The Cheapening of American Politics: Why did Obama reward O’Reilly with an Interview?

(By Juan Cole)

President Obama subjected himself to an interview by Bill O’Reilly of Fox “News” on Sunday before the Superbowl. Obviously, intellectually it was Obama Seahawks rolling over O’Reilly Broncos. And maybe it felt good to tell Fox News off for its serial propaganda against the administration. But I just regret that he lent either of these any credibility by a presidential appearance.

Fox News is a far right wing media conspiracy hatched by corrupt billionaire and press lord Rupert Murdoch (many of whose employees in the UK have been guilty of hacking into people’s phone messages for purposes of political blackmail) and by GOP poobah Roger Ailes to shift public opinion to the far right in the United States. How Barrett Brown faces 105 years in prison for a hyperlink but criminal Murdoch and his corrupt employees mostly go free is beyond me. Murdoch tried to blackmail former British PM John Major into supporting his policies, threatening him with bad press otherwise. Fox’s major anchors are caught over and over again in outright falsehoods. Peddling a falsehood after it is exposed as such is called “lying.”

Before Ronald Reagan gutted the Fairness Doctrine, Fox would not have been allowed to operate in this shameful way, pretending to be a news channel but actually serving as the Republican Party campaign headquarters.

It is the closest thing we have in the real world to the fictional media of Orwell’s “1984.”

(Because it is a huge operation, including many local channels, there are in fact good and professional journalists working for it who do real newsgathering; they just serve as window dressing for the actual purpose of the organization, which is the propaganda pushed during the prime time magazine shows).

Fox has repeatedly been caught deceptively editing video, including from Obama himself, so as to make it say something it doesn’t.

Do less than half Americans know that climate disruption is being caused by human beings putting 32 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year? Fox “news” bears a lot of the blame for this. Deliberately onfusing the public about something that requires urgent policy-making or it will kill their grandchildren is just plain evil.

Fox cheapens our lives by reducing respect for human rights. It pushes homophobia, the restriction of women’s choice, Islamophobia, xenophobia (irrational fear of “foreigners”) and white and Christian triumphalism. It is hypocritical, in that it slams Muslims and Arabs while being 6% owned by Saudi billionaire al-Walid Bin Talal.

Fox has conducted a serial propaganda campaign against Obama since the day he was sworn in. It has pushed phony stories, invented scandals where none existed, and allowed guests to compare Obama to Dick Nixon and speak of impeachment. None of the so-called scandals they have pushed have any substance, or are even easy to comprehend, much less gaining traction with the public.

But predictably, O’Reilly’s interview questions were all drawn from this fantasy parade of imaginary “scandals,” many of them flogged by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the nicest sociopath on the Hill. Basically, Obama allowed O’Reilly to put him on trial, with a series of 5 serious charges laid out against him, against which he was supposed to defend himself.

George Lakoff has been warning for years that liberals are letting conservatives frame the issues and dominate the public debate. Obama just did it again. Although he defended himself admirably from the trumped up charges, nevertheless, the interview consisted of broadcasting those charges to millions of people– an enormous audience. Why give Fox that boon? Why give it to a serial killer of the truth like O’Reilly?

It is because liberals believe that good public policy comes out of vigorous debate. But there is a difference between debating someone in good faith and indicting someone with false and libelous charges. Conservatives can always spike the debate by subverting it toward propaganda by basic dishonesty. That tactic should be punished, not rewarded. Obama rewarded it.

Fox Sports, “Bill O’Reilly interviews President Obama before the Super Bowl”

45 Responses

  1. Well, he didn’t ask anything about NSA or Snowden being nominated for Nobel Peace Prize and who else has brought up what Gen. Carter Ham said he told Panetta while Benghazi was in progress. Obama was totally ‘out of town’ on the Obamacare questions. Much better interview than done by the CNN guy.

  2. but is fox any less biased or respectable than the ny times? the times played a big role in promulgating the lies that got us into iraq. a poll last year showed that >80% of americans thought iran had nukes. where did they get these ideas? ans: ny times, msnbc, wapo, etc. because the times is okay on social issues, it gets labelled “liberal.” i don’t think so. the times, in fact, is worse than fox because it allows “liberals” to bask in the glow of rectitude.

    • Stop trolling my site with this nonsense. Fox deliberately retails lies and deceptively edits video as a matter of daily practice and has been caught out in this over and over again. Having a strong editorial line, as the NYT or MSNBC does, is not the same thing as being dishonest as a matter of praxis.

      No false equivalencies please.

        • As I remember from TV:

          Journalist Gabriel Sherman: Fox News is a political operation that hires journalists.

          Sherman does not deny that Fox News commits acts of journalism (on occasion) – it after all hires journalists. But it is a political operation run by Roger Ailes. Sherman sees Fox News as an expression of Roger Ailes’ will just as Apple was to Steve Jobs.

      • This commenter reminds me of all those tea baggers that said President al Assad got his chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein, who shipped them to Syria just before the invasion of Iraq to avoid detection.

  3. Dick Cheney proposed that we send an aircraft carrier into Iranian waters in hopes of it being attacked and starting another US instigated war. Roger Ailes told a US official if you want to start a war with Iran, Fox News will back you. Both men are traitors to this country and to world peace.

    • .
      Patrolling off the Iranian coast, trolling for an attack, is still one of the top 3 missions for CVN’s,
      of which we only have 3 or 4 underway at any given time.

  4. note last evenings broadcast of “Sherlock” for a comparable figure to Murdoch with his blackmailing of political figures in Britain; and also J. Edgar Hoover

  5. Jhill Perran

    I wondered that myself?I hope he learned a lesson.Please stop, POTUS!Give UR time 2 some1 deserving of the interview! @BarackObama

  6. Everything you complain about with Fox you can say the exact same thing about MSNBC and the piles of manure they’ve thrown at conservatives.

    Sauce for the goose John.

    • You really believe that? That there is any kind of “parity” there? And what do you categorize as “conservatives?” People who “conserve” by eating up the planet, suckering us into “Wars of Choice,” trashing communities, hiding behind our great honorable American myths while sneakily destroying the honorable “rule of law” and all the individual-rights bits of that quaint “Constitution?” And of course MSNBC does its share of crapping conservative droppings too. Sells newspapers, I guess… Oh, you forgot to mention ACORN!

      Great point, Noise! “Neener neener neener, you’re one too-ooo!”

    • Nonsense. MSNBC has journalists who follow the facts where they lead and issue retractions or apologies when necessary.

      Fox “News” is 24/7 swift boat style smears, lies of omission, and outright deceptive editing of video and photos. They don’t issue retractions and you frequently hear things like, “It has been alleged that ….” Yeah right. Because the idiot (anyone remember Glenn Beck?) on the show right before yours alleged it.

      They even won a court case in Florida upholding their freedom from any obligation to fact check what they report.

  7. I like that they are openly hostile, and less stifled than CNN. O’Reilly is a bigot, but he is a movable one, he does listen.

    • Back in the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton’s people said they liked going on Fox. There they were asked tough questions but they weren’t being asked the ‘so when is Hillary dropping out to give the nomination to Obama?’ like all the other networks were doing.

  8. “Why give Fox that boon? Why give it to a serial killer of the truth like O’Reilly?”

    Because there was a perception that there was something in it for Obama.

    • Bill Bodden 2014.02.03 01:08 Reply
      “Why give Fox that boon? Why give it to a serial killer of the truth like O’Reilly?”
      ‘Because there was a perception that there was something in it for Obama.’

      The question is more likely what you imagine is in it for yourself in asking vacuous rhetorical questions meant actually to be insults.

  9. Obama seems to have a high degree of tolerance for this type of thing. Regardless, it really evades my imagination why he would sit down with Mr. O’Reilly yet tell folks “you go have a drink with Mitch McConnell?” I guess the broadcaster somehow has more utility for the president than the politician.

  10. You can’t condemn Fox for being a tool of the Republican Party without saying that MSNBC is mouthpiece for the White House and Democrat Party. MSNBC also pushes an unbelievable amount of propaganda and it also uses racial and gender division as a way to stir up controversy. Remember when MSNBC edited the Zimmerman tape to make it sound like he called Trayvon a coon. Yeah that happened.

    Wow Fox News is bad, that is so unsophisticated. It is such dated thinking. You’re stuck in 2003-2004. The whole media system is corrupt and they all serve the same money masters at the top. I know that sounds very conspiratorial but we have to stop being naive. FOX News, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, at the end of the day they all serve the global elite. They are all different flavors of the same brand.

    Besides, it only makes sense that Obama gives an interview with O’Reilly because O’Reilly has some of the highest ratings in cable news. Fox News has at least double the ratings of MSNBC and CNN, so if Obama wants to talk to more than just an echo chamber he has to do it on Fox. The president at least has to make it seem like he can engage the opposition or else he just looks like he is in an ivory tower.

    Interviews of public officials should never be rewards.

    Which conservative on Fox do you deem worthy of interviewing Obama?

    • IT is my understanding that O’Reilly piggy backed on Fox Sports. The President is a big sports fan. He gets interviewed before major sports games, asking who he’s for or who he thinks will win. He enjoys that. Fox won the 2014 SB contract. I thought he handled Bill’s interview well.

      • That’s it. “Obama’s first pre-Super Bowl interview was with NBC’s Matt Lauer in 2009. Since then he has spoken with CBS’s Katie Couric in 2010, O’Reilly in 2011, Lauer again in 2012, and CBS’s Scott Pelley in 2013.” (link to Imagine O’Reilly screaming “coward” if PBO had turned him down this time. It unfortunately can’t be helped. Also I think sometimes he deliberately chooses the dumbest interviewer (Chuck Todd) when he wants to edit his message for simplicity.

      • “Bill” doesn’t interview. He’s there to interrupt, to intimidate ands to trap the people he interrogates. He’s there to prevent them from being heard. It’s not journalism. It’s gutter politics.

        • Bill O’Reilly doesn’t interrupt his guests any more than does MSNBC’s Chris Mathews. both are disgusting in their attempts to stifle views with which the disagree.

    • Ah, the telltale “tell:” only a certain set of “conservatives’ (sic) refer to it as the “Democrat Party.”

      • “Conservatives” were once a respectable political breed with an intellectual heritage going back to the 18th Century.

        They harbored a concern for long-term stability. They viewed change with suspicion and wanted its necessity tested carefully in advance.

        They were not reactionary, but they were definitely hostile to the various terrors of the French Revolution and supported private property as a bulwark against such indignities.

        They may not even exist today. They have died-off because they were too cautious and responsible for the modern era. That’s why there is a certain nostalgia here for men such as Barry Goldwater, honest, decent, principled conservatives.

        Today their successors are of two factions, one ignorant, reactionary and provincial in the worst sense, unwittingly working to destroy the future of their own southern fried people, and the other, nearly silent in public, deeply manipulative and hard at work shaping the future so as to own it even at the risk of bringing the totalitarian temptation back into good repute.

        How many here are are even remotely comfortable about the future of the country or even of mankind? Probably not too many.

    • “You can’t condemn Fox for being a tool of the Republican Party…..”

      What!? Quite the opposite, the Republican Party doesn’t even exist in an objective sense. It is illusory, a mere sack for receiving and disbursing political contributions. We’re very free to condemn it while humming something from the soundrack of the Wizard of Oz. IT, the Republican Party, IS Fox and its ilkish interests. The Party is a mere husk, a front, a vehicle which people think represents reality. It is not even remotely a movement. It goes out of business every four years and then is re-constituted in time for the next electoral contest. Think about that for a minute. And who owns Fox? The Republican Party? Ha! Think about that too.

      MSNBC was created as part of a *counter-offensive* against Fox and has always been much more responsible even though it is no more a news channel than its opponent. There is more editorial and spin than news and they waste a lot of time on their domestic causes, e.g., race related criminal cases, etc., which are not the nation’s greatest problems at the moment.

      It’s primary faults are two and three “heads” talking at once and its failure to cover the Middle East along with the related political problems in Washington AT ALL. So it too is conflicted though it’s hard for liberals not to like the Rev Al, Chris, Rachel and crew.

      Though the format is conventiona., a real travesty is CNN which, though able now to test the wind, still can not bring itself to cover Israel’s criminal policies honestly. It’s time for the ownership to retire the oh so sad and sensitive and delicate and deeply conflicted Wolf Blitzer, the sympathetic biographer of Jonathan Pollard.

  11. “Do less than half Americans know that climate disruption is being caused by human beings putting 32 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year? Fox “news” bears a lot of the blame for this.”…so don’t people who drive cars and promote auto shows!
    As for Obama, with “liberals” like him, who needs conservatives??

  12. MSNBC, CNN, FOX, CNBC, CBS, ABC, all abysmal news sources which is why we read Juan Cole, Drudge, Diplopundit, Guardian, Der Spiegel, Tomdispatch. Thanks Juan!

    • Yes, thanks Juan, until the internet has become so compromised by the deep ones that you have become a cherished but distant memory.

  13. I want to vomit when I even hear how Obama let’s something like this occur. Does he really think he’s going to score any points with O’Reilly’s viewers?

    • He will score no more points with O’Reilly’s viewers than he would with MSNBC’s Chris Mathews viewers.

  14. If you were going into a tough interview, would you rather go up against a wise man or a fool?

    Point #2, in response to rbtl, can we get Democracy Now! to host the Super Bowl next year?

  15. .
    I thought O’Reilly bested him on the IRS thing and Secretary Sebelius. Maybe 1 or 2 other points.

    But Obama in evasion mode is just so darn likable, he won overall.

    As a sentient conservative, I wondered what the “Benghazi” thing was all about. This exchange clarified it to be a phony issue.

    Thnx 4 posting this; I wouldn’t have sought this interview out without your imprimatur.
    p.s.: new edit feature: Mongo like.

  16. By going on “The O’Really?? Fracas”, the President at least got to speak in his own behalf. I’ve listened to some of the reactionary wingnut radio broadcasts, and the talkers will go on and on and on describing what “Obama said” – but never play a quote. Well, obviously, they can’t, and still be able to make their talking points.

    Say what you will about O’Reilly – and I probably say it, too – when President Obama is on his show, it’s Obama talking, not some brutally biased re-read. And Fox viewers actually get to see him in action – just a hint of reality intruding on their happy tea-bag world.

  17. Juan: the fairness doctrine would not have applied to Fox, because cable is not a limited spectrum.

    • Fox has air affiliates and often they reflect the same line. Plus satellite transmission is through public airwaves.

  18. It seems like the kind of thing Obama would do. Former “community organizer” probably sees himself as representing the entire community, not just the parts he likes or who like him. He also had some one-on-ones with Jeffrey Goldberg (JG now eating out of his hand) He also sucked way up to AIPAC — I don’t know how he does some of this stuff, better person than I am, obviously.

  19. Juan makes some good points. On the other hand, there is some wisdom in not engaging in the same sort of heavy-handed politics by refusing to talk to some nitwit reporter….
    sounds like censorship….
    The bigger point is, if Juan is correct about Fox’s habits–I would say they have resorted to most of these tactics in the past, why not let them do their balanced-buggery. Fox’s manipulations don’t convince anyone other than their target market of the already-convinced far right. Ho-hum.

    Most people already understand the tilt of Fox News and the more Fox keeps the passions of the right stirred up, the better because, in that state, the middle will never be able to identify with the Rupert Murdoch cause.

    Nobody I know really cares what O’Reilly has to say and most people, I figure likewise, do not respond favorably to his mannerisms when he goes into his classic rants.

    I don’t think we need to pull the clouds down around our ears and worry about Armageddon just because the President granted Fox News.and O’Reilly a little of his time.
    Not even O’Reilly takes himself that seriously: he appears on the Colbert Report, which is am overt mockery of O’Reilly. He has appeared in sold-out concert style debates with Jon Stewart.. O’Reilly too is more an entertainer than a credible witness. All in all, O’Reilly is just another media clown who pulls off some stunts to impress his small audience–a small cohort of America … who then buy his pulp-politics books.

    Ranting about the President talking to O’Reilly on the surface sounds as bad as any of O’Reilly’s rants. Who cares?

    The battle is over the largely apathetic political middle. They are not going to respond favorably to O’Reilly and they are not going to respond favorably to democrats trying to censor the news by refusing to speak to the right–for the same reasons. .

  20. MSNBC has journalists with opinions. It’s true. What they don’t have is:

    1) 24/7 swift boat style propaganda. You can verify their reporting against other sources and they issue retractions when they get it wrong. They same cannot be said of Fox “News.”

    2) MSNBC’s CEO is a conservative named Phil Griffin whose primary aim is turning a profit. Fox’s CEO is Roger Ailes who is driven by his extreme ideology as much as his greed.

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