In Pre-Super Bowl Interview With Obama, O'Reilly Reminds Us He's Not A Serious Journalist
Shortly before the Denver Broncos’ awful performance in the Super Bowl, Bill O’Reilly conducted an equally awful interview with President Obama on Fox News. In his precious ten minutes with the president, O’Reilly didn’t ask about immigration reform, minimum wage, the debt ceiling, or anything else that could be considered remotely forward-looking. Rather, he focused exclusively on re-litigating political battles from years past, hammering the president on HealthCare.gov glitches, the IRS faux-scandal from last year, and of course, the terrorist attacks in Benghazi.
While it hardly required further demonstration, the interview showed once again that O’Reilly is not a serious journalist. These three questions that he asked are proof.
After giving a remarkably folksy characterization of the HealthCare.gov glitches (“There were problems with the computers”), O’Reilly hit Obama on health insurance cancellations.
“Was it the biggest mistake of your presidency to tell the nation over and over, ‘If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance?,’” O’Reilly demanded. When Obama tried to brush it off with a joke, O’Reilly persisted: “Wasn’t that the biggest one?” When Obama said he regretted it, O’Reilly tried one last time: “Isn’t that the biggest mistake?”
Talk about a leading question. O’Reilly’s intent here was not to get an insight into the president’s mindset — if it were, he simply would have asked, “What’s the biggest mistake of your presidency?” — but to elicit a reaction and, more importantly, assure Fox News’ audience that yes, that is the biggest mistake of Obama’s presidency.
O’Reilly quickly moved on to the most pressing issue of the day for everyday Americans: The 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi. While Benghazi did raise some legitimate questions about security funding at diplomatic compounds abroad, O’Reilly didn’t talk about any of that. He instead focused on the administration’s use of the word “terrorist attack” to describe the incident, a question relevant to everyone who’s already convinced that there’s a conspiracy afoot, and no one else.
“Did he tell you, Secretary [of Defense Leon Panetta], that it was a terrorist attack?,” O’Reilly asked. “Your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign did not want that out. That’s what they believe!”
“And they believe it because folks like you are telling them that,” Obama replied. “The notion that we would hide the ball for political purposes when a week later, we all said, in fact, there was a terrorist attack taking place, the day after I said it was an act of terror, that wouldn’t be a very good cover-up.”
“Why was Douglas Schulman here 157 times?”
O’Reilly saved the best for last, taking the president to task on the IRS non-scandal from last year. He asked Obama why, exactly, the head of the IRS had visited the White House so many times.
“Douglas Schulman, former IRS chief, he was cleared into the White House 157 times,” a concerned O’Reilly said. “More than any of your cabinet members, more than any IRS guy in the history, by far. Why was Douglas Schulman here 157 times?”
Obama quickly explained all of the legitimate reasons Schulman might have for visiting the White House, including helping to set up HealthCare.gov. “What did he have to do with that?,” O’Reilly bellowed. Now, O’Reilly could argue that the IRS has nothing to do with Obamacare, or he could argue, as he did a few months ago, that Obamacare taxes too much. But holding both positions at once is, well, unintelligent.
But O’Reilly’s question was unintelligent for another reason: Schulman has not visited the White House 157 times. As The Atlantic reported at the time:
[T]he White House visitors' records cover the entire White House complex -- the big famous white building, along with the freestanding Eisenhower Executive Office Building inside the gated compound and the New Executive Office Building, which is up 17th Street and outside the White House gates.
The vast majority of Shulman's scheduled meetings were to take place in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building -- 115 of them. Another three were slated for the NEOB. That leaves just 25 percent of the meetings in the White House itself, or on its South Lawn.
Investor's Business Daily accused Shulman of having scurried "to the West Wing more than 100 times" in the piece "IRS Chief's 118 White House Visits Must Be Explained." But the publicly available data shows that the assertion of more than 100 West Wing visits is plainly wrong.
So, once again, this time with feeling: Bill O’Reilly is not a serious journalist, and the questions he asked the president on Sunday were not serious ones.