According to Slate today
, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly is making empty threats that he’s going to fly out to London sue Al Franken for libel. Folks like to sue for libel in England because it’s almost impossible to win a libel case in the U.S., particularly if you’re a public figure. O’Reill’y gripe is that Franken has repeatedly called him a liar. Now, setting aside for a moment the fact that O’Reilly really is a liar, he’s the last man on the planet who should be up in arms over people calling him nast names. O’Reilly is the biggest namecaller on the planet. For proof, let’s look at some excerpts from O’Reilly’s intervoiew with former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta on June 23rd.
The issue here is that O’Reilly “jokingly” called liberal journalist Eric Alterman a confidante of Fidel Castro. Alterman, a staunch anti-Castro liberal, was ticked off by this. My take is that O’Reilly was actually joking and that Alterman should calm down. Podesta criticized O’Reilly on Alterman’s behalf and then went on the show to defend his position. The result exposed O’Reilly as a hypcrite -- it’s amazing that a guy who;’s said so many rotten things about good people would get so ticked off over being called a liar. Here are some telling excerpts from his conversation with Podesta:
BILL O'REILLY HOST: ...Well, what are you going to sue me for?
JOHN PODESTA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, that's a little bit off, Bill. I said that one of our fellows, Eric Alterman, was contemplating a lawsuit against you because you told a lie about him.
O'REILLY: And what lie was that?
PODESTA: You said on this show that he was a confidant of Fidel Castro. That's not true.
O'REILLY: OK. Did you see that show?
PODESTA: It's in your transcripts.
O'REILLY: OK. You saw the transcript but you didn't see the show.
PODESTA: I did not see the show.
O'REILLY: OK. Would you like to hear it?
PODESTA: You have gotten a letter...
O'REILLY: Yes, we got some dopey letter from his lawyer. And they are going to sue. But you, John PODESTA, former chief of staff to a president of the United States, you firmly believe in your heart that I told a lie about your pal, Eric Alterman, is that correct?
PODESTA: You called him a confidant of Fidel Castro.
...(They watch the video clip)...
O'REILLY: OK. And I was obviously being facetious. And you can see the laughter and the smiles and all of that.
PODESTA: You do it all the time, Bill.
O'REILLY: All the time?
PODESTA: You do it all the time.
O'REILLY: What do I do all the time?
PODESTA: Well, you compare Bill Moyers to Mao Zedong. You say that's a joke. You compare Al Franken to Joseph Goebbels, you know, the Nazi propagandist...
O'REILLY: That was Michael Moore, by the way.
PODESTA: ... you say that's a joke.
O'REILLY: That was Michael Moore.
PODESTA: You know, it's all a big joke to you, Bill.
O'REILLY: It's satire. You know how that satire thing goes now, don't you?
PODESTA: That's not funny, Bill. It's just not funny.
O'REILLY: Oh, fine, I mean, you may not think it was funny. But it was done in jest. It was done to make...
PODESTA: Watch "The Daily Show," put on Comedy Central, watch "The Daily Show," you will see what funny is.
O'REILLY: OK. Fine. But you do know that many, many people watching you now are going to say you're totally unreasonable, this was a joke, he was being facetious, and you, Mr. Podesta, a man of esteem, all right, took it out of context, ran with it, used your little Web site to say O'Reilly did this, he's an evil guy, he's a liar. Now, I'm not...
PODESTA: I didn't call you a liar. And I didn't say you were an evil guy.
O'REILLY: Yes, you did. You used the word on this interview, Mr. Podesta, that you told a lie about Eric Alterman. And that's what you guys trade in all the time. And that's what I object to, sir. Go ahead.
PODESTA: Hey, you know, it's a two-way street here, buddy. You do this all the time as well, you label people, you smear people. And we're just asking for the record to be set straight.
O'REILLY: Can you give me one example where I smeared someone?
PODESTA: How about referring to Al Franken as Joseph Goebbels? That was...
O'REILLY: I did not refer to him as Joseph Goebbels.
PODESTA: You compared him to him.
O'REILLY: That was Michael Moore.
PODESTA: Come on, you do this...
O'REILLY: Look, I asked you for one example where I smeared somebody. You just misstated what I said. I said that Michael Moore is a propagandist just as Joseph Goebbels is a propagandist? Would you deny that?
PODESTA: I think that comparing Michael Moore to a guy who set up the propaganda for the Nazi regime that resulted in the killing of 6 million people through the Holocaust, yes, I think that's an over-bloviated...
O'REILLY: I said that Michael Moore is a propagandist and so is Joseph Goebbels. And then I explained what propaganda is. Now Michael Moore has called the president of the United States in a time of war -- Michael Moore has called the president of the United States in a time of war a deserter. Is that OK?
PODESTA: Yes, well, I think he's a man of strong views who disagrees with most of what I believe in, including -- he said the other day that he never voted for Clinton, he doesn't vote for Gore. He's a pretty far left-wing guy, I don't know. But I don't equate him with Joseph Goebbels. I think that's really unfair and out of bounds.
O'REILLY: Well, the allusion was made to explain what propaganda is and where it emanated from.
PODESTA: Oh come on. You know that that's not why we...
...Later, after O'Reilly tries to convince Podesta to get Bill Clinton to give him an interview...
PODESTA: I don't know, it depends on whether or not you will admit that Eric Alterman isn't...
O'REILLY: I will play the same clip. I mean, I was fooling around there.
PODESTA: Would you admit that he's anti-Castro?
O'REILLY: Sure. Eric, baby, you're anti-Castro. All right? That was a joke, Eric. I'm having a little fun at your expense.
But, apparently, it’s not okay for Al Franken to have fun at O’Reilly’s expense.