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Media Matters for America senior fellow Paul Waldman appeared on the January 8 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country to discuss, as host Joe Scarborough called it, "Bill O'Reilly's strange obsession with NBC." Other participants in the discussion included attorney and author Bob Kohn, and Congressional Quarterly columnist and MSNBC analyst Craig Crawford.
During the segment, Scarborough reiterated his challenge to debate O'Reilly, saying: "My challenge to Bill O'Reilly, because he said there wasn't a single conservative at NBC News -- I think Tucker Carlson and I would both disagree. And I said I would be very willing to debate Bill O'Reilly anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and we can debate who the real conservative was and who the Republican suck-up was."
From the January 8 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Bill O'Reilly's strange obsession with NBC continues. He's already gone after everybody here, from David Gregory to Brian Williams, even throwing Al Roker under the bus. His contempt for all things NBC even led him to go after the show Law & Order this afternoon on his radio show for a supposed left-wing agenda. And tonight, he went after the hit NBC show ER. Take a look.
[begin video clip]
O'REILLY: NBC is taking a sharp turn to the left, not only in their news department, but also in their entertainment programming. Listen to this from ER.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE (secretary of state): We might have been responsible for the attack, obviously. We will do the forensics on it --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't even look at her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't think she's a role model? I mean not for me, but you gotta admit she's impressive.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Shakita needs a role model, she can turn on Oprah.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, but what if Shakita wants to be secretary of state?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, then she can look up Madeleine Albright.
O'REILLY: Now, that scene was completely unnecessary to the narrative in ER. It was thrown in there simply to demean Secretary Rice. This kind of thing is happening more at more at NBC, and these two men are the reason. Programming chief Jeff Zucker presides over both news and entertainment and supposedly answers to Robert Wright, although many believe Wright is on his way out.
[end video clip]
SCARBOROUGH: So why has Bill O'Reilly singled out NBC for rage? Here now is Paul Waldman. He's a senior fellow at the media watchdog group Media Matters. And Bob Kohn, he's the author of Journalistic Fraud [WND Books/Nelson Current, 2003]. Also, MSNBC political analyst Craig Crawford. He's the author, appropriately enough, of Attack the Messenger [Rowman & Littlefield, 2005].
Paul Waldman, let me begin with you. You studied Bill O'Reilly for an outfit that Bill would say obviously leans left. Why is he obsessed with NBC? Why has he now expanded it beyond NBC News? Why is he now going after NBC Entertainment, when, of course, we could go after Fox Entertainment shows and movies all night that have their own liberal bias?
WALDMAN: Well, maybe it's because his attacks on the NBC news division have become so ridiculous. And this all started when NBC decided that they were going to call the war -- the civil war in Iraq a "civil war." Now he's mad because an NBC reporter said that the execution of Saddam Hussein was a PR problem for the United States, which it is. And so what we find is, when people actually state the facts, but they happen to be facts that don't reflect too well on the Bush administration, he calls it "liberal bias." And there --
SCARBOROUGH: Well, hold on a second. Wait. You know what, though, Paul Waldman. What we have to point out, too, is if NBC News is biased, then the guy who's really my favorite columnist, Charles Krauthammer, who works for Fox News, who's won a Pulitzer Prize, who's been long called one of the smartest conservatives, a neocon, this is what he had to say also about the hanging. He said, it was "a rushed, botched, unholy mess that exposed the hopelessly sectarian nature of the Maliki government." And, of course, Krauthammer was one of the reasons why I supported this war from the beginning, Paul. And now he says the hanging has shown that this government in Iraq is not worth more troops. Why doesn't Bill O'Reilly go after The Washington Post? Why doesn't Bill O'Reilly go after Fox News? They have Krauthammer on their payroll, don't they?
WALDMAN: Yeah. And, you know, as they once said on The Daily Show, the facts have a well-known liberal bias. And I think this is the problem that Bill O'Reilly has. When things don't go well for the Bush administration, anybody who says that is obviously carrying water for the liberals or the Democrats, and so he's lashing out at NBC. But, you know, I noticed, Joe, that you challenged him to a debate, which he has not yet said that he's going to meet that challenge --
SCARBOROUGH: And, of course, here's my challenge. My challenge to Bill O'Reilly, because he said there wasn't a single conservative at NBC News -- I think Tucker Carlson and I would both disagree. And I said I'd be very willing to debate Bill O'Reilly anytime, anyplace, anywhere, and we can debate who the real conservative was and who the Republican suck-up was, because I'm saying the same thing now that I was saying back in the 1990s when Bill Clinton was president, when everybody was calling me a right-wing lunatic. I haven't changed; everybody else has.
WALDMAN: And, you know, Bill O'Reilly likes to say that, if you attack somebody but you don't have the courage to face them, that you're a coward. He calls people cowards when they won't come on his show. He's attacked Media Matters. We've asked to appear on his show to answer his charges. He won't do it. You've -- he's criticized NBC. You've challenged him. He's not going to do it, because the fact is that the coward is Bill O'Reilly.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, I'm not going to call him a coward, but I will say this: I've always defended Bill O'Reilly, and then he said that somehow NBC News, the people that I worked for, and myself also, were aiding, basically, the enemy, that we were supporting the enemy when we called this thing a civil war. Hey, I called Bosnia and Kosovo a civil war back in '95, '96, '97, and the sectarian violence in Iraq is at least as bad as the sectarian violence right now -- as it was in Kosovo as it is now. Now, O'Reilly tried to corner [NBC foreign affairs correspondent] Andrea Mitchell into naming one conservative at NBC News. Take a look at this exchange.
[begin video clip]
O'REILLY: Can you tell me one conservative thinker at NBC News?
MITCHELL: How do you define conservative?
O'REILLY: I dunno. Traditional values, maybe supports --
MITCHELL: Are you talking about commentators or are you talking about news --
O'REILLY: Anybody. Give me anybody. Is there anybody over there who's conservative, in your opinion?
MITCHELL: Yes, I think there are a lot of people --
O'REILLY: Give me one.
MITCHELL: -- who are privately conservative or privately liberal.
O'REILLY: Give me one.
MITCHELL: But we don't judge ourselves by how we approach the news. We approach the news --
O'REILLY: OK, I just look at all your on-the-air talent in the Today show, and I love those guys, all right? They're all liberal, every one of them.
MITCHELL: I disagree.
O'REILLY: All right? They all admit they're liberal, Andrea.
MITCHELL: I don't think so.
O'REILLY: Have you asked [Matt] Lauer, and [Meredith] Vieira, and Ann Curry? They'll admit they're liberal. And when Katie [Couric] was there, she admitted she was liberal. Come on.
[end video clip]
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Kohn, can you name one conservative that's employed by NBC News?
KOHN: Joe Scarborough.
SCARBOROUGH: Thank you, buddy. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, you win! Why is Bill -- why is Bill O'Reilly doing this? Is this really about the fact that he's very angry that he went after Keith Olbermann, Keith Olbermann went after him, and they started this feud that's going to make Keith Olbermann a very rich man?
KOHN: No, no. I think Bill O'Reilly considers himself a media watchdog. And there are a lot of media watchdogs out there, like Media Matters. And when he sees something he doesn't like or where there's something that's biased, he calls them on the carpet. I think it's very clear that NBC News has become -- has been leaning to the left very sharply over the -- particularly over the past six months. So he's just a media watchdog. And, by the way, Bill O'Reilly --
SCARBOROUGH: Do you think -- hold it. Whoa, hold on a second.
KOHN: -- you, you, no, no, no, hold on. No, no you hold on.
SCARBOROUGH: OK, you go ahead.
KOHN: OK, one sec, because a minute ago I think I heard you say that he never criticizes Fox Entertainment. Well, he has. As you remember, he highly criticizes Fox Entertainment for trying to put on that O.J. interview a few weeks ago. You know, I was on this show saying that Fox Entertainment made a mistake, that Murdoch should have allowed that interview, because in the furtherance of the truth. You disagreed with that, but you and O'Reilly agreed. And O'Reilly made a public battle, and I think he was responsible for Murdoch's not showing that interview. And they dropped that O.J. Simpson book. So O'Reilly does criticize both sides. He does it all the time. And because he's criticizing NBC for being biased -- he's done that against The New York Times -- I think you're making a big deal, really, out of nothing here.
SCARBOROUGH: Making something out of nothing? The guy has basically said that we support terrorists in Iraq.
KOHN: That's what's going on -- NBC -- it's turning way to the left and they're doing it because their ratings are going down.
SCARBOROUGH: Day after day after day?
KOHN: Yes, for years. Come on, Joe, you agree. You've agreed, NBC, ABC, CBS --
SCARBOROUGH: The ratings are going -- you know what? Not to blow our own horn, but if you go on TV Newser tonight and look at ratings, year-to-year -- and I think it's the latest post -- I think Olbermann is up 51 percent year-to-year. I'm up 48 percent year to year. O'Reilly is down 24 percent. All of the Fox shows are down over the past year. Who's going up and who's going down? I don't think it's a close call.
KOHN: Oh, a close call? Come on. O'Reilly has two and a half million viewers every night. Olbermann has what, 600,000?
SCARBOROUGH: You're the one -- you're the one that's talking about trends.
KOHN: O'Reilly has nearly five times the audience?
SCARBOROUGH: And again --
KOHN: It's not talking about apples and oranges, though.
SCARBOROUGH: Bob Kohn, no, but we're not talking about apples and oranges. You're talking about NBC News is losing right now because they're going liberal. What I'm telling you is our ratings have gone up. Meet the Press is still the king on Sunday mornings --
KOHN: I'm not talking about Meet the Press. I'm talking about Brian Williams.
SCARBOROUGH: -- the Today Show is the king, and Brian Williams is still holding his own. He has been for quite some time.
KOHN: Just barely. Just barely. [ABC World News anchor] Charlie Gibson has been gaining on him.
SCARBOROUGH: Yes, just barely, number one, just barely.
KOHN: You know. You have to admit it. Come on.
SCARBOROUGH: Paul Waldman, I'll end up with you, Paul. All right, Bob, we don't always agree, but we usually do, but tonight I just can't agree with you. Paul Waldman, finally, the question is -- because Bob Kohn said NBC News needed to be fair and balanced. Is Bill O'Reilly fair and balanced?
WALDMAN: Oh, of course -- of course not.
SCARBOROUGH: I mean, Bill O'Reilly said that he takes a position.
KOHN: Bill O'Reilly is a commentator.
WALDMAN: And the fact -- and the fact is that NBC News isn't liberal. I mean, at Media Matters over the past two years, we've located over 1,100 instances of conservative misinformation being passed through on NBC News. And NBC and MSNBC. And you have conservative hosts -- you don't have any liberal hosts --
KOHN: Media Matters is a liberal organization. Come on.
WALDMAN: That's a way of not dealing with an argument that you don't happen to like. And the fact --
KOHN: I have the facts.
WALDMAN: -- that President Bush's voice is balanced by some people who disagree with President Bush is not liberal bias. That's the facts.
SCARBOROUGH: We've got to go. Bob Kohn, I'm usually with you. You're usually on the side of the angels.