More than a week after conducting an interview with president Barack Obama, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly claimed on Monday night he finds it “troubling” that the questions he asked had not been brought up before because “many in the media are protecting” the Democratic occupant of the White House.
“What the heck is the national press doing?” he asked in the opening segment of that night's edition of The O'Reilly Factor. He then charged the current media with being “the most docile we've ever had,” with the possible exception of those who covered John F. Kennedy during the days of “Camelot” in the early 1960s.
The anchor began by stating: “I asked President Obama the questions I thought were important to the country,” including the IRS discriminating against conservative groups, the death of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, and the troubled start of the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.
“I did so in a respectful way, and he answered the way he wanted to,” O'Reilly continued. “That's what an interview is supposed to be.”
However, “the truth is there is enormous pressure from supporters of the president” who “were not pleased” with the interview. “That's the mentality of some people working for the president, that he is not, NOT to be challenged.”
“I respect the office of the presidency, but it's my job to ask the toughest questions I can think of to everybody,” O'Reilly added.
The anchor then turned to Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume, “who covered the White House for many years and interviewed a lot of presidents.” O'Reilly stated: “I submit to you that this is the most docile press corps we've ever had in this country, with the possible exception of the JFK folks. Am I wrong?”
Hume not only agreed with the host's assertion, he also pointed out that when he began covering the White House in 1989 under GOP president George H. W. Bush: “The first thing that struck me after covering Congress for 11 years was how different the atmosphere was in the briefing room in the White House. It was a much more adversarial atmosphere in the White House, much more aggressive.”
Part of that hostile environment, he stated, was because it took place soon after the Watergate scandal, when reporters were embarrassed and felt that they should have asked tougher questions and not left the “heavy lifting” to two young reporters in the Washington Post.
“That atmosphere persisted for a long time, but it's fading now,” he said.
Hume then said that every interview with a president is a challenge because the occupant of the White House will try to filibuster by using his talking points, “something all presidents do, but this one is particularly adept at,” but the interviewer must interrupt if he wants to challenge the president's comments or move on to another topic.
Regarding O'Reilly's interview, Hume stated: “You kept the tone civil. The questions were relevant. They were appropriate whether other journalists like them or not, and you answered the rudeness dilemma by doing what you had to do, which was to interrupt.”
“I interrupted in a factual way,” the host responded.
“Where you stand on this depends on where you sit, and if you sit on his side, your persistent questioning of him and your occasional interruptions to try to move along or pin him down come across to people as disrespectful,” Hume noted. “That's just the way it is.”
As NewsBusters previously reported, Obama claimed in an extended edition of the interview that O'Reilly had “absolutely” not been fair and asked: “What are you going to do when I'm gone?”
O'Reilly replied: "Our ratings were high when you weren't here. Ask President Clinton, alright? And President Bush. I gave President Bush a real hard time."
Soon after, MSNBC also charged that the Fox News anchor had been “unfair” in an article that received top billing on the network's website.
On the following Friday, Fox News senior correspondent Geraldo Rivera stated he was offended by the interview: “The offense was profound and to watch it was in some ways unsettling to me.”
O'Reilly responded that Rivera was “desperately wrong. It's not my job to be a social scientist or to please you.”
The Fox News host concluded his Monday evening segment by telling Hume: “We're old school guys. We're not in this business to do PR. I'm in this to get information, and that's what I got.”