dateline co-anchor] Ann Curry is a liberal. The weatherman is a liberal.
HALL: Let me just say the reporting on NBC Nightly News, I think, is worthy of respect. It is fair. And I think we could talk about Fox News and what a lot of people think about the opinion on Fox News. You guys only see one side of this, and you only take a few examples.
O'REILLY: No. We can talk about Fox News. Maybe, we'll do that next week.
O'REILLY: But I will make a prediction that ABC News will beat this year, 2007, NBC News, because many people in the center, independents, are seeing what I'm seeing.
From the January 4 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Tonight: Bill O'Reilly says everybody -- and I mean all of you, all of you in here -- everybody hates President Bush. There's not a single conservative at NBC. He said it an hour ago. Oh, really, Bill? Well, we're going to hear Bill O'Reilly's latest tirade against this network. Coming up.
SCARBOROUGH: Bill O'Reilly's at it again, saying just about an hour ago on his TV show that NBC News is, quote, "far left." Watch this.
O'REILLY [video clip]: You have a major shift in a major news organization. The Today show: very powerful; Brian Williams, news; they have Dateline NBC. They have two cable networks. It's a business decision to go to the left.
SCARBOROUGH: And this follows earlier comments made on his radio show today that there's not a single conservative at NBC News and everyone at this network hates President Bush. Listen to what else he said.
O'REILLY [audio clip]: Bush can't win, no matter what he does! NBC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post -- they're going to say he's an idiot. There's no sense of balance or fairness in their reporting. That's activist journalism.
SCARBOROUGH: Bush, an idiot? I've never said Bush is an -- Chris? If I ever said -- do you think Bush is an idiot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely not.
SCARBOROUGH: Absolutely not.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We would never say that, nor have we ever said that.
SCARBOROUGH: You're a Connecticut Republican.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have never -- would never say that.
SCARBOROUGH: We are conservative people. OK. So, my question is this: Why does Bill O'Reilly hate NBC so much? Here's Bob Kohn -- he's the author of the book, Journalistic Fraud. We also have Mike Barnicle. He's a columnist for the Boston Herald and an MSNBC contributor, so he, too, must hate George Bush!
Bill Kohn [sic], why does Bill O'Reilly hate me so much? Why does he hate NBC so much?
KOHN: Well, I think Bill O'Reilly would do well not to use unqualified terms like "everybody," and I don't think that's the substance of what he's trying to say.
SCARBOROUGH: But Bob, he did say, though, tonight -- he said, "There is not one conservative at NBC." Bill knows that's a lie. He knows he's attacking me when he says it. He knows I'm saying the same things now that I've said for four terms in Congress and three years on TV. Why is he lying about my record, to paraphrase Bob Dole?
KOHN: Well, I said that he shouldn't -- should not -- do that, OK? He should not use unqualified terms. And maybe he's going overboard, I think, in saying "everybody." And I don't think he's specifically accusing you.
SCARBOROUGH: This is, Bob -- isn't this really about -- he's angry at Keith Olbermann. He can't attack Keith Olbermann on the air anymore --
SCARBOROUGH: -- and so he's got to attack all of NBC.
KOHN: No, no. I think what he's seeing is very specific examples of what's happening at NBC, and it is moving decidedly to the left.
SCARBOROUGH: How's that?
KOHN: To give you an example, the other day, this Richard Engel story that was on the Today show, on Brian Williams' show, and I think you repeated it just the other night -- Richard Engel, the NBC News reporter, not a commentary -- not a commentator, specifically said in his news report that the execution of Saddam Hussein was a PR disaster. That was his opinion.
O'Reilly is seeing NBC take opinion and put that into its news stories. That's the same criticism that he had -- that I had, especially, with The New York Times and others. So, what -- he's simply a media watchdog, OK? He's a media watchdog, and he's simply bringing these points. What's the big deal?
SCARBOROUGH: Well, listen, why doesn't he watch-- why doesn't he watch himself? I mean, Bill O'Reilly gives his opinion every night. I love the guy for it. I love that he puts himself out on the line. A lot of people hate him. I've got no problem with that. Just like when liberals put themselves on the line, I love that, too. I like people that fuel the debate. What's wrong -- how --
KOHN: There's nothing -- I don't have a problem -- I don't have a problem with you or Olbermann or anyone else or Bill O'Reilly expressing his opinion. I don't think that's what the complaint is. He is suggesting, and there are examples, clear examples recently, and one I just mentioned, of a news reporter at NBC biasing the news. That's a problem. I think he's got a good point here.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, so, you're saying that Richard --
KOHN: Using words like "everybody," accusing you, I don't think that's correct.
SCARBOROUGH: You're saying --
KOHN: I think he shouldn't do that.
SCARBOROUGH: You're saying that Richard Engel shouldn't be able to look at a situation I think most people would say was a PR nightmare? I think, today, George W. Bush said he wishes that it'd been handled better. The Pentagon was embarrassed. The State Department was embarrassed by it. A reporter can't say --
KOHN: I think we can argue that point.
SCARBOROUGH: -- this is a PR nightmare?
KOHN: I think you can argue that point. I think -- because if you take this and put this into perspective, this was an Iraqi problem. The Iraqis did it, OK? This is a fledgling democracy. We didn't do that with [Oklahoma City bomber] Timothy McVeigh because we've got 200 years of democracy and experience.
SCARBOROUGH: All right, let's listen to what Bill O'Reilly said about NBC's chief White House correspondent, David Gregory, earlier today.
O'REILLY [video clip]: David Gregory, the White House reporter for NBC, was called out by Tony Snow a few weeks ago and said, "Look, you're blatantly partisan." That's what Snow said to Gregory.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, and Mike Barnicle, again, I've always defended Bill O'Reilly on this show, up until he said we were Marxists, communists, or whatever he's saying. We're against the war; we're against the president. I've supported this war from the very beginning; I just hate how stupidly it's been run.
What O'Reilly didn't tell people, that was -- that Tony Snow -- again, I think a very good man -- apologized to Gregory. Now, take a look at what he said after calling Gregory "partisan."
SNOW [video clip]: You and I had a conversation last week that got a whole lot of play in a lot of places, where I used the term "partisan" in describing one of your questions, and I've thought a lot about that, and that I was wrong. So, I want to apologize and tell you I'm sorry.
SCARBOROUGH: Mike, you know, Tony's a great man for doing that. We all knew -- as soon as "partisan" came -- left his lips, we knew he had made a mistake. But why would O'Reilly go on today using words that Tony -- about Tony Snow that Tony Snow had retracted himself?
BARNICLE: Hey, Joe, I'll use the word "everybody," as Bill did on his program, as in everybody has the right to have a couple of bad days and make a few mistakes in their life, and Bill made a couple of mistakes here in his broad indictment of NBC News and right there of David Gregory.
The larger issue involved here that you were speaking with Bob about earlier with regard to Richard Engel -- Richard Engel needs no defense or lectures on journalism from anyone. Richard Engel is doing a terrific job at covering a very difficult war to cover, and by labeling what happened with the Saddam Hussein execution as a public relations disaster is not opinion, it's fact-based.
BARNICLE: Stop the shouting. Here's the reality of it: The way he died made Saddam a folk hero among savages whose only intent is to kill Americans. So, more Americans -- Iraqis are going to have more resolve to try and kill more Americans because of the way Saddam Hussein was executed, like it was a chapter in Deadwood on HBO.
SCARBOROUGH: And I'll tell you what. In the end, I guess the thing that made me the most angry about it is not 'cause I'm a liberal, it's because I'm a conservative. It's not because I oppose our troops, it's because I support our troops, because I represented our troops for eight years on the Armed Services Committee. The people who are going to be suffering on this aren't people at Fox News or MSNBC, they're going to be the 19-year-old kids that are going to be touring Sunni neighborhoods, trying to keep things in order, and getting blown up because of the sectarian violence that's going to continue ripping apart the country, probably at a more intense pace because of the sloppy way that execution was handled. I think it was a disgrace. I think it was a PR disaster. But that's just my opinion.
Bob Kohn, thank you for being with us. Mike Barnicle, thank you for being with us.
Bill O'Reilly, just attack Rosie. You're what -- way off base on MSNBC, on NBC, and certainly on me. And I challenge you to debate me anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and find one thing I have said on this program over the past year that is not consistent with the conservative congressman who was against military adventurism when I was in Congress, that was against exploding deficits, that was against reckless spending, and was against turning Congress into the type of swamp that we Republicans have turned it into over the past six years.
That doesn't make me liberal, that makes me conservative. That may make you, though, a suck-up, if you defend the Republicans that have done that to this country and to our party over the past six years.