O'Reilly distorts NPR's “crazed” coverage of post-convention polling data

Bill O'Reilly falsely accused National Public Radio (NPR) of skewing its reporting of recent polling data on the presidential election, claiming that NPR included only those polls that were favorable to Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and that it based its coverage on “anecdotal evidence” as opposed to accurate poll results. In fact, NPR offered a balanced look at polls both favorable and unfavorable to Kerry.

On the August 2 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, O'Reilly interviewed Gallup editor-in-chief Frank Newport, whose organization's recent poll showed Kerry still leading among registered voters but losing among likely voters (all within the margin of error) following the Democratic convention in Boston; O'Reilly said NPR disputed Newport's finding that the public favors Bush “on who could better handle terrorism,” calling NPR “crazed.” In fact, NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts accurately noted that the Gallup poll shows that Kerry is “closing the gap with Bush on terrorism.”

From the August 2 edition of The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: It was funny to listen to NPR on the way in to work today. NPR didn't like your poll, but they really liked the Newsweek poll, which has Kerry-Edwards up 49-42 with Nader three, undecided six.


NEWPORT: [I]t's also possible, you know, that the terror alerts this week may increase Bush's standing slightly, because clearly our data continue to show, given a choice, the public tilts towards Bush rather than Kerry on who could better handle terrorism.

O'REILLY: Right, and NPR, by the way, disputed that this morning. NPR was, like, crazed this morning.

NEWPORT: What did they say?

O'REILLY: Basically that Kerry has overtaken Bush in the national security arena. They were basing this on anecdotal evidence -- you know.


O'REILLY: Hey, Frank, you would -- believe me, you wouldn't be on this program if I didn't think you had the goods, and NPR. I mean ... [snicker]

NPR gave equal time to both the Newsweek and Gallup/CNN polls and accurately described their findings. While Media Matters for America cannot confirm which NPR segment O'Reilly listened to on his way to work, NPR's Morning Edition coverage of the polling data only briefly mentioned the Newsweek poll and actually based the bulk of its analysis on the Gallup poll, rather than “anecdotal evidence,” as O'Reilly claimed.

The polls were covered in two different segments: one with Morning Edition host Renee Montagne and Roberts, and later with host Steve Inskeep and Jackie Calmes, a national correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

From the August 2 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:

ROBERTS: Look, terrorism has been the president's issue. It is where he has been head and shoulders above any opponent in the polls and it is really what he's staking his re-election on. In the ABC poll released last Monday, before the Democratic convention, the president had an astounding margin on the question of terrorism, but less so in the Gallup poll that's come out today. But on that same poll, it also shows that there's no Kerry bounce out of the Democratic convention, and the Newsweek poll over the weekend shows that Kerry's advantage coming out of the convention was the smallest ever recorded in a Newsweek poll.


And, look, there's a lot of good news in these polls for John Kerry. In the Gallup poll, on the issues, he is either tied or leading Bush on the economy, Iraq, health care, taxes, and managing government -- and he's closing the gap with Bush on terrorism.


CALMES: Well, it looks like they are if you look at the initial polls that have come out since Boston. The Newsweek poll and a CNN poll yesterday that show it's still a horse race depending on whether, if it's likely voters, Mr. Bush still has a lead. If it's registered voters, Mr. Kerry has the lead in the CNN poll. That's not good news for a candidate coming out of a convention. You want to see more of a bounce but there's, frankly, not a lot of undecided voters out there.