O'Reilly to Media Matters : "[Y]ou character assassins. ... You guys really are despicable weasels"

FOX News host Bill O'Reilly continued the controversy over his December 3 remark to a caller to “go to Israel” if the caller didn't like Christmas celebrations in public school, inviting Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) executive director Hannah Rosenthal to discuss the issue with him on the December 14 broadcast of The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly. Rosenthal had written O'Reilly a letter objecting to his remarks. During their conversation, O'Reilly again falsely claimed that Media Matters for America had taken his comment “out of context” and also continued his attacks on Anti-Defamation League (ADL) president Abraham Foxman.

O'Reilly expressed concern that Media Matters had “used” the JCPA and other Jewish organizations:

O'REILLY: You picked it up from a website that exists only to smear this program. All right? It's sneaky -- it takes things out of context -- and you were used -- you and your fine organization. And I've raised millions of dollars for Israel, by the way. You oughtta check that. But you and your fine organization was [sic] used by this far left, deceitful, disgusting website, which has tried to engender an anti-Jewish bias when none exists. And Foxman was used -- B'nai Brith were used -- they were all used. None of them heard it [O'Reilly's December 3 remark], and all of them jumped to the wrong conclusion.

But as Media Matters has pointed out, our original item included the entire context of the December 3 exchange, including a full transcript and audio clip.

Moreover, the Jewish American newspaper The Forward reported on April 2 that O'Reilly has exaggerated his role in a fund-raiser “for Israel.” While “O'Reilly and his publicist told Business Week media editor Tom Lowry that the benefit he 'chaired' in Los Angeles had raised 40 million for Israel," “a few inquiries into the event in question raise questions about the account given by O'Reilly, who routinely refers to his television show as the 'no spin zone.'” The Forward article continued:

It turns out that O'Reilly was the paid keynote speaker, not the volunteer chair, of a February dinner that raised 3 million for the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. According to the federation's spokeswoman, Deborah Dragon, the event was part of the organization's annual campaign, which raises over 40 million, with some of the money going to help Israel. But the larger share is spent on local causes.

Later on the December 14 Radio Factor, O'Reilly explained that he was concerned that Jews would become like civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who, he says, makes unwarranted accusations:

O'REILLY: But, here's the -- here's the wider view. That Jews in America are the minority, all right? And those of us who wanna help Jews, like me -- and I put my money where my mouth is, okay? -- don't want Jews to fall into the trap that Jesse Jackson does all the time by accusing people of bias whenever they don't like something.

When Rosenthal said of the controversial exchange, “I read your transcript and I heard it replayed online,” O'Reilly accused Rosenthal of lying because she had mistakenly referred to the caller in her letter as “she.” In fact, the caller was male.

O'REILLY: All right, but you write me a letter dated December 10th. All right? This incident happened a week before that. You say the caller was a “her” and it's a “he.” So, did you not -- did you hear this or did you not?

ROSENTHAL: I read your transcript and I heard it replayed online.

O'REILLY: But if you heard it replayed online then you would know it was a he.

ROSENTHAL: Well, I will tell you that I don't really care about the gender of the person that called you.

O'REILLY: Okay. The reason I'm asking this question is I don't think you heard it. And I'm gonna play it for you so you do hear it.

After the discussion with Rosenthal, O'Reilly returned to attacking Media Matters:

O'REILLY: All right, intentionally misunderstood -- and I hope you guys are hearing me right, you character assassins on the left wing websites. Can you hear me all right? Should I speak up a little for you? Speak slower so you can take my words outta context? You weasel! I mean you guys really are despicable weasels. I'm not talking about my audience, I'm talking about these -- what happens is these left wing websites tape The Radio Factor. And then they pluck out stuff, outta context, to try to -- engender controversy, which you just heard.

O'Reilly also said that Foxman “throws bombs” and that the ADL is a “militant organization” that is “on the fringe” of Jewish American public opinion; he expressed concern about a backlash against Jews if such organizations let themselves be “used”:

O'REILLY: I mean -- what I was distressed about here, and I think when you think about it, you'll see that I have a point. I mean, I'm not expecting you to agree with me, but I don't want your organization, or B'nai Brith, or even Foxman's organization, the ADL -- which I think is a militant organization -- I don't want you guys to be used.

Because I think that, if that happens, there'll be a backlash against Jewish Americans that is unfair and that I'm just gonna have to redouble my efforts to make sure it doesn't happen.

O'Reilly again replayed the original exchange and explained that he was only trying to tell the caller that because Christmas is a federal holiday, he could not avoid being exposed to Christmas celebrations unless he went to Israel:

O'REILLY: What was intended was -- what was intended was, to tell Joel [caller's name] that he has no choice. It's a federal holiday. Federal. Approved by Congress, signed by U.S. Grant -- that if he doesn't wanna see it -- and you know, I didn't say you have to see it, Joel. I wasn't tryin' to encourage him to see it. I said the only option you have is to go to a non-Christian country that doesn't celebrate Christmas.

That's what I said. There was no threat, there wasn't -- I liked Joel. Joel was a good caller. I was respectful to Joel. It was just putting what is reality -- the federal holiday of Christmas, into Joel's world.


And I was very respectful to Joel -- and just laid it on the line to him that if he didn't wanna see the symbols of Christmas -- that there was only one option. And that's to go to a non-Christian country. And that's it. Because you're gonna see them. They're here -- it's a federal holiday. And I didn't say it with any malice, and you know it.