O'Reilly and Morris distorted, selectively cited polling data to argue Sen. Clinton in trouble
Bill O'Reilly and Fox political analyst Dick Morris misleadingly asserted that a recent Gallup poll pitting Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) head-to-head against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as potential presidential candidates was "not good news for Senator Hillary Clinton if she wants to run for president." But O'Reilly and Morris omitted any mention of the poll's results for a potential Rice candidacy, which match Clinton's numbers when the margin of error is factored in.
On the January 26 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly and Fox political analyst Dick Morris misleadingly asserted that a recent Gallup poll pitting potential presidential candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice head-to-head was "not good news for Senator Hillary Clinton if she wants to run for president." But O'Reilly and Morris omitted any mention of the poll's results for a potential Rice candidacy, which match Clinton's numbers when the margin of error is factored in, rendering inconclusive any determination that one of them wields the political advantage.
O'Reilly correctly reported half of the poll's results: "Fifty-one percent of Americans say they will definitely not vote for Mrs. Clinton. Only 16 percent say they will definitely vote for her. Among independents, 41 percent say there's no way they'll vote for her, and even among Democrats, 20 percent say, 'Not gonna happen.' "
But in reporting those numbers, O'Reilly left out any point of comparison to Rice's performance. The poll, which Gallup released under the headline "Hillary/Condi Polarize Electorate," is not an isolated evaluation of Clinton's popularity and, when examined in its full context, shows virtually the same results for Rice within the poll's 3 percent margin of error. Sixteen percent said they definitely would vote for Clinton and 32 percent said they might, a total of 48 percent that is within the margin of error of the 52 percent who indicated a potential vote for Rice as a presidential candidate, with 14 percent saying they would definitely vote for Rice and 38 percent saying they might do so.
Although Morris claimed that "[t]he public is going to realize the only person that can defeat Hillary is Condoleezza Rice," the poll he and O'Reilly cited does not support that claim. While O'Reilly asserted that the poll is "not good news" for Clinton because "[o]nly 16 percent say they definitely vote for her," poll numbers for Rice on the same question are comparable. Of registered voters, only 14 percent would "definitely vote for" Rice, while 38 percent would consider voting for Rice, putting total percentage of respondents who view her potential candidacy favorably at 52, a figure also within the 3-point margin of error of Clinton's 48 percent.
To amplify what he calls "bad news" for Clinton, O'Reilly also pointed to various subsets of the polling data, such as the 41 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats who say they would not vote for Clinton. Yet Rice fared more poorly among independents, with a full 50 percent saying they would not vote for her. Among Republicans, Rice, meanwhile, is opposed by 19 percent ofRepublicans -- nearly identical to what Clinton encounters among Democrats.
The results, which put the two potential 2008 presidential candidates in a virtual dead heat, are consistent with prior polling by other organizations. A Zogby America poll from December 6-8, 2005, shows Rice with a 47 percent to 46 percent edge over Clinton (margin of error: +/-3.1 percent), an October 12-13 and 17, 2005, WNBC/Marist poll gave Clinton a 50 percent to 41 percent lead over Rice (margin of error: +/-3.5 percent), and a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll from September 25-28, 2005, gave Clinton a 46 percent to 43 percent advantage (margin of error: +/-3 percent).
Morris asserted that "the only person that can defeat Hillary is Condoleezza Rice" because, he explained, "it doesn't take a brilliant genius to know two fundamental things: A woman can do better at getting women's votes against a woman than a man can, and a black can do better at getting black votes than a white can." O'Reilly then said, "I still don't know if Secretary Rice wants it [the presidency]." He did not, however, question whether Sen. Clinton "wants it."
Morris, co-author with his wife, Eileen McGann, of the book Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race (ReganBooks, October 2005), is an advocate of encouraging or drafting Rice to run for president in 2008. While Rice has repeatedly discouraged speculation about a presidential run, Morris responded: "Unlike in dating, 'no' doesn't always mean 'no' in politics."
From the January 26 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Thanks for staying with us. I'm Bill O'Reilly. In the "Factor Follow-up" segment tonight, a new Gallup poll is not good news for Senator Hillary Clinton if she wants to run for president. Fifty-one percent of Americans say they will definitely not vote for Mrs. Clinton. Only 16 percent say they will definitely vote for her. Among independents, 41 percent say there's no way they'll vote for the senator, and even among Democrats, 20 percent say, 'Not gonna happen.'
Joining us now from West Palm Beach, Florida, is Dick Morris, the author of the book Condi vs. Hillary. Well, this is good for your book here, because they polled both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. I was very surprised.
MORRIS: It's the first poll -- the first poll that only polls Condi and Hillary.
O'REILLY: I was very surprised.
MORRIS: That's what the race is going to be, Bill. It's gonna be Condi against Hillary.
O'REILLY: I was very surprised that -- let me get a word in here. I was very surprised that Hillary Clinton did so poorly in this poll. Were you surprised, and why?
MORRIS: Yeah. Well, I was heartened, of course. But, you know, she -- I was thinking today she has the jobs mixed up. She thinks she's still running Bill's campaigns. When she was flacking for Bill, her job was to be the battering ram and go against the opposition and crash it down and attack it and talk about the vast right-wing conspiracy. But now that she's the candidate, she shouldn't be doing that. She's peaking too soon, she's too public, she's too strident, and she's leading the charge against Bush, and she should let others do that. She should be a lot quieter right now if she wants to get elected president. But I'm not in the business of giving Hillary advice --
O'REILLY: No, no. But the negatives are so high among independents. And 20 percent of Democrats? I guess that's the far left that doesn't like her position on Iraq and doesn't like her flag-burning thing and all of that. I guess that's what that is.
MORRIS: And some of it might be the moderates in the Democratic Party that think she's too strident and -- and too aggressive. The problem is -- that we have is that she's very popular among the Democratic Party rank and file. She's still way ahead of everybody else when it comes to a primary. So she is still going to be the Democratic nominee. And the more this process unfolds, Bill -- I told it on this show first, and I'm going to stay with it for 2 1/2 years. The public is going to realize the only person that can defeat Hillary is Condoleezza Rice. And that's what this race is going to come down to --
O'REILLY: But why do you say that? If she has 51 percent, Hillary Clinton, 51 percent who won't vote for her, why can't [Sen. John] McCain [R-AZ], [former New York Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani, Governor [Mitt] Romney of Massachusetts, or anybody else beat her?
MORRIS: McCain or Giuliani probably could defeat her because they have enough traction among independents. But neither of those guys is conservative enough to get the nomination of the Republican Party. And of the people who can get the nomination, people like [Sen. George] Allen [R-VA] or Romney or [New York Gov. George] Pataki or [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist [R-TN], they're going to drive voters back into Hillary's arms by being strongly conservative. But it doesn't take a brilliant genius to know two fundamental things: A woman can do better at getting women's votes against a woman than a man can, and a black can do better at getting black votes than a white can. Duh.
O'REILLY: Yeah, but I still don't know if Secretary Rice wants it. So we'll see.